You can change lives by embarking on a speech-language pathologist career. Many people suffer from speech problems such as an inability to enunciate clearly, or fluency and rhythmic difficulties like stuttering. Some people have even more unusual maladies, like a strange pitch to their voice or very heavy accents that are unpleasant to others or cause others to misunderstand what the person is trying to communicate. Some people have difficulty swallowing. These conditions can result from accidents of birth like a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, a learning disability, or mental retardation. Some conditions may develop later as a result of a stroke, brain injury, hearing loss, or emotional problems. It falls to special people with great patience and compassion called speech-language pathologists to competently assess, diagnose, and treat individuals through an assortment of instruments and testing. While often overlooked as medical professionals, these specialists truly fit in the category of health care professions.
Aside from doctors, people who choose a speech-language pathologist career are some of the best-educated practitioners in the medical industry, with most jobs having a minimum requirement of a master’s degree for applicants. Undergraduate studies focus on anatomy, physiology, and development of parts of the body that enable speech and swallowing. Graduate students get more hands-on experience, under supervision, as they learn to evaluate and remedy problems in a clinical setting.
Most states require licensing and certification. To become licensed, anyone wishing to embark on a speech-language pathologist career must have a master’s degree from an accredited college or university and the determination to complete a rigorous process that calls for them to first pass the national speech-language pathology exam. This test, which is called the Praxis Speech-Language Pathologist examination (or Praxis SLP exam for short), is very difficult to pass, in order to ensure that only highly qualified men and women are allowed to work in a speech-language pathologist career. In addition, a person must acquire at least 300 hours of supervised clinical experience, plus nine months of subsequent professional clinical experience. There are often additional continuing education requirements for license renewal. Licensing is critical, since Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurers usually require a therapist to be licensed to receive reimbursement.
For those who do achieve their goal of becoming a speech-language pathologist, there’s good news: the demand for new entrants into this profession is expected to be great as it undergoes rapid expansion during the next decade. A larger and older population means a greater need for rehabilitative services for victims of stroke and related neurological disorders, as do increased survival rates for premature infants and trauma victims; thus, the outlook is bright for those giving consideration to joining the dedicated ranks of speech-language pathologists. Someone entering this field can expect to earn in the range of $50,000 a year for those working in elementary and secondary schools, up to $80,000 a year for those plying their trade in home health-care or nursing-care facilities. There are opportunities for advancement with increased experience and education, with some positions in a supervisory or administrative capacity being open to those who are interested and possess the necessary motivation.
In summary, this is a quickly growing area of the medical services field. A speech-language pathologist career is a wise choice for anyone with the desire, dedication, patience, and compassion to earn a good salary while working with severely speech-challenged patients and those who have trouble swallowing due to congenital conditions or injury.