Speech-language pathology is the study and treatment of human communication and its disorders. Speech-language pathologists work with the full range of human communication to evaluate, diagnose and treat speech, language and swallowing disorders in individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly.
Speech-language pathologists often work as part of a team, which may include teachers, physicians, audiologists, psychologists, social workers and rehabilitation counselors.
Their responsibilities may include:
- Preparing future professionals in colleges and universities.
- Managing agencies, clinics or private practices.
- Engaging in research to enhance knowledge about human communication processes.
- Developing new methods and equipment to evaluate problems. Establish more effective treatments.
- Investigating behavioral patterns associated with communication disorders.
- Working with employees to improve communication with their customers.
Speech-language pathologists work in a variety of settings, including educational settings, health care facilities and private practice, among others. 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.
As communication professionals, speech-language pathologists have the unique opportunity to:
- Work with other medical and rehabilitation professionals to care for patients.
- Provide services to a range of age groups, from newborns to adults.
- Counsel and educate patients and their families and caregivers.
- Use technology to evaluate and treat communication and related disorders and conduct research in communication sciences and disorders.
- Develop skills to serve as supervisors, mentors or administrators.
Speech-language pathology requires attention to detail, specialized knowledge and skills and intense concentration. The emotional needs of clients and their families may also be demanding.
If you are in high school, you should decide what your major will be. Some colleges and universities offer an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders (CSD), but it’s not necessary. However, if you do not major in CSD, you may need to complete some prerequisites before applying to graduate school.
Speech-language pathologists must:
- Earn a graduate degree in speech-language pathology from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation.
- Complete a supervised postgraduate clinical fellowship.
- Get a passing score on a national examination.
The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) provides a listing of accredited schools offering a speech-language pathology program.
Those individuals who have a graduate degree with major emphasis in speech-language pathology may become certified by the Council for Clinical Certification, which issues certificates of clinical competence for both audiology and speech-language pathology.
In almost all states, a current license in audiology or speech-language pathology is also required to practice.
Planning Your Education in CSD provides more details about academic requirements for audiologists and speech language pathologists.
Learn More About a Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist
- Watch a video that features speech-language pathologists discussing what they do and why their career is rewarding.
- Get more information about a career in speech-language pathology.