Speech language pathologist jobs typically involve providing therapy in a specialized setting. That setting may be a school, a hospital, or another institution, but the job is typically set up so that the pathologist works with a patient over a period of time. Almost all speech language pathologist jobs involve working with clients over many sessions to overcome specific problems, the primary difference being the type of client someone caters to. The clientele is defined by the institution in which a person works, meaning that the job location often defines the different types of jobs indirectly. Alternatively, a person might be qualified for speech language pathologist jobs but choose not to practice, focusing instead on theory or teaching.
Children are one of the largest groups in need of help from speech pathologists, so schools are one of the largest markets for speech language pathologist jobs. These jobs usually involve helping students overcome certain physical or cognitive problems, such as learning to speak with a facial abnormality or learning to communicate effectively with autism. Depending on the age of the student, special techniques may need to be used to keep the child on task and learning effectively.
Sometimes, an adult may go through a trauma or injury that causes changes to his or her speech. Alternatively, an adult might have a speech or language problem that has gone untreated since childhood. In either case, services for adults are not available through schools, so adults typically seek help from private practices or clinics. These institutions provide another large market for speech language pathologist jobs.
Specialized treatment is sometimes necessary for less common conditions that are not as obviously related to speech or language. For example, transgender voice therapy is often undertaken in conjunction with a speech language pathologist. This type of work can also address deterioration of speech quality over time, which can be a physical or mental effect of aging. Improvement in these areas may require special skills, so additional training or experience may be necessary for these types of jobs.
It is also possible to find speech language pathologist jobs that do not involve patients in any way. For example, a person with an advanced degree may be able to find a teaching position at a college. A person with research experience might work on developing new treatments and disseminating that knowledge to the community. While these job duties are sometimes undertaken in isolation, it is much more common to see them as components of a job that involves practicing therapy.