If your career goals include helping people overcome their physical and psychological challenges, then you might consider building a career as a speech-language pathologist. Sometimes called speech therapists, speech pathologists work in various settings to provide effective care to patients dealing with a variety of speech difficulties.
They often work with other professionals, such as occupational therapists. A career in medical speech pathology can be both challenging and rewarding. If you wish to find out what a day in the life of a speech pathologist looks like, the average salary for these professionals, and the educational qualifications you need to get started in this role, read on.
What Is a Speech Pathologist?
A speech pathologist is a medical professional who diagnoses and treats patients with a wide range of swallowing, cognitive, or speech disorders. A speech pathologist can work in a hospital setting, outpatient setting, or clinical setting. In a school setting, they provide speech therapy to children with special needs.
What Does a Speech Pathologist Do On a Daily Basis?
A typical day for a speech pathologist often involves juggling a diverse range of clients with unique needs. A standard morning for a speech therapist may start with checking their schedules and emails for the day. This would help them structure their daily routine so they can tackle their tasks appropriately.
Each speech pathologist has an area of specialization. A speech pathologist may cater to patients with motor speech disorders, swallowing disorders, or fluency disorders. Before attending to clients, they read through notes from patients’ last sessions in preparation for the next multiple or individual therapy sessions. More of their duties are outlined below.
- Assess and diagnose patients’ conditions. A speech pathologist assesses the nature of the vocal disorder the patient has. They can do this by monitoring the behavioral patterns of the patients through assisted technologies. Then, they run lab tests to discover more in-depth causes.
Part of the diagnosis includes interview sessions with the patients and caregivers to enable them to gain insight into their medical history. Some of the assessments for patients include standard observations, caregiver reports, speech sound assessments, curriculum-based assessments, contextual analyses, ethnographic interviews, and language samples.
- Prepare treatment plans for patients with speech disorders. Once the speech pathologist has diagnosed the patient’s condition and grouped it under the specific disorder category, they begin working on a treatment plan that’s unique to the patient’s condition. This includes finding a treatment provider, preparing a sample report, and determining which treatment prognosis is best.
The speech therapy strategies that can be adopted include speech intervention, feeding therapy, articulation therapy, motor function skills therapy, auditory rehab, language intervention therapy, and vital stimulation therapy.
- Educate and collaborate with caregivers connected to patients. The caregivers of a speech therapy patient could be the parents, spouse, teacher, or medical practitioners. A speech pathologist would explain the diagnosis and treatment approach adopted for the patient’s condition to the caregivers to help them provide the right kind of care to the patient.
For example, a speech pathologist may educate the parents of a child with barium swallow impairment on how the child can effectively consume solid foods and liquids. In a case like this, they may also collaborate with the patient’s physical therapist on the therapy approach.
- Collaborate with other professionals. Speech pathologists don’t work in isolation. To provide the best care to patients and reduce mistakes, they collaborate with a multidisciplinary team. Collaborating with professionals from other fields helps increase their credibility and skills as healthcare specialists dealing with acute care cases and standard cases.
Speech pathologists work with physical therapists, neuropsychologists, rehabilitation providers, social workers, audiologists, mental health case managers, nurses, doctors, psychologists, and dieticians, depending on the nature of the patient’s condition.
- Prepare and maintain patient records. Documenting patient records is an essential part of the job. Speech pathologists prepare assessment and diagnostic reports for patients. They also prepare case reports and treatment plans. They prepare prognostic reports and discharge reports.
How Can I Become a Speech Pathologist?
To become a speech pathologist, you need a college education. Your qualification will need to be as high as a master’s degree. Speech pathologists also go on to complete fellowships to build clinical experience. You’ll need to pass a national exam to specialize in an aspect of speech pathology, before getting a state license to practice in different states in the US.
Speech Pathology Degrees
To become a speech pathologist, you need to earn your bachelor’s degree in speech pathology or a related field. This will help you build a technical knowledge of the behavioral and biological challenges that patients with communication difficulties encounter. For your master’s degree, you need a CAA accredited master’s program in communication sciences and disorders, such as the Master of Sciences in Communication Disorders.
Speech Pathology Online Courses
Taking online speech pathology courses can be a quick way to broaden your knowledge in the field. This is essential since your work requires you to work in a multidisciplinary team. The advantages of online courses include professional development and updated information in sciences.
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They are also necessary to help you meet state license renewal requirements. You can take courses in traumatic brain injury, respiratory muscle training, report writing, speech development, starting a private practice, and the legalities in your profession.
Speech Pathology Certifications
Even after completing a clinical fellowship upon graduation and obtaining your state licensure, you can upscale your career by applying for professional certifications. The advantage of obtaining a professional certification is that you find it easier to gain salary leverage. You’ll also be professionally recognized in any state or country you move to.
The most popular certification for speech pathologists is the certificate of clinical competence in speech-language pathology (CCC-SLP). These speech pathology professional certifications are issued by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.
How Can I Get a Job as a Speech Pathologist?
To get a job as a speech pathologist, you have to obtain the right education. First, you spend three to four years in an undergraduate degree program. Then, you spend up to two or more years in a graduate program. Once you’ve completed your degrees, your clinical fellowship, and gained your license, you can apply for jobs as a speech therapist with the following steps.
Steps to Finding a Job as a Speech Pathologist
- Prepare Your Resume and Cover Letter
Every aspiring or experienced professional needs an effective cover letter and resume. This is a requirement for successfully landing a job in your field. Your cover letter and resume should highlight and explain details like your educational qualifications, work history, and skill set. These documents tell your hiring manager you are qualified for the job.
- Apply for an Internship
An internship is an ideal way to break into the speech pathology field. It is an ideal way to develop practical experience in the technicalities of your discipline. It allows you to learn directly from experienced professionals in your field. It is also a good way to build a professional network that you can rely on when searching for a job or looking to upscale in your field.
- Develop Your Portfolio
If you’re planning on starting your private practice or working for a top employer, you need to build a convincing portfolio. A portfolio is an ideal way to attract and secure impressive job opportunities. It also gives you an edge over others in your field. Your portfolio should include cases you’ve worked on. However, it should maintain client confidentially.
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- Search Job Boards
This is easily one of the most popular ways of securing a job. These job boards allow you to choose from numerous job vacancies in your field. You don’t have to worry about the authenticity of the job posts because they are first verified by the job site. Some of the job sites you should check out are Therapy Travellers and ASHA.
- Join Professional Forums
Networking with professionals in related disciplines is another way to secure a job in this industry. You can join forums to receive support from other speech-language professionals like yourself. You can also receive industry updates, learning resources, and mentoring through these forums. You can check out forums like SLP Solution and SLP Impact.
What Is the Average Salary of a Speech Pathologist?
According to the salary review by ZipRecruiter in 2022, the average annual salary for speech pathologists in the United States is $98,823. The annual salary varies based on level of experience and location. Let’s take a closer look at the annual average salary below.
Salary for an Entry-Level Speech Pathologist
Based on the data computations by ZipRecruiter, the average income for entry-level speech pathologists is $66,682. An entry-level speech therapist is usually a recent graduate student of communication sciences and disorders. They typically have one year of work experience in the speech pathology industry, if that.
Salary for a Senior-Level Speech Pathologist
According to ZipRecruiter in 2022, the average salary for senior speech pathologists in the United States is $94,460. Senior-level speech pathologists have more than five years of professional experience. They are specialists in different aspects of speech pathology.
Job Outlook for a Speech Pathologist
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, speech pathologists have a 29 percent job growth rate, which is faster than the average career in the United States. This growth will occur between 2020 and 2030. Based on the career projections, 45,000 new health specialists will find jobs in speech pathology within this period.
Should I Become a Speech Pathologist?
Yes, you should if you wish to facilitate effective communication. A career in speech pathology might be an overwhelming experience at first, but professionals in this field will always be in demand. If you choose a career in speech therapy, you’d be helping children build functional skills and communication strategies to establish meaningful connections with other members of society.
A Day in the Life of a Speech Pathologist FAQs
A speech pathologist tries to effectively juggle multiple tasks, daily. They have to check and respond to their emails, prepare and refer to their work schedules, meet with patients, and conduct therapy sessions. They also have to prepare and refer to their case reports. Sometimes, they have to carry out meetings with other professionals.
Speech pathologists sometimes suffer from psychological and physiological stress. The requirements of their job can be quite challenging for these professionals, especially since they have to tackle a lot of tasks at the same time. They have to maintain and refer to their case reports and monitor the progress of patients.
The disadvantages of being a speech pathologist include stress associated with patient locations, case irregularities, lack of treatment resources and professional support, high workloads, dealing with criticism from non-speech pathology professionals, and dealing with bureaucracy.
Yes, it is. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of speech pathology is expected to grow by 29 percent, with 45,000 new professionals joining the field within the next ten years. Combining this data with the unpredictability of human psychological disorders and the need for human intervention in these special cases, speech therapists will continue to be in demand in the future.
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