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Speech Language Pathology Careers

Career Description

A Speech-Language Pathologist assesses and treats persons with speech, language,  voice, and fluency disorders. They may select alternative communication systems and teach their use.

Common Work Tasks

  • Assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent disorders related to speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice,  swallowing, and fluency
  • Work with people who cannot produce speech sounds or cannot produce them clearly; those with speech rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering; people with voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice; those with problems understanding and producing language
  • Use special instruments and qualitative and quantitative assessment methods, including standardized tests, to analyze and diagnose the nature and extent of impairments
  • Develop an individualized plan of care, tailored to each patient’s needs
  • Select augmentative or alternative communication methods, including automated devices and sign language, and teach their use
  • Teach patients how to make sounds, improve their voices, or increase their oral or written language skills to communicate more effectively
  • Teach individuals how to strengthen muscles or use compensatory strategies to swallow without choking or inhaling food or liquid
  • Help patients develop, or recover, reliable communication and swallowing skills so patients can fulfill their educational,  vocational, and social roles
  • Keep records on the initial evaluation,  progress, and discharge of clients
  • Counsel individuals and their families concerning communication disorders and how to cope with the stress and misunderstanding that often accompany them

Other Job Titles

Speech-Language Pathologists are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Speech Therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Registered Nurses

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
 
Most speech-language pathologist jobs require a master’s degree. While graduation from an accredited program is not always required to become a speech-language pathologist, it may be helpful in obtaining a license or may be required to obtain a license in some States.

Certification and Licensure
     
In 2007, 47 States regulated speech-language pathologists through licensure or registration. A passing score on the national examination on speech-language pathology, offered through the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service, is required. Other usual requirements include 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and 9 months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. Forty-one States have continuing education requirements for licensure renewal. Medicaid, Medicare, and private health insurers generally require a practitioner to be licensed to qualify for reimbursement.

Experience
  Speech-language pathologists should be able to effectively communicate diagnostic test results,  diagnoses, and proposed treatment in a manner easily understood by their patients and their families. They must be able to approach problems objectively and be supportive. Because a patient’s progress may be slow, patience,  compassion, and good listening skills are necessary.

Salary

The median annual salary for a Speech-Language Pathologist is $61,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $95,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $40,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of speech-language pathologists are:

  • Elementary and Secondary Schools - $58,930
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners  - $69,360
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $66,940
  • Nursing Care Facilities - $76,590
  • Home Health Care Services  - $78,750

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  11%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 12,000
  • Employment 2006 : 110,000
  • Employment 2016:  121,000
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