Speech-Language Pathology SLP

A Guide to Your Speech-Language Pathology Career

A-Guide-to-Your-Speech-Language-Pathology-Career-USAHS

 

The human species has accomplished so much thanks to our ability to understand language and communicate through speech.

When that ability is delayed in children or breaks down in adults, many facets of life become more challenging.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) help people with speech and language disorders learn to communicate better and improve their lives.

If this possibility intrigues you, consider a career as a speech-language pathologist. This guide covers what SLPs do and lays out several career paths you could follow.

What Speech-Language Pathologists Do

Before you begin working toward a speech-language pathology career, it’s essential to understand what the field entails.

Perhaps you had a friend growing up who had trouble saying their “Rs” or stuttered when speaking. One of the best-known aspects of speech-language pathology involves helping people address these phonological and fluency disorders. However, the discipline encompasses so much more.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), speech-language pathology (also known as “speech therapy”) deals with communication as a whole. As such, SLPs also treat issues pertaining to: [1]

  • Cognitive communication skills – The mental aspects of communication are as critical as the physical. Speech therapy often combines speech-language exercises with addressing attention deficits or memory problems.
  • Pragmatics – Also known as “social communication,” pragmatics is the link between communication and behavior. SLPs can help patients who struggle to pick up on social clues or follow unspoken rules, such as those with an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Literacy –People who have issues with speech and language may also have trouble with reading, writing and spelling; SLPs can help with it all.
  • Voice disorders – Beyond certain speech sounds, speech therapists also explore general issues with voice, such as hoarseness, vocal strain and nasal speaking.
  • Swallowing disorders – SLPs are also experts in diagnosing and treating swallowing disorders, such as those that may develop after a stroke or brain injury.

In short, a speech-language pathologist’s goal is to simplify and improve communication. And because communication is so fundamental, there are countless career opportunities for SLPs.

Potential Career Paths in Speech-Language Pathology

Once you’ve earned your master’s in speech-language pathology, you can begin applying for SLP jobs.

The direction of your speech-language pathology career will usually depend on where you work. Therefore, we will break down the many SLP career opportunities by place of employment. If you are curious about the earning potential with these careers, check out our guide to a master’s in speech-language pathology salary.

1. Educational Facilities

Proper communication is essential to learning, which is why you’ll find SLPs in classrooms around the world. As a school-based SLP, you’ll work alongside teachers, parents, and staff to help students reach their full potential.

Preschool and K–12

From pre-kindergarten to senior year of high school, early education is a formative experience—and strong communication skills make it far more enriching. SLPs create and carry out plans for children with speech disorders to work through their challenges.[2]

Because in schools, SLPs work mainly with younger children, SLPs may focus more on congenital speech and language disorders—that is, an affliction with which the student was born.[3] These communication disorders may be related to:[4]

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Delayed development
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech impediments (lisps, stuttering)
  • Cleft palate

With that said, in-school speech-language pathologists may also work with students who have suffered from injuries or degenerative diseases that cause speech and language difficulties.

Work with Bilingual Students

With students who are bilingual, identifying a language difference versus a language disorder can be more challenging. There is a growing need for bilingual speech-language pathologists who can sort through these issues.

Colleges and Universities

SLPs working in schools aren’t limited to early education, either. Many universities and colleges employ speech-language pathologists to work on-site with students.

Additionally, SLPs can work as teachers or administrators in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) bachelor’s degree programs or in SLP graduate programs, leveraging their experience to enlighten a new generation of speech-language pathologists.

2. Research Labs

Given that speech-language pathology is a science, research is an essential aspect of the field. SLP is ever-changing, and many cutting-edge advances in the discipline happen in a laboratory.

Whether they work in a university research center or a privately owned lab, these SLPs explore the SLP frontier and push the boundaries of the field. A typical day could involve developing a new treatment plan or conducting a study on select patients to better understand speech and swallowing disorders and test possible treatments or forms of prevention.

3. Medical Facilities

More than a third of all SLPs (39%) work in healthcare.[5] Many operate interprofessionally—that is, teaming up with other rehabilitation professionals to create a thorough treatment plan for their patients. As an SLP in the medical field, you’ll partner with:[6]

  • Audiologists
  • Rehabilitation counselors
  • Surgeons
  • Physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Social workers
  • Nurses

The majority of SLPs in healthcare are split between two settings: hospitals and care facilities.[7]

Hospitals

In hospitals, SLPs may perform assessments in the emergency room. However, they are more likely to be part of a more extensive diagnosis and treatment process with patients.

Hospital patients need SLP support to deal with an acquired communication or swallowing disorder more often than a congenital one.[8] Whether it be due to an accident or an ongoing degenerative disease, patients may rely on SLPs to manage communication or swallowing difficulties related to:[9]

  • Brain injury
  • Stroke
  • Hearing loss
  • Parkinson’s disease

While some hospitals treat patients of all ages, others focus their care on smaller sections of the population. For example, SLPs on staff at children’s hospitals may fulfill many of the same roles as those working in early education, while practitioners at a military hospital could have an entirely new set of responsibilities and work with an older population.

Speech-language pathology in hospitals is generally limited to the short term. The goal is to move a patient out of urgent care and into a position that is more supportive of continued treatment.[10]

Long-Term Care Facilities

If you’d prefer to help patients progress their communication capabilities over months or even years, you may want to work in a care facility. SLPs typically work in two types of long-term healthcare facilities:

  • Residential – Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are two types of residential healthcare facilities. Larger organizations may have an SLP as a permanent staff member, while smaller homes will contract with an SLP for occasional work. Responsibilities in residential care facilities are similar to those in a hospital.
  • Non-residential – SLPs who choose to work in non-residential care make house calls and visit doctors’ offices and clinics. While residential care facilities cater to seniors and those with mobility issues, non-residential facilities include populations of all ages.

Whether you work in residential or non-residential care facilities, you’ll have the opportunity to make a difference in your community and beyond.

4. Private Practice

If your dreams of helping others communicate are matched by your aspirations as an entrepreneur, you may want to open your own SLP practice. With a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and a license, you can do just that.

Around 19% of SLPs work in private practice, making their own hours and working with specific populations.[5] Along with the usual speech-language pathology work, these professionals must also manage small business owner responsibilities, such as finances, marketing, and more.

5. Government

There are plenty of SLP roles in local, state, and federal government agencies. Aside from practicing in community clinics, SLPs may work as consultants, advocating for their profession with policymakers. SLPs employed in government jobs have the opportunity to make changes to school and workplace accessibility for people with speech and language differences.

Additionally, some government SLPs work in more unique situations.

The Judicial System

The Sixth Amendment guarantees that all Americans have the right to a free and fair trial. It also gives them the right to understand the nature of all charges and evidence.

When someone with a speech or language disability is involved in a trial, they may need SLP support. As communication intermediaries, SLPs in the court system are essentially acting as interpreters or translators.

6. Corporate Settings

In some cases, SLPs work with people who don’t have anything “wrong” with how they speak or process language. Rather, these clients might be hoping to modify their accents or communicate more effectively. You’ll find many of these individuals in the corporate world.

While large corporations may employ a dedicated speech-language pathologist, most SLPs work with companies in a contractor capacity.

SLPs assist businesses by:

  • Assessing employees’ language and social communication skills
  • Working with staff to improve their business writing
  • Helping staff with presentation skills
  • Educating employees on business etiquette
  • Training customer service representatives to communicate with hard-of-hearing customers

Are You Ready to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Ultimately, the field of SLP is vast—and it continues to evolve. If a career in speech-language pathology appeals to you, you might be wondering what your next steps should be.

Becoming an SLP requires at least a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology, so your first point of action should be researching graduate schools. The application process to graduate programs usually requires an interview, so it’s essential for you to understand the field and prepare for common SLP interview questions before you apply.

Once you graduate, you’ll have the opportunity to work in a rewarding career that will open doors for both you and your patients.

The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP) program. Designed for working students, the MS-SLP is an online program with four required on-campus residencies on either the USAHS Austin or Dallas campus. The program offers two intakes per year, in January and September. Join a collaborative cohort of peers who learn under the mentorship of expert faculty-practitioners. Prepare to make a difference in the lives of clients across the lifespan with a meaningful career in speech therapy!

For students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than communications sciences and disorders (CSD) or SLP and for students with a CSD or SLP degree whose undergraduate program did not include the required leveling coursework, we offer SLP leveling courses for completing the necessary prerequisites to enter the graduate program.

The Master of Science (M.S.) education program in Speech-Language Pathology {distance education} at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences is a Candidate for Accreditation by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2200 Research Boulevard, #310, Rockville, MD 20850, 800-498-2071 or 301-296-5700. Candidacy is a “pre-accreditation” status with the CAA, awarded to developing or emerging programs for a maximum period of 5 years.

 

Sources:

[1]American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Who Are Speech-Language Pathologists, and What Do They Do?,” n.d.: https://www.asha.org/public/who-are-speech-language-pathologists/.

[2]Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Speech-Language Pathologists,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified April 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm.

[3]Bureau of Labor Statistics, “What Speech-Language Pathologists Do,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified April 2021:

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm#tab-2

[4]Ibid.

[5]American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Employment Settings for SLPs,” n.d.: https://www.asha.org/students/employment-settings-for-slps/.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ibid.

[8]American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Getting Started in Acute Care Hospitals,” n.d.:

https://www.asha.org/slp/healthcare/start_acute_care/

[9]Ibid.

[10]Ibid.

 

 

 

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