Is a Speech-Language Pathology Degree Right for You?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology is usually a precursor to a master’s degree, which is the prerequisite for an entry-level position as a speech pathologist. There are over 250 postsecondary institutions that offer a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology. Students generally enter the Speech-Language Department in their junior year of college and work for two years in concentrated upper levels of study. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for speech pathologists is anticipated to grow 23% by 2020, which is faster than the national average.
Advice for Earning Your Speech Pathology Degree Online
Which degree path you select will depend upon your academic and professional goals. Students who wish to become speech pathologists will need to select an online degree program that is accredited and considered sufficient preparation for a master’s degree. Like traditional programs, many online SPL departments admit college students only after they have completed their core classes, allowing students to concentrate strictly on speech and communication courses until graduation. Admission into these programs requires that students maintain minimum GPAs and fulfill all the prerequisite courses. Because online programs will not offer clinical experience, it is advisable to take advantage of the flexible schedule offered by online courses to participate in internships or other experiential activities.
Although online courses offer flexibility, they also lack the rigid structures that hold students accountable. To succeed in an online program, students must be comfortable with technology, exhibit self-motivation, and display excellent time management skills. Students pursuing an online degree in language-speech sciences may also specialize in working with the hearing impaired. For example, a student who studies Communication Sciences and Disorders can minor in American Sign Language or Interpreting Training in order to become a translator. This is one way in which a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for employment.
Students will cover the many disorders of speech, language, and hearing that afflict people of all ages. The program draws heavily upon the sciences, covering topics like anatomy, neuroanatomy, and physiology. However, there is also an element of language arts within language-pathology, requiring students to study applied phonetics and other language science applications for communication disorders. Most programs require capstone achievements through introductions to clinical processes.
Common Career Paths
Becoming a licensed speech pathologist is the most popular career path for students who major in communicative disorders and speech-language pathology. Though it requires at least a master’s degree to become a licensed speech pathologist or audiologist, some states allow those with bachelor’s degrees to become Speech-Language Pathology Assistants. Another option for a student who studies speech-language pathology or communication disorders is to work as a translator for the hearing impaired.
Primarily, speech pathologists work to evaluate and diagnose cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders. However, they may also manage agencies, clinics, organizations, or their own private practices. Speech pathologists may also engage in research of human communication or teach in a university setting. Speech pathologists may also work in nursing care facilities, rehabilitation centers, schools, government agencies, or in centers for or homes of those with developmental disabilities.
Speech pathologists must earn a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology before enrolling in graduate school. In order to be certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), candidates must earn a graduate degree, complete required clinical experiences, and pass a national examination. In addition to these national standards, speech pathologists must also adhere to individual state requirements. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, speech-language pathologists in the United States earn an average salary of $72,000 per year.
Speech Pathologist Assistant
Speech pathologist assistants work in language-hearing practices, organizations, and centers that have a high intake of patients. Currently, only select states offer positions and training for speech-language pathology assistants. The ASHA does not offer a recognized certification process for speech-language pathology assistants. However, the association does offer guidelines for training, responsibilities, and supervision of assistants. Becoming an assistant generally requires an associate degree from a technical school; however, some states require that assistants earn a bachelor’s degree and select graduate credits.
The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics currently offers no information on the wages of a speech-pathologist language assistant. However, The American Speech-Learning-Hearing Association suggests that assistant salaries can be estimated at 60-70% of a speech-language pathologist salary, which would calculate to $43,200 to $50,400. However, wages and salaries will vary based on region and experience.
Earning a degree in speech pathology or communicative disorders can also be paired with a minor in sign language. Students who study to become sign language interpreters facilitate communication between those who are deaf or with other hearing disorders. Becoming fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) is similar to learning other foreign languages in that there are grammatical rules, sentence structures, idioms, and cultural nuances that must be mastered in order to achieve fluency. Many ASL interpreters work in school districts. However, other typical work environments include healthcare, postsecondary education, human resources, business, and government agencies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean national salary for interpreters is $50,610. However, it is important to keep in mind that this figure is an average of translator salaries for all languages and across all fields. A more specific statistic, offered by SimplyHired.com, places the average salary of a sign language interpreter at $41,000.