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How do I Become a Speech Language Pathologist?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois

There are three steps required to become a speech language pathologist: completion of a graduate degree, meeting licensing requirements and a clinical practicum. A speech language pathologist is a health services professional who provides assistance with speech and speech related issues. The issues with speech can be a result of a birth defect, injury or developmental delay.

There are two major areas of work for speech language pathologists: individual speech therapy and research. Speech therapy is provided to people who have suffered a physical injury that interferes with the ability to produce speech or children who have a disorder related to speech. Common speech disorders include stuttering or lisping.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Physicians, social workers or teachers usually refer patients to the pathologist. As part of the individual speech therapy, there are a series of diagnostic tests used to determine the level of difficulty and the nature of the difficulty. A personalized therapy program is developed to address these specific issues.

In order to become a speech language pathologist who specializes in research, a Ph.D. is required. This type of pathologist often works in a university, conducting research on speech and how the brain works to process and create speech. Increasingly, speech language pathologists are working with technology companies to build or enhance alternate communication tools, such as voice synthesizers or talking keyboards.

Anyone who wants to become a speech language pathologist must be prepared for a minimum of eight years post-secondary education and long hours. The vast majority of this work involves interaction with people, many of whom are frustrated at their difficulty in communicating. This type of work is most enjoyable for people who are outgoing, patient and enjoy a challenge.

A master's degree in speech language pathology is the minimum level of education required to become a speech language pathologist. This type of program is widely available from universities with a medical school. Admission requirements include high marks in a bachelor degree, a science or medical background and experience in a health care setting.

The licensing requirements are slightly different in each state, but almost all require licensing or registration to become a speech language pathologist. The license is granted based on the combination of educational credentials, work experience, letters of recommendation and the successful completion of a licensing examination.

Both the graduate degree and the licensing requirements include a supervised clinical experience. The standard clinic hours ranges from 300 to 400 for the graduate degree and nine to ten months' work experience after graduation to become licensed. All experience must be obtained under the supervision of a licensed speech language pathologist.

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