Are you a strong communicator with a passion for language? If so, you may be interested in studying speech pathology and communication disorders. Read on to learn more about this growing field of study, including career opportunities and educational program options.
Speech pathology, also referred to as speech therapy, involves the study of different communication disorders, including those having to do with fluency, language, voice and cognitive communication. Professionals in the field of speech pathology and communication disorders include speech language pathologists, speech therapists and audiologists. As a professional in the field, you may work with patients of all ages who may suffer from speech and language difficulties as a result of a brain injury or abnormality, stroke, cerebral palsy or learning disability. On an average day, you may use therapy exercises, along with different standardized tests to assess a patient's individual condition and progress. You may also work with a patient's family to identify different behavioral patterns that may be affecting the patient's communication abilities and teach them different exercises that can help strengthen communication skills.
If you're interested in working in speech pathology, you should expect favorable job prospects over the next several years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for speech language pathologists and audiologists is expected to grow by 19% during the 2008-2018 decade, which is considered faster than the average growth of all professions. Professionals who are willing to relocate, as well as those who speak a second language such as Spanish, are projected to have the best job opportunities. The BLS also reported that speech language pathologists earned a mean annual wage of $69,880 in May 2010. During the same period, audiologists earned a reported average of $69,840 per year.
A master's degree is the minimum educational requirement for entry-level positions in speech pathology. As a student in a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology, you may take courses in subjects such as speech science, hearing science, speech and language disorders, hearing measurement, motor behaviors in children and language perception. Applicants to graduate-level programs in speech pathology can come from a wide range of educational backgrounds and include individuals with bachelor's degrees in education, linguistics, biology and psychology.
If you're interested in furthering your education, may consider earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Speech Language Pathology. Programs at this level may include more in-depth instruction on treatment of traumatic brain injuries, developmental communication disorders and other extensive speech, hearing, language and voice complications. Coursework typically includes a research apprenticeship, graduate teaching internship and doctoral seminars in communication disorders. As a student in a Ph.D. program, you'll be required to complete an applied dissertation before graduating. Successful graduates of both master's and Ph.D. programs can go on to find work in rehabilitation centers, schools, hospitals and private practices.