Speech pathology is a highly concentrated area of study involving abnormalities related to language and communication. A master's in speech pathology further specifies the career path for a student in this field. Most will pursue a profession as a speech pathologist, of which some specialties exist. Other professions that may fit a master's in speech pathology include audiology, special education, and counseling or law occupations.
A speech pathologist specifically deals with verbal communication. Both the ability to use language and to understand its meaning are important areas a speech pathologist may help a patient address. Swallowing disorders or cognitive communications disorders may be an additional area of interest for speech pathologists. The pathologist’s caseload can be unpredictable, as each patient requires a unique method of treatment tailored to his or her specific needs.
The career requires a balancing of case management, testing, research, and coordination with other medical professionals assigned to the patient. Hospitals, schools, community centers, and corrections institutions are some of the businesses who employ speech pathologists. Patients range from those with communication disorders like aphasia to individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. Individuals suffering from brain injury, hearing impairments, or learning disorders may also require the services of a speech pathologist to regain normative functioning. On other occasions, individuals may simply want a speech pathologist to aid them with losing an accent or altering their verbal communication in some other fashion.
The holder of a master's in speech pathology may also be a speech pathology graduate, a graduate in language pathology, a speech-language therapy student, or a logopedics or phoniatrics specialist, as the profession holds different titles around the world. Educational requirements may also vary. In the United States, a career in speech pathology necessitates at least a master's-level degree from accredited speech pathology graduate schools. Licensure must also be obtained, and this step is usually preceded by a fellowship and possibly an exam. As training progresses, many pathologists focus on specialization with a specific patient population, thereby increasing salary opportunities. Supervisory and administrative roles represent another advanced opportunity in speech-language pathology.
Although most graduates embark on a speech pathology career, other possible career paths do exist. Speech pathologists often work with audiologists, special educators, counselors, and lawyers specializing in disability claims. If one supplements the analytical, interpersonal, and technical skill sets acquired in speech pathology with the specialized knowledge required of these disciplines, a valid career path may be set.
Audiologists, for example, treat individuals with hearing and related impairments. Since speech and hearing difficulties often coexist, some of the knowledge required in both occupations overlaps. Also, most speech pathologists are employed in educational settings, and therefore expertise on special education could lead to another potential career opening for the master's graduate. A general master's-level education may impress many different types of employers as well. With a targeted and well-researched resume that demonstrates a clear relationship between the graduate’s skills and the employer’s needs, employment opportunities remain promising for the individual with a master's in speech pathology.