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Speech therapy, referred to professionally as speech-language pathology, is an important discipline that helps people with speech problems communicate more effectively. A number of conditions, from emotional problems to birth defects, can cause a person to have difficulty speaking properly. Speech therapists are able to apply techniques to help them develop language skills and work around both physical and psychological obstacles. Jobs in speech pathology are relatively plentiful, and opportunities are expected to grow for qualified individuals.

Should you consider a career in speech therapy?

After you examine the duties, training and outlook of speech therapists, you'll have a much better idea if it's the right profession for you.

Duties Of A Speech Therapist

Speech-language pathologists are responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of verbal communication disorders in children and adults. Problems with speaking may occur because of developmental disabilities, disease, psychological ailments, and several other medical conditions. After an initial evaluation and diagnosis, a speech therapist must then determine the most effective treatment options for the patient. An individualized treatment plan is then put together and implemented. Speech therapy treatment may consist of one or more of the following:
  • Teaching patients to vocalize the proper sounds
  • Teaching patients alternative forms of communication if speech rehabilitation is slow or impossible
  • Teaching reading and writing skills
  • Developing muscles used for voice communication
  • Counseling patients and families
In addition to diagnosis and treatment, speech-language pathologists must carry out administrative tasks, such as recordkeeping, scheduling and data organization. Speech therapists may also work closely with doctors, psychologists, and other therapists when serious conditions are involved.

Training As A Speech Therapist

Most entry-level jobs in speech therapy require a minimum of a master’s degree. However, some positions may be open for those with bachelor’s degrees if supplemented with specific coursework or experience. Graduate programs in speech-language pathology include courses on age-specific language therapy, medical disorders that cause speech problems and the latest methods of treatment. Programs are accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and 253 programs around the country had been approved in 2010. This organization also allows individuals to earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, which is required by many employers. While formal training is a mandatory requirement, the top speech therapists also possess several important qualities, including compassion, attention to detail, strong listening and speaking skills, and patience.

Job Outlook For Speech Therapists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for speech therapists are expected to grow by 23 percent through 2020, which is much higher than the average rate for all jobs. Much of this is due to the increasing occurrence of medical conditions that cause speech problems, such as strokes and hearing impairment. Another reason is that the population is becoming increasingly aware of speech problems and beginning to realize that therapy is a viable option.

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