Are you struggling with choosing a career path? Are you passionate about communication and want to make a difference in people’s lives?
Then speech pathology could be the career for you. In the US alone, employment opportunities for speech pathologists are projected to grow by 29% by 2030. This makes speech pathology a lucrative career option.
And whether this is your first time hearing about this career path or you’d like to know more about how to become a speech pathologist, this guide is for you.
Ready to learn more? Keep reading for everything you need to know about how to become a speech pathologist.
Learn What Speech Pathologists Do
Before you rush off and apply to colleges and universities, you need to understand what a speech pathologist does. You need to know if you’ll like not only the education that’s required but the job as well.
Speech pathologists, or speech-language pathologists, help patients who have communication and swallowing disorders. These disorders can be caused by:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Brain injury
- Developmental delays
- Cleft palate
These conditions can cause patients to have problems with social communication skills, reading comprehension, stuttering, articulation, and reasoning, for example.
Speech pathologists work with both adults and children, so you can decide with which group you’d like to specialize.
Speech pathologists are health care professionals. This means they have to study anatomy, physiology, neuroanatomy, and genetics. But they also have to study subjects such as linguistics, speech development, and acoustics.
With this education, speech pathologists are qualified to evaluate, treat, and sometimes diagnose speech-related disorders.
Get Your Bachelor’s Degree
The first step in becoming a speech pathologist is to get a bachelor’s degree.
Like with many other professions like law or medicine, you don’t need a specific bachelor’s degree to become a speech pathologist.
But many students get a degree called a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. This is because this degree gives you the prerequisite courses you need to get accepted into a master’s program.
During this four-year undergraduate program, you will learn about topics like phonetics, speech science, language development, and audiology.
Make sure to keep your GPA high during your bachelor’s degree. You will need to stand out from your competition when applying to master’s programs.
Get Your Master’s in Speech Pathology
Next, you need to get your master’s degree in speech pathology so you can deepen your knowledge and get practical experience.
During a master’s in speech pathology, you’ll learn more about neurology, articulation, literacy, and phonology. You’ll also be able to specialize if you wish.
Some of the possible specialties include early intervention or neurogenic disorders.
As part of your master’s degree, you’ll also do a practicum. It is supervised and is usually 400 hours long. Most of the time, you’ll observe for 25 hours and work directly with patients for 375 hours.
If you want even more experience, you can also apply to a clinical fellowship. It lasts 36 weeks and lets you work full-time.
Not only do you get more work experience, but you’ll be able to see if you enjoy working in that particular specialty.
And depending on which country you will get your master’s in, you need to make sure that your school’s program is accredited by the appropriate council.
In the US, this is the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). In Canada, this is the Council for Accreditation of Canadian University Programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CACUP-ASLP).
Complete Additional Certification
Once you complete your master’s, your education isn’t complete. Depending on where you live, you may need to get state or provincial certification.
This is so you can be clinically licensed to practice, and you need to check which association is responsible for accreditation in your country.
For example, in the US, you are accredited by The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
To meet the requirements for licensure, you’ll need to have completed your 400-hour practicum. You will also need to have completed a clinical fellowship and have passed your Praxis Exam.
To hire you, many jobs may also need you to have a Certificate of Clinical Competence.
Remember that the extra requirements depend on your country and state/province.
Make sure to contact your master’s program to make sure that you are looking at the right accreditation association.
Remember that you should also attend continuing education courses wherever possible. In fact, some states or provinces may even require continuing education for you to renew your license.
Find a Job or Start a Practice
Finally, you’re ready to find a job or start your own practice!
If you’re finding a job in speech pathology, you’re in luck as this field continues to grow. Make sure to familiarize yourself with each job’s requirements and other necessary certifications.
You can also familiarize yourself with interview questions so that you can do as well as possible on your job interview.
If you’d like to start your own speech pathology business, you need to make sure you find the right space to rent. You also need to make sure you have a registered business name and a provider number so you can bill insurance companies.
Don’t forget to have liability insurance, which is vital but not usually too expensive.
And if you have your own speech pathology practice, you need to have the right speech pathology software to manage your cases effectively.
Now You Know How To Become a Speech Pathologist
Becoming a speech pathologist can not only be a lucrative career but a challenging and rewarding one.
We hope this article showed you all the steps you need to know for how to become a speech pathologist to see whether this would be a career path you’d enjoy.
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