Speech-Language Pathologists Career Description
Speech-language pathologists have several important duties and responsibilities in their occupation. They diagnose and treat disorders in speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, and fluency. They develop plans that are customized for each patient, based on their needs. The plans may include teaching other communication methods through automated devices or sign language. Speech-language pathologists may also teach patients how to improve their voices and language skills. Patients with swallowing problems may be taught how to strengthen muscles or use compensatory methods in order to swallow properly. It is a speech-language pathologist's duty to aid patients in developing or recovering dependable communication and swallowing skills in order to allow patients to achieve their full potential.
Furthermore, speech-language pathologists are responsible for keeping records of the initial evaluation, progress, and discharge of patients. They may offer counseling to individuals and their families to enable the understanding and treatment of disorders. Although speech-language pathologists generally provide direct clinical services to patients with communication or swallowing disorders, they may need to work with other professionals to develop and implement treatments. In medical settings, speech-language pathologists may collaborate with physicians, social workers, psychologists, or other therapists. In schools, speech-language pathologists may collaborate with teachers, special educators, interpreters, other school personnel, and parents.
Some speech-language pathologists conduct research on means of communication while others design and develop equipment or procedures for the diagnosis and treatment of speech problems.
Depending on the employment setting, the work environment for speech-language pathologists may be a comfortable office-like setting, a patient's bedside, a classroom, or the client's home. Although the work is not usually physically demanding, it may be emotionally demanding. Also, this job requires attention to detail and intense concentration. Full-time pathologists tend to work 40 hours per week. Pathologists who work on a contract basis can expect to spend a significant amount of time traveling between facilities.
Employment Outlook and Opportunities
The employment settings for this position include educational services, hospitals, offices of other health practitioners, nursing care facilities, home health care services, individual and family services, outpatient care centers, and child day care centers. However, some pathologists are self-employed in private practice or contract to provide services in schools, offices of physicians, hospitals, or nursing care facilities. Some pathologists work as consultants to industry.
This occupation is expected to grow by 11% by 2016 because as the population ages, the possibility of neurological disorders and associated impairments increases. In addition, medical advances have enabled more premature infants, trauma, and stroke victims to survive, resulting in an increased demand for assessment and treatment services in this field.
How much does a Speech-Language Pathologist make - Speech-Language Pathologist Salaries and Wages
The base salary range for this career is from $51,367 to $76,180. The average hourly wage for this job, according to 2007 national statistics, was $29.18. The bonuses may range anywhere from $163 to $311. The benefits for the average speech-language pathologist, according to national averages, are as follows: base salary is $63,404 (71.9%), bonuses are $24 (0.0%), Social Security is $4,852 (5.5%), 401k/403b is $2,283 (2.6%), Disability is $634 (0.7%), healthcare is $5,722 (6.5%), pension is $2,918 (3.3%), and time off is $8,295 (9.4%).
How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist
Education for Speech-Language Pathologists
A Master's degree is generally required to practice as a speech-language pathologist. The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, as of 2007, accredited more than 230 college and university graduate speech-language pathology programs. Although graduation from an accredited program is not always required to become a speech-language pathologist, it may be helpful in the licensure process. Coursework for these programs typically include anatomy, physiology, and the development of the areas of the body involved in speech, language, and swallowing; the nature of disorders; principles of acoustics; and psychological aspects of communication. Furthermore, students in these programs learn to evaluate and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders. They also receive supervised clinical training.
Most States require licensure or registration of speech-language pathologists. These procedures require passage of the national examination on speech-language pathology, offered through the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service. Typical requirements may also include 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and nine months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. Continuing education is generally required for licensure renewal.
Some States accept the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as satisfying part or all of the requirements for licensure. To earn this certificate, a person must have a graduate degree from an accredited university, 400 hours of supervised clinical experience, complete a 36-week postgraduate clinical fellowship, and pass the Praxis Series examination in speech-language pathology.
People aspiring to become speech-language pathologists must be able to effectively communicate diagnostic test results, diagnoses, and treatment in simple terms to patients and their families. Also, they must be able to approach problems objectively and encourage patients. Patience, compassion, and good listening skills are necessary in order to ensure the patient's comfort and progress.
Clinical experience and continuing education enable many pathologists to develop expertise with certain populations or disorders, enabling advancement opportunities. Board recognition in a specialty area also enhances opportunities for advancement. Advancement opportunities for speech-language pathologists include mentoring, supervising, and other administrative positions.