Speech Therapy Degree
Human beings depend on the ability to communicate. This is how we convey our thoughts, needs, and emotions to others. Thus, having a disorder that affects speech, language, or cognition can make life much more difficult.
Graduating with a speech therapy degree (also known as a speech-language pathology degree) gives you the power to profoundly impact the lives of others. Imagine the joy felt by the parents of a child with autism when they finally hear their son say “I love you.” Or, the massive quality of life improvement a person who has suffered a stroke experiences when the words coming out of his or her mouth become comprehensible to others again.
A degree in speech therapy also looks to be a strong career move as demand for services seems poised to increase. As Baby Boomers continue to age, this large segment of the population will experience more health conditions that can cause speech or language impairments.
Likewise, plenty of opportunities will exist to work with children. Medical advances are saving the lives of more premature babies, but these kids will need help developing speech skills. And, society continues to recognize the importance of children receiving services to help with stuttering, lisps, and other vocal conditions that can impact their entire lives.
What is Speech Therapy?
The Cleveland Clinic explains speech therapy as, “...treatment that helps improve your speech and language skills. It helps with early language skills, voice and sound production, comprehension, fluency, clarity, and expression.”
The activities that go on during speech therapy sessions depend on the individual’s needs and age. Possibilities often include:
- Building language skills in children through play
- Modeling correct sounds and syllables
- Using books and pictures to stimulate language development
- Practicing vocalizations
- Breathing exercises
- Developing memorization and organization skills
- Showing exercises that can be performed at home
What to Expect as a Speech Therapy Major
Earning a degree in speech therapy puts you on the track to careers that help others with their speech and language problems. The intricacies and depth of what you learn depend on the educational level. Undergraduates receive a solid introduction to the field alongside fulfilling general education requirements that strengthen their ability to read, write, work with numbers, problem-solve, and think critically. Graduate-level speech therapy degree programs provide more focused, specific knowledge on disorders as well as teach various assessment and treatment strategies.
Types of Speech Therapy Classes
What you take at a speech therapy school depends greatly on the individual institution’s program and whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student. Some common topics presented include:
- Introduction to speech-language pathology
- Language development and disorders
- Intervention for speech and language disorders in schools
- Interpersonal communication
- Anatomy and physiology
- Diagnosing disorders
- Clinical methods and observations
- Physics of sound
Speech Therapy Degrees
Speech therapy is not as common of a degree as say English or biology. Thus, students wishing to go into this profession should look carefully at which institutions offer the instruction they desire.
A Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Therapy is generally thought of as a stepping stone to getting into a graduate program in speech-language pathology. Note that colleges often call their undergraduate program in this area “communication sciences and disorders.”
As is typical for earning a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, students should expect four years of full-time study. Some institutions offer accelerated programs in which students can start working on their master’s degree in speech-language pathology while finishing up their bachelor’s degree.
To work independently as a speech therapist, you must hold a master’s degree or higher in speech-language pathology from a program accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Obtaining a master’s requires approximately two years of full-time study. Students without an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders may take longer to complete the program because they may need to fill educational gaps before enrolling or during their graduate school years. Clinical or internship experiences are a common component of speech therapy degrees at this level.
Students typically go on to this level for one of two reasons:
First, they wish to obtain a high level of skill and knowledge to do advanced speech therapy with patients or to set themselves up for leadership roles in places where speech therapy is performed. A Speech-Language Pathology Doctorate (SLPD) equips them for these positions. Earning a SLPD requires at least two years of study after obtaining a master’s degree. Note that the SLPD is a relatively new type of degree and offered by only a limited number of colleges and universities.
Second, they aspire to academic positions in which they teach communication studies/disorders and perform research in the discipline. Institutions of higher learning usually fill these openings with people who hold a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). After receiving a master’s degree, earning a PhD takes another 4-5 years of study.
Online Speech Therapy Degree
Don’t fret if you want to go into the discipline but realize “there are no speech therapy schools near me.” Examine online options. Many students find online studies convenient and cost-effective. They like the flexible schedule, the lack of commute or relocation, and the ability to work their educational pursuits in with personal obligations.
Speech Therapy Careers and Salary Information
With a speech therapy degree in hand, options abound in terms of where to work:
- Public and private early intervention programs
- Rehabilitation facilities
- Nursing homes
- Outpatient clinics
These are just a few of the many places that seek employees with a speech therapy degree and background.
What Can You Do With a Speech Therapy Degree?
Here are three careers often chosen by graduates of speech therapy schools. All figures are per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Median Salary: $37,740
- Career Outlook: +10-15% (2020-2030)
Assistants work under the direction of a certified speech therapist. Duties may include preparing materials, keeping records, maintaining supplies, scheduling activities, and other things that support clients being treated for speech, language, or swallowing problems.
- Median Salary: $79,060
- Career Outlook: +29% (2020-2030)
These professionals identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders. They often specialize in working with a specific age group. SLPs may help children with dyslexia, autism, cleft palate, developmental delays, auditory processing disorders, and learning disabilities. Those focused on injured or older patients may tackle speech, language, and swallowing issues resulting from strokes, brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and accidents. As noted earlier, the occupation requires a master’s degree or higher.
- Median Salary: $79,640
- Career Outlook: +12% (2020-2030)
Universities and other institutions of higher learning hire faculty members to instruct students. Professors of communication sciences and disorders teach courses that prepare people for careers in speech therapy. They also often conduct research that advances assessment and treatment options in the discipline.
Salary and Career Information by State
When considering a career in speech therapy, it pays to think about where you might want to land a job after graduation. Geographical region plays a significant role in terms of opportunities and pay. Some areas of the country have a greater need for certain types of professionals, often due to their population size. Likewise, salaries can vary greatly from one state to the next.
Take, for instance, the most popular career outcome for someone with a speech therapy degree – speech-language pathologist. As of May 2021, the BLS listed the following as the states with the highest employment level of SLPs:
- New York
The top-paying states include:
- California ($102,650 annual mean wage)
- Hawaii ($100,120)
- New York ($98,850)
- New Jersey ($98,270)
- District of Columbia ($98,240)
There’s another reason aspiring SLPs and SLPAs need to take their state choice into consideration: licensing.
Each state sets its own licensing standards. Differences can exist in terms of minimum fieldwork hours needed, degree specifications or credit hours, and continuing education requirements. ASHA’s state-by-state speech therapy licensing guide answers many questions and provides contact information. (Note that information for SLPAs is under the “support” category.)
Top 5 Speech Therapy Schools
A variety of private and public institutions of higher learning offer a degree in speech therapy. According to our ranking factors, the following are the top five speech therapy schools known for their outstanding speech-language pathology programs.
Of course, there are many speech therapy schools that exist, and you must weigh them all against your individual needs such as interests, career aspirations, location, and costs. For additional assistance in locating schools that award speech therapy degrees, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!
Small class sizes, hands-on independent research and clinical experiences senior year, and state-of-the-art equipment are some of the highlights of seeking a Bachelor of Science in Speech Language Pathology/Audiology at this Catholic institution. Molloy also confers the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology and prides itself on encouraging critical thinking, incorporating technology in clinical teaching, and fostering knowledge of diverse populations. For students who want to enroll in a graduate SLP program but lack the appropriate background, Molloy runs online prerequisite courses.
Adelphi University, Garden City, New York
Want a taste of what a career in speech therapy is like? Under professional supervision, Adelphi undergraduates and graduate students in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program provide free or nominal-charged services at the Hy Weinberg Center for Communications. Degrees conferred by this private institution, the oldest on Long Island, include a BS in Communication Disorders, a MS in Speech Language-Pathology, and a PhD in Speech-Language Sciences and Disorders.
Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This private institution takes great pride in offering the nation’s first five-year, accelerated program in which students receive a bachelor’s and a master’s degree upon completion (provided, of course, students meet academic criteria). The structure allows students to seamlessly move from pre-professional studies (six semesters) into the graduate program (six semesters) – no need to reapply or apply elsewhere! Students graduate with a BS in Health Science, a MS in Speech-Language Pathology, and eligibility to apply for clinical certification by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey
Seton Hall likewise offers interesting options for ambitious students. There’s the six-year dual-degree program in which you complete a Bachelor of Science in Education Degree in Integrated Early Childhood, Elementary and Special Education with a concentration in speech-language pathology (and, along with it, state certification as an elementary and special education teacher).
Afterwards, you receive automatic admission into the master’s program in speech-language pathology. Or, students may opt for a similar arrangement with an undergraduate psychology major instead. Along the way, all students receive hands-on experience in diverse educational and clinical settings.
Washington State University, Pullman, Washington
If you’ve always wanted to attend a large, public school, Washington State might fit the bill. Its undergraduate speech and hearing science program involves two years on the Pullman campus to complete general education requirements and departmental prerequisites. Then, this pre-professional program moves to the Spokane campus for the final two years. This location also is home to Washington State’s competitive master’s program in speech-language pathology.
Speech Therapy Scholarships
Scholarships prove a highly desirable way to cover educational costs because recipients do not need to pay them back. Read eligibility requirements carefully so as not to waste time applying for scholarships for which you are not a match. Put your best self forward for those for which you do meet criteria. A thoughtful essay or a thorough list of past accomplishments may give you an edge over other candidates. And always remember that neatness and applying on time count!
Three scholarships students interested in a speech therapy degree may want to check out are:
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Massachusetts offers this scholarship to legal residents of Massachusetts who are pursuing graduate studies in the field. Awards start at $500. In addition to the basic application, students must submit a transcript, a letter of recommendation from a college advisor or professor, and a personal statement about professional goals.
National AMBUCS Inc. – a charitable organization dedicated to helping people conquer challenges related to mobility and independence – awards scholarships of $600-$1,500 to graduate students pursuing a degree in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, or hearing audiology. Awards are based on financial need, commitment to the local community, character, compassion and integrity, and career objectives. In addition to filling out general information, applicants should be prepared to upload their financial profile, proof of enrollment in an accredited program, and a one-page personal statement.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation offers up to three scholarships of $5,000 each to students who are members of a racial or ethnic minority groups, U.S. citizens, and pursuing graduate studies in a communication sciences or disorders program. Applicants need to submit a college transcript, three letters of recommendation, and a personal essay guided by given prompts.
For additional possibilities, search our scholarship database. Its filters can help target scholarships based on criteria you select, such as gender, ethnicity, state of residence, or career goals. With more than 5,000 awards available, you’re bound to find many for which you’re a great candidate!
Next Steps - How to Get Started on an Speech Therapy Degree
Think earning a degree in speech therapy might be a good move? There are many things to consider before making a commitment.
If you haven’t already, graduate from high school. A good grade point average will expand the pool of colleges likely to accept you, so put in the effort!
Examine higher education options thoroughly. Those aspiring to a job as a speech-language pathology assistant may find obtaining an associate degree a smart career move. If being a speech-language pathologist is your goal, realize that the position demands a master’s degree or higher. Getting into a master’s program first requires earning a bachelor’s degree. Choosing to major in communication science and disorders or something similar as an undergrad lays a good foundation. If you major in something else, note that you may need to fill in educational gaps before (or during) graduate studies.
Also, ask yourself the question “Are there speech therapy schools near me?” If not, consider online studies. Though some students really want the on-campus experience, many others enjoy the convenience remote learning affords.
At every educational level, money is bound to be a chief concern. Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to see what type of grants, loans, work study programs, and other sources of help may be available based on your need and circumstances.
Lastly, get a feel for the speech therapy licensing requirements in the state(s) in which you might want to work after graduation. Familiarity from the get-go can help in choosing educational and hands-on experiences that support your long-term goals.
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