Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) Career Guide

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Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

What Is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists work with patients from babies to adults, treating many different speech-related and swallowing conditions including:

  • Speech sounds – Individuals who have trouble articulating sounds and putting together words to communicate effectively. Some of the common conditions are apraxia of speech and dysarthria.
  • Language – Individuals that struggle with understanding what they’ve heard or read and also have trouble communicating their thoughts to others.
  • Fluency - Individuals that have developed a stutter or stammer in their speech.
  • Feeding and swallowing – Individuals with difficulties sucking, swallowing, or chewing foods and liquids, this is also known as dysphagia.

What Does a Speech-Language Pathologist Do?

SLPs work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, schools, rehabilitation clinics, and private practice. They often work alongside other therapists such as psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and audiologists.

The job of an SLP can vary depending on the setting and the needs of the patient, but typically their day includes:

  • Performing patient screenings to detect any speech-related conditions
  • Designing individual treatment plans
  • Helping patients develop speech and communication skills through a variety of exercises
  • Educating family members on how to assist patients with their conditions

How Do You Become a Speech-Language Pathologist?

SLPs have a master's degree, are state-licensed, and are often nationally certified through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Below are the necessary steps to become an SLP:

  • Complete an undergraduate program in communication sciences and disorders (CSD)
  • Complete a CAA-accredited graduate degree
  • Complete a post-graduate fellowship
  • Take the national exam in speech-language pathology
  • Apply for state licensure as an SLP

FAQs About Speech-Language Pathologists

What skills does a Speech-Language Pathologist need?

To be a successful SLP you will need many skills, below are just a few:

  • Evaluation skills
  • Good communicator
  • Detail-oriented
  • Listening skills
  • Critical-thinking skills

Work Settings For a Speech-Language Pathologist

SLPs find opportunities in a multitude of environments, tailoring their expertise to various demographic and clinical needs. From bustling city hospitals to quaint clinics in rural areas, they cater to diverse patient profiles with unique communicative challenges.

Some SLPs specialize in educational settings, supporting students in navigating communication and swallowing disorders, while others dedicate their skills to geriatric patients in senior living facilities. Additionally, SLPs may explore roles in research, contributing to advancements in communicative sciences, or leverage their expertise in private practice, offering specialized services to a dedicated clientele.

The breadth of this profession even allows for consultancy roles in corporations or tech companies developing communicative technologies and tools.

Common Cases a Speech-Language Pathologist Encounters

In 2016 the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reported that 7.7% of American children have been diagnosed with a speech or swallowing disorder. That is nearly one in 12 children. Some of the most common speech disorders and impediments SLPs help with are:

How To Advance Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Upon the successful completion of the national exam, many SLPs go on to complete AHSA’s Speech-Language Pathology Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP) professional certification. Although this certification is voluntary, those who have completed the program often are presented with more opportunities for career advancement, job mobility, and higher salaries.

Education Requirements & Helpful Certifications for a Speech-Language Pathologist

Typically, becoming an SLP involves acquiring a master's degree and subsequent licensure, often entailing approximately six years of full-time study and additional time for post-graduate work, assuming the student does not take unscheduled breaks. Those who need to balance work and study may find programs offering part-time options. Here are the general steps to becoming an SLP:

Identify an Accredited Undergraduate Program:

  • Choose an undergraduate program, often in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) or a related field, that will set a strong foundation for graduate study in speech-language pathology.

Confirm Admission Prerequisites: Ensure you meet the entry requirements, which might comprise of:

  • Completion of a relevant undergraduate degree.
  • Fulfillment of any coursework prerequisites.
  • Submission of standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement, among possible other materials.

Pursue a CAA-Accredited Graduate Degree:

Enroll in a graduate program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, ensuring you receive specialized training in the field.

Complete a Post-Graduate Fellowship:

  • Undertake a supervised post-graduate fellowship, providing you with hands-on experience and further preparing you for professional practice.

Pass the National Exam:

  • Successfully take the national examination in speech-language pathology to validate your academic and practical training.

Apply for Licensure:

  • Seek state licensure to practice as an SLP, which may involve submitting proof of education and fellowship completion, as well as national exam scores.

Optionally, SLPs often choose to become nationally certified through organizations like the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), further demonstrating their expertise and commitment to the field. This may require ongoing continuing education to maintain the certification.

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