If you're a strong communicator with a passion for language, 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, earnings 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'll work with adults and children who are suffering from a variety of speech and language difficulties, including those caused by brain injuries or abnormalities, strokes, cerebral palsy or learning disabilities. On an average day, you may use therapeutic exercises, along with different standardized tests, to assess a patient's condition and progress. You may also work with a patient's family to identify different behavioral patterns that may be affecting a client's communication abilities. You might also show family members how to perform different exercises that can help strengthen their loved one's communication skills.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for speech language pathologists and audiologists was expected to grow by 19% nationwide from 2012-2022, which is considered a faster-than-average rate of growth when compared to all other occupations. During the same period, a 34%, or much-faster-than-average, increase in opportunities was projected for audiologists.
The number of openings will continue to grow as parents and professionals become more aware of speech-language issues in children; hearing loss among an aging population will also have a positive impact on job growth for audiologists. An interest in relocation may help some candidates obtain a position. As of May 2013, speech-language pathologists and audiologists earned mean annual wages of $73,970 and $74,360 per respectively (www.bls.gov).
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 program, you may take courses in speech and hearing science, speech and language disorders, hearing measurement, juvenile motor behaviors and language perception. Master's degree programs in speech pathology accept students from a variety of educational backgrounds, including education, linguistics, biology and psychology.
If you're interested in furthering your education, you may want to consider a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Speech Language Pathology. Programs at this level can include more in-depth instruction in developmental communication disorders and other speech, hearing, language and voice complications. You'll also learn how traumatic brain injuries are treated. Additional requirements include a research apprenticeship, graduate teaching internship and doctoral seminars in communication disorders; you'll also research and write an original dissertation. Successful graduates of both master's and Ph.D. programs can go on to find work in rehabilitation centers, schools, hospitals and private practices.