How to become a speech therapist? What skills should you have to be able to succeed in the field? What kind of academic accreditation do you need? – these questions often strike the mind of people who want to work with children diagnosed with speech-related disorders and want to provide screening, assessment, and treatment for children with special needs.

To answer the question of how to become a speech therapist, it’s important to understand what exactly speech therapy is.

1) What are Speech Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology?

Speech therapy is the assessment of communication problems and the treatments that help cure speech disorders. Speech therapy is very important in psychology, and the field is always budding with new professionals.

Speech-language pathology refers to a field that specializes in evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and preventing communication disorders. It also deals with voice disorders, cognitive-communication issues, and swallowing disorders.

how to become a speech therapist
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Another angle to answer the question of how to become a speech therapist is understanding what happens during speech therapy.

2) What happens during Speech Therapy?

Like other forms of therapy, speech therapy begins with an assessment of the communication disorder and the best treatment for it.

Depending on the disorder, speech-language techniques improve communication, articulation therapy, language development, intervention activities, and other things. Speech therapy can be used for speech disorders developed in childhood or speech disablement caused by an injury during adulthood.

Speech therapy works differently for children and adults. To understand ‘how to become a speech therapist,’ it is crucial to understand how it works differently for adults and children and what exercises are involved in both.

2.1) Children’s Speech Therapy

Speech therapy for children can take place in classrooms, small groups, or private sessions. The exercises used vary according to age, disorder, and treatment. The Speech-language pathologist may interact through play and talk, model correct noise for children, and provide strategies for the child and caregiver to practice the therapy at home.

Research has shown that therapy is often accompanied by reinforcement like tokens, stickers, and praise. Social learning theory forms a big basis for speech-language therapy; it dictates that children will learn if they are trained in context.

2.2) Adult Speech Therapy

Speech therapy for adults begins with assessing the needs and the treatment best suited for them. Speech therapy exercises used for adults can help improve speech and cognitive communication.

Therapy for adults may also include dealing with an improper swallowing mechanism or disorder. Dysphagia is often a term used for swallowing disorders. Speech therapists for adults may use exercises like problem-solving, breathing, conversational tactics, memory, organization, and exercises for oral muscles. Apraxia is a disorder caused by damage to the parietal lobe concerned with speaking. Dysarthria is another speaking disorder in which the person has difficulty moving their mouth and face muscles. It may also cause their respiratory system to weaken.

Learning that there are different exercises and treatment plans for adults and kids regarding speech therapy helps you get closer to answering the question of importance, i.e., how to become a speech therapist.

how to become a speech therapist
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3) What are the Skills a Speech Therapist Should Have?

How to become a speech therapist? – this question is linked to what skills you need to become a speech therapist.

The skills required to become a speech therapist include the following:

  1. Active Listening: Active listening is important for SLPs since they work directly with individuals. They need to listen and ensure they consider all the information provided.
  2. Adaptability: SLPs will always have to work in new environments and situations, so they need to have enough confidence and ability to adapt to each situation.
  3. Creativity: SLPs need to be innovative towards all the tools and activities they acquire during their education. They must be creative enough to solve complex problems and make suggestions whenever needed or when things don’t go according to plan.
  4. Critical Thinking: Speech pathology requires critical thinking. They must analyze progress, ask relevant questions, identify disorders accurately, and provide treatment.
  5. Compassion: Speech-language pathologists must care for their patients and empathize with them. For this to happen, they need to be compassionate.

If a person possesses these skills, it helps them pursue a career in speech pathology.

4) How to become a Speech Therapist?

Communication sciences are very important for our existence. Speech-language pathologists help us improve our communication skills and better our ability for social interaction.

After discussing what speech therapist does, what skills they need, and how speech therapy works, we can now discuss the central question – how to become a speech therapist?

4.1) Undergraduate Degree

The first step in becoming a speech pathologist is the basic one required for any career path: you need to have an undergraduate degree.

Try choosing a major in speech therapy, like communication sciences and disorders, linguistics, English, education, or psychology. Language development is another option.

4.2) Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology

After becoming one of the undergraduate students with a bachelor’s degree, you need to get a Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP). You need to get this degree from a program that has accreditation candidacy status by the Council on Academic Accreditation.

A program like this blends theory with practical exposure to 400 hours of clinical training. This helps you to meet the national certification requirements, which demand 25 guided clinical practicum hours and 375 direct client contact hours.

To get accepted for a master’s degree program, you will need the following:

  • A minimum 3.0 GPA
  • A statement essay
  • A GRE test with an analytical writing score of 3.0, at least
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Completion of the basic core classes of biology, chemistry or physics, statistics, and behavioral science program

If you lack these prerequisites, you must take SLP leveling courses and apply for your master’s degree.

4.3) Clinical Fellowship

After completing your master’s degree, you need 1,260 clinical practicum hours and 36 weeks of working under the guidance of a mentor. The mentor must be certified in Speech-language Pathology and have two years of work under their name.

You need a temporary license from the Speech-language pathology and audiology board to get this clinical competence. To get your temporary license, you need a master’s or doctoral degree and a mentor-approved plan.

how to become a speech therapist
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4.4) Praxis Exam

You need to take the Praxis Exam in Speech Pathology during your fellowship, delivered by the Education Testing Service. To pass, you need at least 162 points out of 200. This will help you move towards becoming a certified speech-language pathologist.

4.5) National ASHA Certification & State Licensing

The most important step is to secure your official credentials. ASHA manages the certification proceeding. You must meet four requirements before obtaining your Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology.

  1. A transcript from your graduate school
  2. Your Praxis score sent from ETS
  3. A report detailing your completion of the fellowship hours
  4. A report stating the details of 400 hours of supervised clinical fellowship.

Each state has its guidelines, so check for information about education, intervention, hours of clinical experience, and other regulations related to speech pathology.

4.6) Continue Education

How to become a speech therapist?’ – this question cannot be answered without emphasizing the importance of continuing education. Speech therapists need to continue to learn and grow throughout their careers. Many states require SLPs to take continuing education units to refresh their skills.

5) Some other Facts About Becoming a Speech Pathologist

How to become a speech therapist?’ – now that we have answered this question, let’s move to some important facts you need to know about speech pathology as a career path.

5.1) Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that the annual salary of speech therapists is $80,480, or $38.69 hourly, as of May 2020. When this survey was conducted, the top 10% of speech pathologists earned up to $122,000 yearly. Potential income also depends on experience, specialty, and geographic location.

5.2) Timeline

A lot of schooling and clinical practice is required to attain certification, so the effort can take quite a lot of time:

  • Undergraduate degree: 4 years
  • Graduate degree with 400 hours of practice: 2 years
  • Clinical fellowship of 1260 hours: 2 years

So, it takes roughly 8 years to get an SLP certification.

5.3) Other Jobs in the Field

After you’ve completed your educational qualifications, if you feel that you want to explore the field some more, here are a few other options for jobs:

5.3.1) Audiologist 

An audiologist is a person who deals with the diagnosis and rehabilitation of people with hearing difficulties. They provide clients with cochlear implants and auditory care. They also help with alternate communication modes like sign language.

5.3.2) Speech Pathology Reader 

A speech pathology reader assesses, diagnoses, and treats people who suffer from swallowing disorders, social communication problems, and cognitive communication issues.

5.3.3) Lecturer

You can become a lecturer and teach visually disabled children and children with hearing problems. You can help these children adapt to Braille and sign language, along with other conventional teaching methods.

5.3.4) Teacher

A teacher is responsible for designing lessons for specialized programs. They also design assessments and develop rules and regulations. They also play a role in tracking students’ progress and provide support for children with autism.

how to become a speech therapist
Photo by Max Fischer/Pexels/Copyright 2020

5.3.5) Clinical Supervisor 

Clinical supervisors monitor individual cases and provide advice through observation. They also indulge in mental health counseling to solve legal problems.

5.3.6) Researcher

Researchers track and manage information between research project departments. They conduct detailed experiments, examinations, assessments, collection of specimens, and trials on people with speech problems to attain a diagnosis.

5.3.7) Speech-Language Pathologist Assistant

If an 8-year commitment seems difficult to make or personal problems prohibit you from completing the full course on time, you can try becoming a speech-language pathology assistant. SLPAs help with clerical and clinical support for SLPs. They maintain medical records, implement therapy practices, and prepare equipment for diagnosis.

To become an SLPA, you must have a two-year degree and 100 hours of clinical experience. Assistants earn much lesser than SLPS, at an annual average of $39,530, but remember that not all states may allow for support staff.

how to become a speech therapist
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If you want to learn about another valuable sector of psychology, check out this article: How To Become An Occupational Therapist: 7 Valuable Skills You Must Possess To Become An Occupational Therapist.

5.4) Career Outlook

Speech-language pathology has been rated as a job with financial security and progress. Increased awareness about communication disorders has raised the demand for SLPs. Speech-language pathologists can also be found in Nevada, West Virginia, North Dakota, and Connecticut school settings.

The number of older people with communication disorders is also rising, increasing the demand for speech-language pathologists. As of 2021, the expected growth of SLPs’ job openings between 2020 and 2030 was 29%. The job security, great resources, and impressive salary make a career in speech-language pathology very rewarding.

6) How to Become a Speech Therapist: A Conclusion

Becoming a speech therapist isn’t easy; you need to give more than 8 years of your life to get the educational qualifications required, and once you are done with that, the real work can be draining, too. You will need to pay a big sum of money, solve many cases, and occasionally work weekends and holidays, which can lead to intense burnout.

However, you will earn a good living, get the chance to work in various settings, have job security, get to travel for work, have independence, have a flexible schedule, and get the chance to specialize even further. As a speech therapist, you will be a valuable member of society, and your contributions will always be respected and appreciated. You will be able to change many lives and bring a positive outlook to many families.

How to become a speech therapist?’ – getting the answer to this question is just the first step of a long journey, but if you have the will and commitment to achieve it, nothing can stop you!

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Last Updated on by Laveleena Sharma

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