Become A Speech Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists help people regain verbal communication skills. Read an informative guide on becoming a speech pathologist today.

Communication is an essential function of human existence. Most people communicate using spoken words and when this essential function is damaged, debilitated or otherwise adversely altered a speech pathologist steps in to help correct the problems. Top on-campus and online schools are available for people looking to become speech pathologists today. Before setting course for this type of career path it is advisable to first learn about the education requirements and tuition expenses necessary to achieve your goals. Continue reading for an informative guide to getting your college education and becoming a speech pathologist today.

Speech Pathology 101

Speech pathology is the study, evaluation and treatment of speech, swallowing, language, and cognitive-communication disorders. People in any age group can develop these disorders steadily over time or suddenly due to accidents or serious medical conditions. Symptoms in patients who require the assistance of a speech pathologist include stuttering, impaired articulation of speech patterns and words and word-bank deficiencies. Symptoms also include trouble swallowing and a loss of faculties pursuant to vocalization, syntax, and semantics. Causes of these disorders and associated symptoms are as varied as the ages of the people they impair, and include:

  • Cleft palates.

  • Psychological problems.

  • Loss of hearing.

  • Brain injuries.

  • Autism.

  • Strokes.

  • Prolonged oxygen deprivation.

  • Exposure to extreme toxins or dangerous chemicals or fumes.

  • Drug overdose.

Learn What a Speech Pathologist Does

A professional, licensed speech pathologist performs a serious and important job. Some of the facilities where a speech pathologist works include hospitals, nursing homes and research laboratories. Rehabilitation centers, private clinics, and schools of all levels (preschool through college) also hire speech pathologists.

Duties involve the performance of patient screenings, which are used to discover and diagnose various speech-based disorders. Language and swallowing disorders are also detected, diagnosed, and treated. Treatment plans are created for patients, which assist them in developing – or redeveloping speech skills. Caregivers and family members involved in patient’s lives also receive education and training on how to best assist with treatment plans at home.

Because the disorders treated by a speech pathologist are capable of afflicting patients of any age, the profession requires a flexible personality and a strong sense of compassion. Often a patient’s treatment plan requires adjustments. Therefore, a speech pathologist must also be creative, quick-thinking, resourceful, caring and adaptative. 

How to Become a Speech Pathologist – Steps and Requirements

Speech pathologists are required to have a master's or doctoral degree in their specialty field. The process to becoming a professional speech pathologist starts well before and lasts beyond the accomplishment this goal, however. The first step is to earn a bachelor's degree in courses and fields of study relevant to speech-language pathology. Choosing accredited schools for all your degree-related pursuits is important because employers take applicants who graduated from accredited institutions more seriously. This is true whether you receive your education through an on-campus course program or from and accredited online college

Once you earn a related bachelor’s degree the next step is to locate an accredited speech-language pathology master's degree program. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) provides an excellent resource tool to help you accomplish this. Some schools require you to successfully complete the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as a condition of acceptance into their master’s programs. While engaged in both your bachelor’s degree and master’s studies it is recommended to also acquire relevant work experience in your chosen field (or a similar field). This helps build your resume and bolster your application status for both a master’s degree program and post-graduation hiring status.

Several more important steps must also be followed. A clinical fellowship in speech-language pathology must be completed. The Praxis Examination in Speech-Language Pathology assesses your understanding of vital topical content and ability to comply with current practices and standards in the field. It is necessary to pass this national test to obtain a license to begin working as a speech pathologist. Every state has its own licensing requirements, so it is necessary to research and follow steps to complete the specific process in yours. A Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) is obtained by working under a supervisor for a specified amount of time. A Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A) or Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) is also obtained through ASHA.

What Is the Shortest amount of Time Needed to Get a Degree?

Bachelor’s degree programs generally take four years to complete. Master’s degree programs require an additional one-to-two years of study and doctoral programs another three-to-four beyond that. Application processing for ASHA CCC-A or CCC-SLP certifications takes only four-six weeks. Each state’s licensing process varies in the amount of time it also requires. It is possible to work in a speech pathology field after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. You must possess at least a master’s degree to become a certified and licensed professional speech pathologist, however. 

Education Grants and Financial Aid to Help Pay for Your Degrees

Education grants and financial aid are available to potentially pay for some or all your college tuition and other education-related expenses. Financial assistance is provided based on need (financial hardship), personal and academic merit or a combination of all these factors. Submitting a Free Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) form is the most common method of obtaining federally funded financial aid. Federal Pell Grants are the most common type of aid granted based on financial hardship. Multiple additional resources for finding grants and financial aid are also available through ASHA and private websites and organizations. A few examples of these resources include:

Top On-Campus and Online Schools with Speech Pathology Programs

Pursuing a career as a speech pathologist is a competitive process. Therefore, you need undergraduate (bachelor’s) and graduate (master’s and doctoral) degrees from the best institutions’ possible. Some of the top schools with speech pathology programs today include: