Becoming a speech therapist or speech-language pathologist is a great career option. There are many people needing help from someone in this type of career. You will work to diagnose and treat disorders impacting the speech or preventing proper speech.
It’s common for a speech therapist to work with young children. However, clients can range in age. You may work with clients in a medical facility, school, their home, or another type of facility. Some speech therapists even travel and work on a contract basis.
If you’re considering a career as a speech therapist, you need to know how to become a speech therapist. Here are the necessary steps to enter this career path.
How to Become a Speech Therapist, The Necessary Steps
Step #1 – Complete Your High School Diploma
You cannot become a speech therapist without completing your high school diploma or equivalent. This is a vital step because it will help you get into the right college or university. Therefore, make sure you keep your grades up in high school to ensure you can get into a good college.
Taking the SAT or ACT will also help. If you score high, you can get into a better college, which can help on your path to becoming a speech therapist. In addition, the right SAT prep course or ACT prep course can help you better prepare for the exams.
Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree
You will need to get a bachelor’s degree. However, there isn’t a program in speech therapy or speech pathology. Therefore, a degree in speech, communications, or hearing services is most common for this type of career path.
It’s important to keep your GPA up so you can get into the right graduate school. In addition, make sure you complete the necessary prerequisite courses to gain admission into the graduate-level speech and language therapy degree program of your choice.
Step #3 – Get your Master’s Degree
If you want to become a speech therapist, you will need to get a master’s degree in speech and language pathology. Every state requires a master’s degree to become licensed. When you enter into a master’s degree program, you will study the following:
- Voice Articulation
- Neurological Substrates
It’s possible; you will be able to provide therapy to children early. In addition, some programs allow you to work with school-aged children as you complete your graduate studies.
Your degree program will include supervised clinical practicums, as well. This will include diagnosing and treating patients with different linguistic backgrounds.
When you go into your master’s degree program, it’s also a good time to become bilingual. Speech therapists with fluency in more than one language are in high demand. In addition, you can take elective courses in a foreign language.
It’s also common for speech therapists to enter into a clinical fellowship. This will last about 36 weeks and will require you to work full-time during the fellowship.
Step #4 – Get your License and Credentials
To become a speech therapist, you will need to get the right credentials from the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association).
Getting the ASHA’s CCC-SLP (Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology) gives you everything you need for your state license, for most states. This credential is commonly required by most employers, too. It takes 400 hours of supervised clinical experience and a master’s degree to earn the CCC-SLP.
With a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, you can also become certified by the Council for Clinical Certification. In addition, you can also get a certificate for audiology and speech-language pathology from the Council of Clinical Certification.
You will also need to get your license in your state to work as a speech therapist. This will require a master’s degree, the right number of supervised practicum hours, and you will need to pass the state exam.
If you plan to work in your own private practice, go into teaching at the college level, or go into research, you must complete a doctoral program.
Duties of a Speech Therapist
If you decide to become a speech therapist, you will perform many duties. When you meet one-on-one with patients, you will commonly offer the following treatments:
- Teach patients speech augmentations and alternatives. This may include picture communication or fingerspelling.
- Help patients use exercises to strengthen their throat, lips, and tongue, along with their swallowing muscles.
- Create comprehensive speech disorder treatment plans for patients to use at home.
- Demonstrate proper breathing techniques and speech exercises
- Help patients develop a mental organization of language, learn new words, and improve memory.
Speech therapists often work with adults and children. They will help patients develop better speech and work through their speech problems. This type of career may include working with patients with cleft lip or cerebral palsy.
Speech therapists also work with patients that have suffered from a brain injury or stroke. They might also work with other patients struggling with speech issues.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Speech Therapist
How much can you earn as a speech therapist?
As a speech therapist, you can earn an average annual salary of nearly $81K. Those working in private clinics tend to make more with an average salary closer to $93K per year. The type of facility you work in and your location will make a difference in your salary.
Some areas pay a higher salary for speech therapists than others. For example, San Francisco, Tulsa, New York City, Newark, and Danbury tend to be some of the highest-paying cities in the country for speech therapists.
Where will I find a job as a speech therapist?
When you decide to become a speech therapist, you will have many options for where you work. It’s common for speech therapists to work in schools, doctor’s offices, hospitals, residential health care facilities, and independent practices.
It’s also possible to become a travel speech therapist. This type of career opportunity can be very high-paying and allow you to travel all throughout the country.
What types of skills are necessary to become a speech therapist?
The most important skills for a speech therapist to have include compassion and patience. These are necessary to work in this field. In addition, it’s a good idea to be skilled in critical thinking, listening, speaking, and writing.
Speech therapists often need to know medical software, as well. You may need to learn Language Analysis Software, Interactive Voice Analysis Systems, and other software programs. It’s also helpful if you’re bilingual.
Is there a shortage of speech therapists?
Some areas of the country have a shortage of speech therapists. If you choose to work in one of these areas, you’ll be able to increase your job prospects. Some of the states with a shortage of speech therapists include:
- South Carolina
These states specifically have a shortage of school speech therapists.
Which schools offer the top speech-language pathology programs in the country?
If you want to make sure your master’s degree comes from one of the top speech-language pathology programs in the country, you need a top school. The top six universities for speech therapists trying to earn their master’s degree include:
- Rush University Medical Center in Chicago
- Vanderbilt University in Nashville
- The University of Wisconsin in Madison
- The University of Arizona in Tucson
- Northwestern University in Evanston
- Purdue University in West Lafayette
If you want to increase your job opportunities, these universities are the best option for your master’s degree. With a degree from one of these universities, you will have a better chance to find a great job opportunity.
How much clinical experience is necessary to become a speech therapist?
Along with your bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, you will need to complete 400 hours of supervised clinical observation. You will spend most of these hours working directly with patients.
It’s also possible to gain your clinical experience from a CFY (Clinical Fellowship Year). This is a 36-week, full-time program for speech therapy.
Do speech therapists need to complete continuing education courses?
Yes, you will need to complete continuing education courses to keep your license. The number of hours will depend on your state. If you don’t keep up with these courses, you won’t be able to renew your speech therapy license.
Is speech therapy a growing career?
Yes. The job growth for speech therapists is growing very fast. It’s projected to grow by 25% over the next decade. This is much higher than the average of 5% for all occupations. As a result, its result, it’s one of the fastest-growing fields available right now.
If you’re willing to put in the time to get the right master’s degree, you can become a speech therapist. There are many opportunities across the country for this type of position. Whether you want to work in a school or open your own private practice, you can become a speech therapist with the right steps. Now you know how to become a speech therapist. You can use these steps to ensure you get the right education and experience to enter this career path.