A speech therapist (also known as speech-language pathologist or speech-language pathology) helps a patient dealing with difficulties with speech articulation or swallowing due to brain injuries, stroke, alcoholism or other medical conditions that cause neurological deficits in speech production. Speech therapists are not speech therapists; the two professions are often confused and sometimes misused.
Speech therapists treat patients’ articulation or swallowing difficulties medically, diagnosing and treating them. Sometimes they are also called speech-language Pathologists. However, their main goal is to help their patients live more normal lives, by providing language therapy and other treatment modalities such as audio-visual or neuro-linguistic treatments.
The most common problems that speech-language therapists address are articulation or swallowing problems. These include articulation disorders, such as stuttering, jaw ailments, or vocal cord abnormalities. Some speech therapists specialize in child speech rehabilitation, helping those with speech disabilities to learn spoken communication. Some are specialized in working with deaf or hearing individuals. And some work in the field of communication therapy, counselling, or school district speaking therapy. You can go through the article on becoming a speech therapist.
In order to become a speech therapist, you must have a Master’s degree in a related field such as speech therapy, communication science, English language or a related study. You must also be licensed or have a portfolio of references that includes previous positions and completed certifications. As a speech therapist, your education will include learning the diagnostic tools used to diagnose and treat disorders of the voice, speech, language development, swallowing and other articulation/swallowing areas. You will probably need a Master’s degree in speech therapy, which typically takes two years, though some programs allow for shorter programs and certification at the graduate level is possible.
Once you have completed your Master’s degree, you can either get your bachelor’s degree or begin your post-graduate training as a speech therapist. There are some speech therapists who choose to continue their education by getting their master’s in public health. This may be particularly important if you want to go on to become an occupational therapist, speech pathologist or healthcare speech therapist. Some states require licensing, though most of this is voluntary.
The most common jobs for speech therapists include evaluating and diagnosing communication problems, prescribing treatments and referring patients. Each case is different, which requires different treatment methods. Some speech therapists diagnose with more narrow criteria, while others will treat all cases with a more holistic approach. Your job description may call for working with people who have serious mental illness, developmental disorders, substance abuse or living with a large group of people who have speech disabilities. Your job description will also include the specific tasks you will perform during patient sessions.
Salaries for speech therapists vary from state to state. The median salary for all types of speech therapy is above $40k, but in the United States the median salary for all therapists was below $40k in 2021. If you live in the United States, it is definitely worth getting some formal training before setting up a practice. Many speech therapists choose a career as an Occupational Therapist, which allows them to combine clinical experience with academic study and work directly with patients in a clinical environment.