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Speech Therapist

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Speech Therapist Career Duties and Required Education

Speech therapists work with all ages, in locales ranging from schools and hospitals to private practices and clinics. After diagnosing a patient's disorder, a speech therapist develops an individualized program of speech exercises for that patient, and then monitors and evaluates his or her progress. They offer techniques for improving a patient's voice pitch and language fluency.

Speech therapists also counsel patients and their families. They often work together with other professionals including social workers, physicians, teachers and psychologists. The majority of states require that speech therapists possess at least a master's degree in from an accredited speech-language pathology graduate program.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders

The path followed by most aspiring speech therapists begins with a bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders from a 4-year institution. As a student in one of these programs, you will learn about language development and function and fulfill your initial clinical experience requirements. Your coursework might include subjects such as foreign languages, science and technology, audiology and phonetics.

Earn a Master's Degree in Speech and Language Pathology

Every state's speech therapist licensure requirements include a master's degree. A master's degree program in speech pathology introduces students to concepts such as voice articulation, phonology, literacy, and neurological substrates. Additionally, students are sometimes permitted to specialize in early intervention, providing therapy to school-aged children, or neurogenic disorders.

Supervised clinical practicums are an important component of these degree programs. In these practicums, graduate students diagnose and treat patients from different linguistic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Graduate students also might want to become bilingual. Speech therapists fluent in more than one language might have better career outlooks because they can work with more clients. Elective courses in a foreign language can assist an aspiring speech-language pathologist to develop extensive second-language skills.

Additionally, aspiring speech therapists might opt to participate in a clinical fellowship. A fellowship typically lasts 36 weeks and requires a participant to work full-time for the duration.

Become a Certified Speech Therapist

After earning a Master of Arts or Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology, candidates for state-level certification also must complete hundreds of hours of supervised clinical experience and pass a national examination administered by the Educational Testing Service. If you plan to work as a speech therapist in a public school, you also may need to earn your state teaching certification. Speech therapists must often continue their education to retain their certifications.