What is a Speech Therapist?

Speech TherapistA speech therapist works with people who have speech and language disabilities, disorders, and difficulties. Given how broad this field is, speech therapists often choose to specialize around particular age groups or speech disorders. This article provides an overview of educational and employment information for prospective speech therapists.

How to Become a Speech Therapist

Generally speaking, qualification as a speech therapist requires a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and any relevant licensure or certification. The master’s degree typically takes two years to complete and contains a clinical component where master’s candidates work directly with speech therapy clients. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the professional organization that establishes standards for speech therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists. Although ASHA does not require a specific curriculum, speech therapists should be able to demonstrate prior coursework in the sciences, social sciences, and statistics. In addition to the required coursework, ASHA’s professional certification standards require a passing score on the Praxis Exam in Speech-Language Pathology. Individual states and school systems may have their own licensing requirements in addition to ASHA’s standards.

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Speech Therapy Specialties

Speech therapists work with clients of all ages on a variety of speech and language disorders. It is common, however, for speech therapists to develop specialties in their own clinical practices. For example, many speech therapists choose to work with children, primarily on developmental speech and language difficulties. These therapists often work with children on musculature and voice mechanics to improve things like lisps, stutters, and other speech impediments. By contrast, other therapists work primarily with adults recovering from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, and other causes of adult-onset speech and language loss. Finally, some speech therapists may work with actors and professional speakers on voice projection, resonance, and accent elimination. In addition to informal specialization, ASHA also provides certification in several areas such as child language disorders and swallowing disorders.

Jobs Available in Speech Therapy

Depending on an individual’s specialization, a speech therapist could work in a variety of settings. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nearly half of all speech-language pathologists in the United States work in schools. These therapists obviously specialize in diagnosing and treating children. Therapists working with children might also, however, work in private practice or in a speech and hearing medical office in affiliation with a family practice or hospital. For those who work with adults, in addition to private practice, speech therapists may work in nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and home health businesses. Some therapists may even work in one of these facilities in addition to maintaining a separate private practice.

Related Resource: Early Intervention Specialist

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Speech therapy is a diverse field that offers opportunities to work with all ages in a variety of settings. For people who want to work in a clinical therapeutic setting, this career provides the opportunity to work with clients in the course of a master’s degree, and the licensure requirements tend to be relatively straightforward.