Speech pathology is the study of communication disorders. This can include pronunciation difficulties, fluency problems, or voice disorders. If you have good communications skills, enjoy working closely with other individuals, and have a strong aptitude for teaching, speech pathology could be a very satisfying career choice for you. In practice, speech pathologists must assess and provide therapy for both children and adults with a variety of communication issues. Students in speech pathology programs can expect to study topics such as intonation, resonance, phonation, and voice. Speech pathology majors should also be prepared to complete clinic and lab hours associated with this type of degree.
Whether you are interested in researching online degrees or campus-based programs, it is important to understand what a degree in speech pathology entails and how it can help you in your career. Speech pathology graduates may work in healthcare, education, social assistance, or private practice. However, it is important to note that a master's degree is required to become a licensed speech-language pathologist in most states.
Classes and Assignments of a Speech Pathology Major
Special pathology students should expect an intensive course of study including lecture, seminar, research, and lab courses. Most degree programs will cover topics such as anatomy and physiology for speech and language, audiology, speech and language development, phonology, English sign systems, psychological aspects of communication, diagnostic procedures, and intervention strategies. Students studying speech pathology should be prepared to complete lab and clinic observation course work. Some programs may also offer students a choice of specialization, such as deaf education.
In addition to completing exams, papers, and presentations, practical course work in speech pathology is often required. This includes observing treatment, planning therapy options, coming up with treatment strategies, collecting data, writing progress reports, and compiling patient notes. At the graduate level, students will complete supervised clinical practicum, where they actually treat patients with speech, language, and swallowing disorders.
Degree Levels for a Speech Pathology Major
- Associate. Since online masters speech pathology degrees are required for licensure in most states, online associate speech pathology degrees are most useful as a stepping stone towards further study in the field. Graduates of an associate degree program in speech pathology are qualified to work in entry-level administrative positions in healthcare, education, or social assistance facilities.
- Bachelor's. Students pursuing online bachelors speech pathology degrees should be prepared to take a mixture of lecture, seminar, observation, and lab courses. In addition, speech pathology students will also complete general education requirements outside of their major as required by their specific institution. Since most states require a master's degree for licensure, the majority of students enrolled in bachelor's programs will continue on to a graduate school. Graduates with a bachelor's degree may fill administrative or assistant positions in healthcare, education, or social assistance facilities, or they may choose to pursue online masters speech pathology degrees.
- Master's. At the master's degree level, speech pathology students will delve further into research, observation, and practicum course work. In preparation for their licensure, master's students will complete supervised clinical hours in which they actually assess and treat patients. Master's students may also choose a specialization for their studies, depending on the program offerings at their school. While balancing school and a full-time job is challenging, working professionals can find a self paced online masters degree to fit within their schedule. Graduates with a master's degree in speech pathology who have earned their license are qualified to seek employment as speech pathologists in health care, education, social assistance, industry, or private practice.
- Doctoral. For those interested in working in academia, research, or high-level administrative positions, a doctoral degree in speech pathology is advisable. In preparation for their dissertation, doctoral students will conduct in-depth research in their area of specialization. This allows students to contribute to the current body of knowledge for the field, and may also provide the opportunity for them to present their work at conferences. While a doctoral program is not an easy undertaking, working professionals can find a number of flexible programs which allow them to complete their post grad online. Graduates of a doctoral program in speech pathology may work as college professors, researchers, or high-level administrators in healthcare, industry, social assistance, education, or private practice.
A Future as a Speech Pathology Major
While licensing requirements vary, almost all state's require licensure to practice as a speech-language pathologist. Typically, a master's degree or higher is required to receive this licensure, making a master's degree in speech pathology the best college degree for future employment opportunities in the field.
In 2008, speech-language pathologists earned a median annual salary of $62,930 according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those who worked in nursing care facilities earned the highest salaries at a median of $79,120, while those who worked in elementary and secondary schools earned the lowest salaries at a median of $58,140, the BLS notes. Please note, however, exact salaries will vary based on your location, level of experience, type of employer, and the overall job climate.
Students with a degree in Speech Pathology are considered well prepared for
becoming Speech-language pathologists.