Overall, a speech and language therapist works with a variety of patients who experience difficulty related to producing or understanding speech and language. Also known as a speech pathologist or language therapist, a speech and language therapist will consult with a patient, assess and diagnose the specific problem, and begin working with him to correct it. Once they obtain the proper training and licensure, these therapists can find speech pathologists jobs in a variety of settings, from educational institutions to hospitals and other medical settings.
Generally, a speech and language therapist helps patients better communicate. Specific services vary depending on the patient, but therapists typically help patients learn to make clearer and more intelligible speech sounds, control the sound of their voice, and even work on making their accents more appropriate. Some speech pathologists work with patients who have trouble swallowing, which can hinder a person’s ability to speak clearly. Sometimes, the difficulty stems from a health problem, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. Other times, it’s due simply to age.
Often, a speech therapist will help a patient who has a cognitive communication disorder. This means the patient has trouble converting his own thoughts into intelligible speech and might have difficulty understanding the speech of others. Usually, such a disorder occurs as a result of brain damage or trauma to the area of the brain that controls cognition, or the ability to think. Cognitive communication disorders include those that affect speech and voice and those that affect language. A speech and language therapist might work with patients who have disorders that affect speech fluency or articulation as well as patients who struggle with delayed language and loss of speech abilities.
Many opportunities for pathologist careers exist within the education sector. Public schools, private institutions, and schools for students with special needs often have positions for speech pathologists. Other pathologist jobs exist with the health sector, including hospitals, private and public clinics, and inpatient and outpatient therapy facilities.
Requirements regarding education, training, and licensing for speech pathologist careers depends on the location. For example, most states in the United States regulate the training and licensing requirements for speech therapists. Such requirements vary by state, but typically a prospective speech and language therapist first will earn a post-secondary degree from a university accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She will then pass required examinations and complete a series of supervised clinical experience requirements. Continuing education and license renewal requirements also vary by state, but generally the speech and language therapist will learn these requirements during her training and as her career progresses.