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Speech Language Pathology

The Nature of the Work

Speech-Language Pathologists are professionals concerned with evaluation, treatment, and research in human communication and its disorders. They treat speech and language disorders and work with individuals of all ages. They diagnose and evaluate speech problems, such as fluency (stuttering), articulation, voice disorders as well as language problems, such as aphasia and delayed language and related disorders, such as dysphagia (swallowing difficulties). They design and carry out comprehensive treatment plans to achieve the following:

  • Help individuals learn correct production and use of speech sounds
  • Assist with developing proper control of the vocal and respiratory systems for correct voice production
  • Assist individuals who stutter to increase the amount of fluent speech and to cope with their disorder
  • Assist children and adolescents with language problems, such as understanding and giving directions, answering and asking questions, understanding and using English grammar, using appropriate social language, and conveying ideas to others
  • Assist individuals who have had strokes or suffered other brain trauma relearn language and speech skills
  • Help individuals to use augmentative and assistive systems of communications
  • Counsel individuals with speech and language disorders and their families or caregivers to understand their disorders and to communicate more effectively in educational, social, and vocational settings
  • Advise individuals and the community on how to prevent speech and language disorders

Although speech and language professionals work closely with teachers, physicians, psychologists, social workers, and rehabilitation counselors, and other members of an interdisciplinary team, they are autonomous and do not work under direct medical supervision.

In addition to clinical applications focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of communication disorders, speech-language pathologists have almost an infinite variety of ways to use their skills:

  • Train future professionals in colleges and universities
  • Administer or manage agencies, clinics, organizations, or private practices
  • Engage in academic, laboratory, or medically related research to enhance knowledge about human communication processes
  • Develop new methods and equipment to test and evaluate problems
  • Establish more effective treatment programs and investigate behavioral patterns associated with communication problems

Work Sites

The practice and work of speech-language pathologists may take place in various settings:

  • Public and private schools
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Community clinics
  • Colleges and universities
  • Private practice offices
  • State and local health departments
  • State and federal government agencies
  • Home Health Agencies (home care)
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Adult day care centers
  • Centers for persons with developmental disabilities
  • Research laboratories

Entry Requirements

To enter this career, one must have a sincere interest in helping people, an above average intellectual aptitude, and the sensitivity, personal warmth, and perspective to be able to interact with the person who has a communication problem. Scientific aptitude, patience, emotional stability, tolerance, and persistence are necessary, as well as resourcefulness and imagination. Other essential traits include a commitment to work cooperatively with others and the ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing.

During high school, prospective speech-language pathologists should consider a program with courses in biology, physics, social sciences, English, and mathematics, as well as in public speaking, language, and psychology. On the undergraduate level, a strong liberal arts focus is recommended, with course work in linguistics, phonetics, anatomy, psychology, human development, biology, physiology, and semantics. A program of study in communication sciences and disorders is available at the undergraduate level. The work of a speech-language pathologist is further enhanced by graduate education, which is mandatory in many work settings. Most speech-language pathologists and audiologists are also required to obtain the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) which involves the completion of a master's degree, a supervised Clinical Fellowship (CF), and a passing score on a national examination. In some areas, such as college teaching, research, and private practice, a Ph.D. degree is desirable.

Department of Labor Statistics

For the most current earnings information, working conditions, and employment trends visit the website for the Department of Labor.