What does a speech therapist do?
Speech therapists evaluate, diagnose, treat, and help prevent speech and related disorders. They work with a variety of patients with speech or voice disorders, speech rhythm and fluency problems, cognitive communication issues, problems producing and understanding language, those who cannot produce clear speech sounds, and those who want to improve their communication skills by modifying an accent or improving pronunciation. They also work with patients who have swallowing disorders. Speech therapists use special equipment and assessment techniques to assess and diagnose problems and disorders. They create an individualized treatment plan and monitor the progress of their patients. They use many different treatment methods such as augmentative or alternative communication methods (sign language or automated equipment). They also instruct patients on how to improve their voices, make sounds, and strengthen their swallowing and speech muscles.
What kind of training does a speech therapist need?
Speech therapists typically need a master degree. Speech therapy students typically complete courses in anatomy and physiology, communication, development areas involved in swallowing, speech, and language, and speech disorders. Students also typically complete supervised clinical training.
Most states require speech therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary, but usually include graduating from an accredited speech therapy program, minimum hours of supervised clinical experience, and passing a national examination. Most states also require continuing education courses to maintain licenses. Speech therapists who work in public schools often have to obtain an additional license.
What are the prospects for a career as a speech therapist?
Employment of speech therapists is projected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 11% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased need for speech services in educational settings will drive job growth.
Job prospects are expected to be excellent especially for speech therapists that speak more than one language. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace speech therapists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.
How much do speech therapists make?
As of October 2009, speech therapists with less than 1 year experience earned average annual salaries between $27,500 and $45,000. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earned average annual salaries between $37,073 and $50,000 (2).
A career as a speech therapist is an excellent choice for individuals interested in providing speech therapy to a variety of patients. Speech therapists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and be able to effectively explain treatment plans to patients and their families. Patience, motivation, encouragement, compassion, and good listening skills are essential. Speech therapists must also be very supportive and approach problems in an objective manner.