Speech pathologists provide a wide range of services, carefully tailored for each individual or group. This occupation is also known under the name “speech therapist”. The main task of a speech pathologist is to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent different disorders associated with speech, language, fluency, voice, swallowing and communication. Therefore, the speech pathologist will not only work with people who cannot produce speech, but also with people with difficulties expressing verbally, and those who are not able to produce clear speech. One of the most frequent speech difficulties that require the aid of a speech pathologist is stuttering. However, speech pathologists can help patients with voice disorders, those having problems understanding and speaking, and those who do not have any speech related problems, but just want to improve their accent and diction.
In most of the cases, patients will need the attention of the speech pathologist after certain medical conditions such as stroke, brain injury or deterioration. Some people, however, are born with their speech defect, due to some congenital or developmental condition such as cerebral palsy or mental retardation.
Speech pathologists usually provide their services together with other experts from different fields, such as teachers, interpreters, social workers, physicians, psychiatrists, etc. Their working environment depends on the type of institution in which they work. For example, some speech pathologists will only conduct a theoretical research on human communication and speaking habits. These experts will probably work in the comfortable office surroundings. Speech pathologists engaged in the hospitals or other medical facilities may be required to work at the patient’s bedside. Speech pathologists employed by schools will probably work in an office or at a classroom. Some of the speech pathologists even work at the client’s home, and most of them hold their own private practice.
On average, speech pathologists earn about $62,930 yearly. The highest salaries are in the nursing care facilities, while speech pathologists employed by elementary and secondary schools earn the lowest wages.
Education and training
Speech pathologists will need to complete their master’s degree in most of the cases. Around 240 colleges and universities offer graduate programs at both master’s and doctoral levels. Future speech pathologists will learn about anatomy, physiology, the areas of the body involved in speech, language, and swallowing; about speech disorders; principles of acoustics; and psychological aspects of communication. To get a license one will need a master’s degree from the accredited educational institution and a passing score on the national examination on speech-language pathology. Moreover, 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and 9 months of postgraduate professional clinical experience are also required.