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Speech-Language Pathologist

Overview

Speech-language pathologists assess, diagnose, treat and help to prevent speech, language, cognitive, communication, voice, swallowing, fluency and other related disorders; this profession is closely allied with - but separate from - audiology. For more information on both speech-language pathology and audiology, see the Information for Students section of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website.

Speech-language pathologists work with people who:

  • Cannot make speech sounds or cannot make them clearly
  • Have speech rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering
  • Experience voice quality problems, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice
  • Have problems understanding and producing language
  • Wish to improve their communication skills by modifying an accent
  • Have cognitive communication impairments, such as attention, memory, and problem solving disorders

They also work with people who have oral motor problems causing eating and swallowing difficulties.

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Working Conditions

Speech-language pathologists work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, skilled nursing facilities and private practices. Most full-time speech-language pathologists work 40 hours per week; some work part time. Those who work on a contract basis may spend a substantial amount of time traveling between facilities.

The job is not physically demanding, but it does require attention to detail, specialized knowledge and skills and intense concentration. The emotional needs of clients and their families may be demanding. 

Academic Requirements

If you plan to become a certified practitioner in this field, you must attend a graduate program that has been accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA).

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association provides a listing of accredited schools offering an Au.D. program.

Almost all states require speech-language pathologists to hold at least a master's degree or the equivalent. Other requirements typically include 275 to 375 hours of supervised clinical practice, a passing score on a national examination and nine months of supervised professional experience.

Individuals with a graduate degree from a CAA-accredited program and who have met the requirements listed above may be eligible for certification by the Council for Clinical Certification, which issues the CCC-SLP. Forty-two states have continuing education requirements for licensure renewal. Medicaid, Medicare and private health insurers generally require a practitioner to be certified or licensed to qualify for reimbursement.