Speech Therapist Careers: Find Your Speech Therapy Degree Options

Learn about speech language pathologists and how speech therapists help students succeed in school and beyond.

speech therapy degree-holder working with young students

Speech therapists, also called speech language pathologists, diagnose and treat students for speech, language and related disorders.

If you become a speech therapist, you will provide services in elementary, secondary or post-secondary schools, helping students improve their language and communication skills, and leading them to stronger academic performance.

Job Description

Your duties as a speech therapist in a public school may include the following tasks:

  • Working with children one-on-one or in groups to treat voice disorders, stuttering problems or learning disabilities
  • Conducting school-wide hearing tests to identify and diagnose auditory problems among young children and promote early intervention
  • Teaching students with hearing or speech conditions to use sign language
  • Teaming with special education teachers to create comprehensive treatment plans for special needs children
  • Counseling parents on how to cope with speech and language disorders
  • Collaborating with teachers, administrators and parents to implement speech therapy programs

Work Environment

Depending on the school, speech therapists may work with students individually or in groups, providing treatment in a classroom or office. They assist students using audio-visual aids, physical strengthening exercises, instructive or repetitive practice, and other means.

A 40-hour work week is normal for speech therapy teachers, with additional hours worked as needed for lesson planning and related activities. Teachers in smaller districts may travel to different schools throughout the week to provide speech pathology services. Many schools hire speech therapists on a continuing 9- or 10-month contract basis to match the school year calendar.

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for speech-language pathologists is $69,870. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

The public school system, with support from the federal government, understands the importance of early identification and diagnosis of speech, language and hearing disorders. As a result, public schools have experienced an increased enrollment of special education students, which has created a higher demand for qualified speech therapists.

Degree Options and Education

Students interested in a career in speech therapy should earn a speech therapist degree, bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders or a related major. You will need at least a bachelor's degree plus your teaching certificate in order to practice speech therapy within the school system. In the United States, over 230 colleges and universities offer speech language pathology programs accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech Language Pathology.

Some states require you to hold a master's degree in speech-language pathology and your Certificate in Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP). Depending on the state, you may need to graduate from an accredited program in order to obtain a license. Contact the Department of Education in your state to find out what your state requires. Your speech therapy degree plus certification will qualify you to help kids become more effective students in schools throughout your state.

Speech Therapy Certification

The American Speech and Hearing Association offers the CCC-SLP to eligible speech language pathologists. To become eligible for this certification, speech therapists must possess a graduate degree from an accredited university and meet the following criteria:

  • Complete a specified number of hours of supervised clinical experience
  • Participate in a post-graduate clinical fellowship
  • Pass a national certification exam

Some require the CCC-SLP to practice in schools, the remaining mandate that speech therapists hold a teaching certificate, which typically requires a master's degree from an approved college. Some states will issue a provisional teaching license to candidates with a bachelor's degree, under the condition that they obtain a master's within three to five years.