How to Become a Language Speech Pathologist?

A Language Speech Pathologist assists people who have problems with communication. They are health professionals who evaluate and treat patients with cognitive and communication disorders.

Patients range from babies to the elderly. Speech and language pathologists help enhance communication skills through therapies targeting cognition and vocal exercises.

How to become a Language Speech Pathologist

Work Environment

The patients who seek treatment are usually those having resonance and language disorder. Other people treated by speech and language pathologists may also have difficulty in articulation and fluency. These disorders make it difficult for others to understand what the patients are saying.

Language Speech Pathologists can work in different types of environments. A career in speech and language pathology presents many options for employment. Aside from clinics and hospitals, speech and language pathologists can also practice in schools, healthcare facilities, rehabilitation centers and government agencies.

Language Speech pathologist Salary

The average salary of speech and language pathologist ranges from $53,000 to $65,000 every year. Experienced practitioners can earn up to $80,000 a year. The degree of education and level of expertise are critical factors for career advancement. The area of practice also varies the level of income. You can seek for more information on the expected salary in different states. Private institutions may pay more than public organizations. Explore various employment opportunities before making your final decision.

Language Speech Pathologist

Educational Requirements

Before you can become a speech and language pathologist, you will need to have a graduate level education. It can be a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree in a recognized speech and language course. Courses in the undergraduate level must include an introduction to communication sciences and disorders. Other critical subject areas are anatomy and physiology of speech, phonetics and speech science. Clinical courses are also provided if you want to engage in a clinical practice

Graduate courses are necessary educational requirements to help you gain more advanced knowledge on all areas of communication and speech disorders. The graduate courses you will need to take include the evaluation and treatment of various language disorders. These courses have more emphasis on research than the undergraduate courses.

Course requirements for aspiring speech and language pathologists may vary according to university standards. However, the minimum requirement should be the completion of introductory courses relating to speech including the normal and abnormal development of speech and language. Before you begin your clinical practicum, you need to discuss the requirements with your advisor. This will help you plan your clinical practicum in advance.

The American Speech and Language Hearing Association recommend aspiring speech and language pathologists to get liberal arts courses. These courses can be anatomy, psychology, math and science.

If you plan to practice speech and language pathology in private, you will need to acquire a Doctorate Degree or PhD. The same requirement is also recommended for employment as a college professor in speech and pathology and in the field of research.
A demonstration of good professional writing skills is required for the basic practice of speech and language pathology. If your undergraduate program does not include a professional writing course, you may want to discuss this with your advisor especially if you feel this is your weak area.

Also Read: How Can Medical Graduates and Doctors Practice in the USA?

Skills and Characteristics

Aside from obtaining a strong academic foundation, you need to have good oral and written communication skills especially when undergoing clinical practicum. It is important that you can easily talk to people of all ages and from all walks of life. Effective oral communication skills are important in clinical practice. You need to learn how to adjust your language level depending on the person you are talking to. For some clients, you need to use simple and brief language. You can present technical concepts with clients that are familiar to them based on their occupation.

Other critical personal characteristics to become a successful speech and language pathologist are reliability and patience. As a practitioner, you should be able to organize your daily schedule. You need to allocate enough time for each of your clinical responsibilities. You should be able to set priorities and prepare ahead of time.

Another ideal characteristic of a speech and language pathologist is the ability to maintain boundaries while empathizing with patients and their families. It is not advisable to become too emotionally involved with your clients to the extent that it affects your personal life. The ideal way to handle clients with empathy is to combine your technical expertise in the field and carefully regard your clients’ conditions and problems.

A speech and language pathologist should be flexible and capable of displaying a non-judgmental disposition. Changes in clinical practice may occur due to variables beyond your control. You should be able to accept and adapt to these changes. Sometimes while in practicum, you may be assigned to a client that you don’t like. You should be flexible enough to learn how to get along with this person on a professional level. As a speech and language pathologist, you are always expected to provide the best possible care to all patients.

Basic Knowledge of Certification and Licensure Agencies
Be familiar with the different agencies and organizations that will affect your speech and language pathology career. You need to have a basic knowledge of the various licensing agencies and the standards related to your field.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is a professional organization for speech and language pathologists and audiologists. Know the various guidelines, requirements and activities that will affect your profession. The association is a strong force in shaping the scientific and professional discipline of speech and language pathology. The ASHA also works for the advocacy of people with communication disorders.

Certification Process

Upon completion of the educational requirements, you can apply for a certificate on speech and language pathology. The certification program includes an exam and a clinical fellowship training period. The certification exam is also known as the Council for Clinical Certification. Additional certifications may be required depending on the location of employment or practice.

Requirements for ASHA Certification

1. Completion of academic requirements.

2. Demonstration of skills and knowledge required for practice.

It is important to complete your training program since it is designed to help you gain the necessary skills and knowledge of professional interaction and effective communication. You are expected to demonstrate knowledge in the following areas:

  • Basic principles of communication and swallowing
  • Communication and swallowing disorders
  • Cognitive aspects of speech and language
  • Behavioral and social characteristics of language
  • Assessment and treatment of communication and swallowing disorders
  • Professional ethics
  • Research and evidence-based practice
  • Issues concerning certification and licensure

The demonstration of the above knowledge and skills will require documentation in the form of the Knowledge and Skills Acquisition form. This is created and recommended by the ASHA.

3. Accomplishment of clinical practicum. The ASHA requires a minimum of 400 hours of clinical practicum. The practicum hours should be supervised. 25 out of 400 hours must be acquired from observation while the rest of the time should be spent on professional interaction with clients. A minimum of 325 hours should be completed in the undergraduate level.

4. Pass the Praxis Examination. After you have completed your graduate studies, you need to pass the Praxis Examination or the ASHA Boards. This is a summative assessment of your knowledge in speech and language pathology. Review books are available to help you pass the exam.

5. Pass the SLPCF. The Speech Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship serves as your transition from a student to an independent practitioner. The fellowship or training program is designed to help you learn new skills in delivering services to patients and other work settings. In the SLPCF, you will have a professional mentor who is ASHA-certified. This is a separate training program aside from the one provided by your university.

6. Follow the ASHA Code of Ethics. The code of ethics is critical to the practice of speech and language pathology. It also contains the specific standards and guidelines for both the protection of clinicians and clients.

7. Submit application form for certification including membership fee. The ASHA has a website that contains more information regarding membership and certification. You can download all forms there.

Licensure Board

One of the critical requirements before you can become a Speech and Language Pathologist is obtaining a state license. The requirements for licensure will depend on the state you are living in. Licensure is regulated by a government agency like the Board of Examiners for Audiology and Speech Pathology. Your school should coordinate your training in order to meet the requirements of the state licensure agency. If you have plans of moving to another state after graduation, you will need to contact the board to ensure to determine if your requirements are sufficient.

Department of Education

If you decide to seek employment in public schools, you will need to get certification from the state education department. This is a credential that states you have met the requirements and gained the competencies necessary as a speech and language pathologist.

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