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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.

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.

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