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Job Profile: Speech-Language Therapy

Speech language therapists diagnose patients with speech, reading and hearing difficulties. More often than not, the patients of speech language therapists suffer from significant verbal impediments like stutters, lisps, fluency issues, poor pitch and difficulties with pronunciations. Therapists teach patients how to form sounds with the tongue, lips and teeth in order to improve the sound of their voices and their overall communication skills. This instruction is carried out with highly specialized individual treatment plans that are uniquely tailored to the patients’ specific difficulties.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, 134,100 speech language therapist jobs existed in the United States of America. The Bureau states that nearly half of these therapists work in school settings and the most of the rest work in various healthcare facilities like hospitals and residential care facilities. The remaining therapists work for themselves in their own private practices and others travel to patients’ homes to provide therapy.

Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 median pay for speech language therapists was $69,870. This equates to $33.59 per hour.

Beginning Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the beginning salary for the position is around $44,000 per year.

Key Responsibilities

Speech language therapists determine a patient’s communication problems through various methods of examination. These include vocal tests and even reading tests. Once the therapist determines the extent of the patient’s speech and/or language problem, he spends time developing methods of treatment. He then works to execute the treatment plan that is specifically tailored to the patient’s unique speech difficulties. This usually involves educating patients about how to produce certain sounds with their voices. Speech language therapists also teach other methods of communication like sign language, helping them develop their reading skills. They also offer forms of general counseling on how to handle the baggage that comes with a speech impediment problem.

Necessary Skills

Speech language therapists need to have superior communication skills. They teach patients how to communicate with accuracy and effectiveness, so therapists must be master communicators themselves. They also need to be very compassionate and understanding of individuals with language difficulties as it is oftentimes an embarrassing problem. Therapists need to think critically to develop plans of attack to improve the patient’s communications abilities. They must also have a high level of patience in order to help the individual gradually overcome his stuttering, fluency or speech rhythm problem.

Degree and Education Requirements

Speech language therapists will need a master’s degree. There is no particular undergraduate degree that is required for admission into a master’s program but the student must take a few specific classes before starting his master’s degree. These courses differ by each school’s master’s program. The therapist will also need to obtain a license. The master’s degree must be obtained before the license. Certain states even require that the student graduate from an accredited master’s program in order to be eligible for the license. The license will also require supervised experience in a clinical environment. To find out a state’s specific licensure requirements, the student can reach out to his state’s medical board or its health licensing board.

Speech language therapists will have a leg up on their competitors for open positions if they earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). This certificate is administered by the American Speech Language Hearing Association. Many employers require this certification and obtaining it might also meet state licensure requirements

Pros and Cons

Speech language therapists enjoy a relaxed, climate controlled working environment where they are empowered to help people overcome significant troubles. Individuals with speech impediments usually have fractured confidence, are often depressed and find life to be very frustrating. It is incredibly rewarding to help a patient overcome these challenges. As noted above, the pay rate for the position is fairly good compared to other lines of work.

In terms of the negatives of the position, it can become frustrating if the therapist is unable to help the patient overcome his speech impediment. Working with people with communication problems takes plenty of patience and exhausts the therapist’s listening skills. This means that the actual work is not all that exciting. It can be quite repetitive as the therapist will have to repeat words and sentences over and over with the patient until he can pronounce them correctly.

Getting Started

Aside from taking the traditional education route, an individual who aspires to be a speech language therapist should refine his own communication abilities. He needs to be able to pronounce words flawlessly and also understand linguistic nuances that commonly trip up people who suffer from speech impediments. Aside from learning about communication, enunciation and linguistics, there’s not much else that an aspiring speech language therapist can do outside of the formal education route. He can volunteer with needy people in order to develop his sense of empathy. Speech language therapists go to great lengths to support individuals who suffer predominantly in silence. These people can’t speak with confidence so they typically withdraw from society and escape into computer and television screens or books. The best speech language therapists are understanding of others and able to empathize with people who face significant personal challenges.

Future Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of speech language therapist jobs in the U.S. are expected to increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022. This represents an increase of 26,000 jobs. ASHA.org reports that the profession will also grow faster than average through the end of this year (2014). They report that the rapid increase in available jobs is due to the baby boomer cohort that is reaching an old age where speech and hearing impairments rise in frequency. In the long haul, the number of jobs will also increase due to the increasing survival rate of stroke and trauma victims as well as premature infants who will need therapy. Also, there is more of an overall awareness of how important it really is to identify speech and language impediments at a very early age. With greater awareness comes an increase in demand for the services of speech language therapists.

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