Speech therapist/pathologist

Speech therapy is the corrective or rehabilitative treatment of physical and/or
cognitive deficits/disorders resulting in difficulty with verbal communication. This
includes both speech (articulation, intonation, rate, intensity) and language (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, both receptive and expressive language, including reading and writing). Depending on the nature and severity of the disorder, common treatments may range from physical strengthening exercises, instructive or repetitive practice and drilling, to the use of audio-visual aids. Speech pathology, also termed speech-language pathology, is the study of disorders that affect a person's speech, language and swallowing. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) address people's speech production and language needs through speech therapy in a variety of different contexts.

Speech and language therapists (SLTs), or Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are allied health professionals. They work with children and adults who have difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking and swallowing. (However, difficulties with eating and drinking may also fall under the scope of the occupational therapists profession.) Speech and language therapists work closely with parents and caregivers and other professionals, such as teachers, nurses, occupational therapists and doctors. Health Services employ most SLTs. Other therapists work for education services or charities. Some therapists work independently and treat patients privately. Speech and language therapists work in community health centers, hospital wards and outpatient departments, mainstream and special schools, day centers and in their clients' homes. Some now work in courtrooms, prisons and young offenders' institutions.

Employment of speech-language pathologists and audiologists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2010. Federal legislation mandates the presence of speech, language, and hearing professionals in public schools. Also, a steady rise in the number of older adults with language, speech and hearing problems is increasing the demand for the services of speech-language pathologists and audiologists.

In the United States, Speech Language Pathology practice is regulated by the laws of the individual states. However, by 2006, minimal requirement to be a certified SLP member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association were: a graduate degree in Speech-Language Pathology, which typically entails 2 years of post graduate work; a completed clinical fellowship year, which is generally employment for a year while supervised by a practicing SLP who is also ASHA certified; and passing the Praxis Series examination. The graduate degree work to acquire a Master's in Speech-Language Pathology is rigorous and demanding, requiring many hours of supervised clinical practica, and intensive didactic coursework in Medical Sciences, phonetics, linguistics, phonology, scientific methodology, and other subjects. Certification by ASHA is noted as carrying one's "C"s. It is noted after an SLP's name as: CCC-SLP. An aspiring speech therapist needs a Master's degree in Speech Pathology, 375 hours of supervised clinical experience, a passing grade on a national examination and at least nine months of postgraduate professional experience. With such a strong emphasis on education, practical experience, and licensure, entrants to this field must work long and hard.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in speech therapy, take into account the following requirements as you prepare a ‘tentative academic schedule’ for your remaining years at Binghamton:

  1. Peruse the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Web site (http://www.asha.org) for in-depth information about the speech-language pathology field.
  2. Obtain a bachelor's degree in a communication sciences and disorders program or a related discipline. Research colleges offering such programs by going to the Petersons.com or Princeton Review Web sites.
    ***Many schools also allow students to complete required undergraduate coursework before the start of graduate classes***
  3. Maintain at least a B average in college, preferably an A. You will be facing strong competition for entry into graduate school.
  4. Send for catalogs from accredited schools offering advanced degrees in speech-language pathology. There are over 200 programs available in the country. Click on the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) Web page, within asha.org, to search for a list of the institutions.
  5. Contact your top choices for their policy on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE). Some schools require that test and a minimum score for admission. Other needed components for application are letters of recommendation, a personal statement and an undergraduate degree or significant course work in communication science and disorders.
  6. Ask your grad school advisor about the exact licensing requirements in your state. Several hundred hours of clinical experience, passing a national examination, and about nine months of postgraduate work are usual prerequisites for obtaining a license.
    ***Speech-language pathologists must complete a two-year Master's or a four-year Doctoral (SLP.D.) program in Speech-Language Pathology. The PhD in Speech-Language Pathology is typically a narrower field of interest degree, and includes in-depth research in a particular area of interest. Speech-language pathologists must have 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience included in their training.***
  7. Plan to receive the ASHA's Certificates of Clinical Competence (CCC) after you gain solid experience.
    ***To earn a CCC, a person must have a graduate degree and 375 hours of supervised clinical experience, complete a 36-week postgraduate clinical fellowship, and pass a written examination. Thirty-six states have continuing education requirements for licensure renewal.***

Also, be aware that

  • Your grad school training will include difficult courses such as anatomy, psychology and physiology.
  • Your interpersonal skills are extremely important, as you will often be communicating with family members as well as the patient.
  • Read publications about the field on a regular basis.
  • You must be patient to be effective in this career. A patient's progress may be frustratingly slow for both of you.

Admission requirements vary by school. Below is a list of some common college course prerequisites, however; students should review the requirements for each institution before applying.

Biological Science
(1 year)
BIOL 117 & BIOL 118
Human Anatomy and Physiology
(1 year)
BIOL 251 & BIOL 347 (or BIOL 252)
Statistics MATH 147 or MATH 148 or PSYC 243
Upper level psychology PSYC 300+
Physical Sciences
(1 year)
PHYS 121 & PHYS 122 (or PHYS 131 & PHYS 132)
Social Sciences/ Humanities (at least 1 semester) Social Sciences and Humanities courses

(1 year)

Any courses in the English (ENG), Rhetoric (RHET), Writing (WRT), Creative Writing (CW), or Comparative Literature (COLI) departments.

This undergraduate program typically includes courses in the following subjects:
Anatomy and Physiology of Speech and Hearing, Clinical Audiology, Communication Disorders, Diagnosis and Treatment, Dysphasia, Fluency Disorders, Neurology, Normal Language Development, Phonological Disorders, Psycholinguistics, Research Methods, Speech Science, Statistics, Techniques of Rehabilitation, Voice Disorders

For more information about Speech Therapy or Speech Pathology programs, contact:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
2200 Research Boulevard
Rockville, Maryland 20852

Professionals/Students: 1-800-498-2071, 301-897-5700 TTY
Public: 1-800-638-8255
Available 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. ET

Fax #: 301-571-0457

Last updated: 12/14/11 MDJ

Last Updated: 8/5/14