According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of speech pathologists is expected to increase 19 percent between 2008 and 2018. Although speech, language and hearing professionals often work in health care settings, there is a growing need in schools as student enrollment and special education needs increase.
Speech therapists, or speech-language pathologists, work in a variety of settings including hospitals, nursing facilities, schools and private offices. They work with individuals who have difficulties or disorders involving their ability to talk or even swallow. They also help people that have voice problems and those that have communicative impairments. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is the responsibility of a speech therapist to develop a treatment plan for these patients that will improve their understanding of language, their ability to communicate and physically strengthen muscles involved in speech.
Individuals interested in a career as a speech therapist will need to earn a Master's degree in speech pathology. Most states require licensure of speech pathologists, so they must meet the requirements developed by their state's board. In addition to the graduate degree, states typically require speech therapists to complete extensive clinical experiences and a national examination. Additional requirements may need to be met to work as a speech pathologist in a school setting. Prospective therapists should check with their state's board of education if they are interested in a career in an academic setting.
Speech Therapy Assistants
Speech therapy assistants provide support for speech pathologists. They may be assigned a variety of duties including clerical work and assisting with speech therapy treatments. Assistants document patient performance during sessions and prepare materials or records. They also may be permitted to assist with hearing and language screenings or work with patients under the supervision of the speech pathologist.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, not all states allow speech pathologists to utilize the services of an assistant. Other states have developed their own requirements for practice, so it is important for those interested in this career to check with their state's speech-language-hearing licensing board. Speech therapy assistants typically need a two-year associate's degree to work in the field.
Although audiologists work primarily with patients with hearing or balance disorders, they must have an understanding of speech pathology as well. In addition, audiologists are licensed by the same state boards as speech therapists. They are trained to use special equipment that allows them to determine patients' ability to hear and at what degree of volume.
State licensing boards require varying qualifications for audiologists seeking licensure. Graduate degrees in audiology are required and will include coursework in both normal and abnormal speech or communication, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reports that an increasing number of states require doctorates to practice as a licensed audiologist. They will also complete extensive clinical experiences.
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