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Speech Pathologist

Also known as speech therapists, speech-language pathologists study language and assess, diagnose, and treat language and speech disorders, as well as those disorders and issues related to speaking, fluency, and swallowing. They also work with those who cannot pronounce certain sounds clearly.

Speech-Language Pathologist Job Description

Speech-language pathologists work with people who have speech problems, difficulty with voice control, or swallowing. They may work with those who have had strokes, currently have disabilities, cerebral palsy, a cleft palate, mental retardation, hearing loss, or emotional issues. Speech pathologists must take into account a host of possible causes of speech problems, including those which are congenital, developmental, or acquired.

They may also work with those who have trouble with rhythm and fluency, inappropriate pitch or harsh voice, those with who have problems producing language, and those with memory or problem-solving disorders. They also may help those who have problems swallowing.  Working in private practice, clinics, and hospitals.  In their work, speech pathologists employ anything from speech-automated devices and sign language. They also teach people how to strengthen muscles, use strategies to help improve their voice control, or communication in general. Speech-language pathologists help patients develop or regain their speech skills so that they can better excel on their job, educational role, and social roles.

Speech-Language Pathologist Training and Degree Programs

Most speech-language pathologists will need a master’s degree in order to practice. As of 2009, there are approximately 240 accredited graduate programs in speech pathology in the U.S. These speech pathology degree programs cover courses in anatomy, speech development, and physiology, as well as personal skills in communicating, and psychology.  

Speech-language pathologist grad students often learn to treat and evaluate speech disorders in a supervised clinical setting. As of 2009, there were 49 states that regulated speech-language pathologists. The licensing requirements for these states are a master’s degree from an accredited degree program or college, as well as a successful passing of the national exam on speech-language pathology. This exam is conducted by the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service. You’ll also need between 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and 9 months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. In many of these states, you’ll need to be re-licensed after a period of years.  Many insurance companies will require you to be licensed in order to reimburse you.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salaries

According to the Bureau 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.” Keep in mind that experience level, employer, and location can all play a role in your salary.