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What does a Social Worker do?

A social worker is a real-life superhero. These tireless professionals can work with society’s most at-risk, in-need individuals and families. It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s a rewarding and highly-necessary one.

What is a social worker?

In a nutshell: social workers help people. Who? Everyone who needs it. As a social worker, you may help individuals or families seek medical or mental health services, legal counsel, or financial assistance.

social worker

The three main kinds of social work are:

  • Child, youth, and family
  • Medical and public health
  • Mental health and substance abuse

Child and family social workers can work with the foster care system to place children in foster homes, help facilitate adoptions, help advocate for children in court, or help juvenile offenders find and work with legal counsel.

Medical and public health social workers usually work in a health care setting, such as a hospital, clinic, hospice, or nursing home. These types of social workers generally advocate for patients and may provide counseling to patients and their families.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers can work one-on-one with people who are suffering from mental illnesses or alcohol or drug addictions, or provide group counseling for these people and their families.

As a mental health or substance abuse social worker, you may work in an outpatient facility, or an inpatient treatment center.

School of thought

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a social worker, you must first dedicate yourself to earning at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, preferably a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW).

Many social workers earn master’s or doctorate degrees before entering the work force; even people who have been employed as social workers for some time are returning to school to earn advanced degrees.

As a student pursuing a degree in social work, you may complete coursework in subjects such as human behavior, criminal justice, law and ethics, or child development.

In addition to your education, you must meet the licensing, certification, or registration requirements that are mandated by your state. You may also have to complete an internship or fellowship before you can become a licensed social worker.

Social development

The job outlook in this field is good, with employment opportunities growing relatively quickly. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that employment of child and family social workers will increase by 16 percent, employment of medical and public health social workers will increase by 20 percent, and employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers will increase by 20 percent, which is much faster than the national average occupational growth.

The salary of a social worker can vary greatly depending upon their academic background, geographic location, and type of industry in which they’re employed.

What does a Speech Pathologist do?

A speech pathologist works as a therapist for people who have speech or language disorders. Speech pathologists diagnose and treat patients with conditions that prevent them from communicating clearly. Common issues include stuttering, inappropriate pitch, cognitive communication impairments, memory problems and even swallowing difficulty.

Speech pathologist: the job description

Speech pathologists, also called speech-language pathologists, coach patients to confront and overcome challenges to clear verbal communication. Problems people encounter may be congenital, developmental or acquired. Speech impediments may be related to stroke or brain injury, learning disability, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, hearing loss or emotional problems.

As a speech pathologist, you can expect to:

  • Assess a patient’s speech abilities using special instruments and standardized tests
  • Develop a customized plan of care for each patient
  • Execute the care plan
  • Keep records of patient progress

The speech pathology care plan may include using alternative communication methods and adaptive technology. Using automated devices and sign language, for example, a speech pathologist may teach patients how to make sound and develop their speaking skills.

speech pathologist

Speech pathology specialists focus on certain patient populations (children or elderly, for example) or particular disorders (aphasia, learning disabilities, etc.). Specialties include child language acquisition, fleuncy, feeding and swallowing.

Training to become a speech pathologist

Most states require a college degree for licensure as a speech pathologist. The master’s degree in speech-language pathology is a common educational path. About 240 colleges and universities offered accredited degrees in speech pathology at both the master’s and doctorate levels. Speech pathology degrees include the Master of Science, Master of Education, Doctor of Audiology and Ph.D. The Council on Academic Accreditation, part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), is the main accrediting body for speech pathologist degrees.

Speech pathology degrees cover the science and technology of speech and language issues. Courses in the field include:

  • Anatomy and physiology of hearing and speaking
  • Speech and language development
  • Acoustics
  • Psychological aspects of communication
  • Instrumentation for speech sciences
  • Speech perception
  • Neurogenic communication disorders

Many speech pathology programs also require a clinical practicum alongside classroom training in order to support applied training in speech counseling.

In addition to a college degree, most state licensure programs require a passing score on the national speech pathology examination as well as 300-375 hours of supervised clinical experience and nine months of post-graduate clinical experience. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) also offers the professional Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP).

Careers in speech pathology

Speech pathologists generally work in a clinical setting such as a medical facility or school health service. About half of speech pathologists work in educational services. The remainder takes jobs in healthcare and social assistance facilities such as outpatient care centers, child day care centers, nursing care facilities and home healthcare. Just under one in ten speech pathologists are self-employed.

Job prospects are strong for speech pathologists. In the coming years, employment will increase an estimated 19 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job growth will be strongest in educational services.

What does a Speech Therapist do?

A speech therapist, also known as a speech-language pathologist, is often a crucial link in the health care and/or educational needs of an individual. When the ability to effectively communicate is compromised, a person’s ability to learn or get the medical help can be almost impossible. That’s where a speech therapist comes in, working in such settings as hospitals, private and public schools, rehabilitation facilities and government agencies. These professionals diagnose and treat speech, language and communication disorders in everyone from small children to the elderly.

If you want a career where you are able to help people in need, know you can demonstrate empathy and compassion while delivering creative solutions, speech therapy might be a good fit for you. Speech therapists have to be able to handle stressful situations, and be comfortable dealing with patients and their families as they work through their speech problems. It’s an invaluable service, and it’s also a career that is expected to grow employment by 19 percent in the coming years, which is faster than other occupations, the BLS reports.

speech therapist

What can a speech therapist earn?

The wages for a speech therapist will vary greatly, depending on where you live and what industry employs you. About 57 percent of speech therapists work in education, according to ASHA, with 38 percent working in health care facilities. The top-paying industries include:

  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories
  • Home health care services
  • Community Care facilities for the elderly

What kind of education do I need?

Steer your courses toward the sciences, but also consider studying courses in communication, such as English and public speaking. These are good choices for an undergraduate degree as well, along with linguistics, phonetics and basic health courses such as biology and anatomy.

The standard educational requirement for speech therapists today is a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, which is required for certification by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 47 states that regulated the licensing of speech therapists, and many required the ASHA’s certification as requisite for licensing.

Continuing education credits are also required in many states; check with your state’s Department of Education to confirm what the requirements are where you live.