Speech-language Pathologists (SLPs), sometimes called speech therapists, assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent disorders related to speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, and fluency.
WORK SETTINGS: They can work in a variety of settings including schools, clinics/private practice, rehabilitation, acute care hospitals, long term acute care hospitals, subacute and skilled nursing facilities.
In schools, SLPs work with children with a wide variety of communication disorders. A typical caseload of a school SLP may include children with language delays/disorders, articulation disorders, autism, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation. They may work in groups or individually to assist the individual with specific needs.
Individuals who go to a clinic or private practice for speech treatment are typically seen for an individual treatment session. The typical caseload for private practices varies. A private practice may specialize in certain disorders or treatment types. The caseload can include adults and/or children with speech, language, cognitive, voice, swallowing or fluency disorders.
SLPs who work in an acute care center, will typically get referrals for a swallow evaluation or speech-language evaluation. The most frequent doctor referral is for a swallow evaluation to diagnose and treat dysphagia, difficulty swallowing. The SLP determines if a patient is safe to eat or requires a modified diet and may make referrals for alternative means of nutrition such as PEG tubes, NG tubes, etc. Subacute and rehabilitation centers may focus more on treatment of the swallowing or communication disorder. Patient caseload may include strokes, brain injury, medical fragile, trach/vent patients, cleft lip/palate, neuromuscular disorders.
TRAINING: To become a speech-language pathologist typically requires obtaining a Masters degree, either in Communication Disorders or Speech-Language Pathology. Masters programs are between 40-72 credits depending on the masters program and previous course work.
At the end of the masters program or soon after, the PRAXIS exam is taking for speech-language pathology. Each state has different standards for a passing score in order to work in each state. You can take the exam in more than one state if you are planning on working in two different states. If you move to a different state, make sure the score that you have is good enough for the new state.
During your masters program, you will have to obtain 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience. The masters program will typically set you up with different settings for you to work in to obtain a variety of experiences. After you graduate, you will need to have 9 months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. This is your CFY in which a certified speech-language pathologist will supervise you. Try to obtain your CFY in the work setting that you are interested in.
State regulation of speech-language pathologists may differ for pathologists practicing in schools. For information on State regulation of speech-language pathologists in public schools contact your State’s Department of Education.
Obtaining your CCC’s: The Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) credential offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is a voluntary credential; however, the CCC-SLP meets some or all of the requirements for licensure in some States. To earn a CCC, a person must have a graduate degree from an accredited university, which typically includes a 400-hour supervised clinical practicum, complete a 36-week full-time postgraduate clinical fellowship, and pass the Praxis Series examination in speech-language pathology administered by the Educational Testing Service.
ADVANCEMENT: As speech-language pathologists gain clinical experience and engage in continuing professional education, many develop expertise with certain populations, such as preschoolers and adolescents, or disorders, such as aphasia and learning disabilities. Some may obtain board recognition in a specialty area, such as child language, fluency, or feeding and swallowing. Experienced clinicians may become mentors or supervisors of other therapists or be promoted to administrative positions. Director of speech-language pathology or rehabilitation directors are promotional positions. They may require knowledge of finances, performance improvement, and supervision.
SALARY: Salary varies based on the location of the position, work setting and experience. According to the Bureu of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages of speech-language pathologists were $62,930 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $50,330 and $79,620. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,240, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,220.