Speech Therapy

Speech therapists treat patients who suffer from speech and language disorders. The current therapy jobs market for speech therapists is excellent; knowledgeable analysts assert that there are job vacancies in every region of the United States and Canada. Typically, speech therapists enjoy great job security and pay. Entry-level speech therapists usually earn a minimum of $35,000, annually, while experienced therapists may earn as much as $100,000 annually. Speech therapists' salaries tend to increase in proportion to experience and with the prestige of the hiring institution.

Because speech therapy relies heavily on technology and advanced knowledge of physiology, educational requirements for this degree are rigorous. Speech therapists must complete a degree in speech therapy from a 4-year college or an accredited 2-year speech therapy program. Additionally, most speech therapists are required to complete an internship under the auspices of a practicing therapist. Finally, many states require speech therapists to pass a written examination prior to licensure. The American Speech Language-Hearing Association can provide additional information regarding state licensure requirements.

Advancement in speech therapy may come in a variety of forms. Those include entering into private practice and assuming management and/or supervisory positions within a health care organization.

Speech Therapy Job Search

Most entry-level speech therapists have numerous job opportunities available to them as there is currently a high demand for speech therapists. Employment resources are diverse and may include some of the following avenues.

Speech therapists seeking employment should look to the human resources departments of hospitals as well as other in- and out-patient health care facilities for therapy job opportunities. Newspaper and Web-based classified advertisements may present additional employment opportunities for speech therapists. Other employment resources include "headhunters," private employment counselors, career centers administered by city and state governments as well as colleges and universities, private-sector employment agencies and professional association Web sites.

Therapy professionals have the opportunity to make and cultivate many relationships with like professionals in the region in which they attend school. These relationships may be found in professors, internship supervisors and others with whom they have come in contact. All of the individuals may be used as resources when engaging in an employment search.

Is Speech Therapy Right for You?

Even during tumultuous economic times, the demand for speech therapists has remained high and their working conditions, excellent. Speech therapists generally receive generous salaries and benefits and have many opportunities for professional advancement.

Speech therapists work in a variety of institutions, such as schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and long-term care facilities. In many of these institutions, speech therapists may have the opportunity to move into an administrative or supervisory role, which tends to be accompanied by an increase in pay. Another path to career advancement is specialization, which may be achieved by engaging in additional training related to a particular therapeutic modality. The American Speech Language-Hearing Association provides information on continuing education for speech therapists.

Truly successful speech therapists are equipped with more than solid educations and prestigious jobs. These therapists possess a great deal of patience and compassion. Many patients make little or, in some cases, no progress despite long-term therapy. Thus, speech therapists must also be determined and persevering individuals. They must remain optimistic and be innovative individuals who are willing to try new things in order to achieve therapeutic goals. Additionally, constant technological advances pertaining to speech therapy require therapists to stay abreast of developments such that they may utilize the latest technology in their practices.

Speech Therapy in Action

Speech therapists spend most of their time directly with patients. The patient population served by speech therapists depends largely upon the therapists' practices and employing institutions. For instance, many speech therapists work in elementary schools; these individuals may have a practice largely characterized by lisp and stuttering disorders. On the other hand, speech therapists serving nursing home residence may spend a greater portion of their time treating patients who are recovering from debilitating trauma, such as stroke, or have difficulty eating and swallowing.

In all cases, speech therapists' courses of treatment often proceed along a familiar course. Prior to patient therapy sessions, speech therapists review the patient's medical records and relevant information provided by health care team members and family. Then, during the initial patient evaluations, therapists will interview and assess the patient's condition. Next, a treatment plan is formulated and continually revised to work towards a patient's best interests.

Therapeutic modalities used by speech therapists range from simple conversational exercises to physiological manipulation and training with speech technology. Some patients are plagued by anatomical defects, such as a cleft palate, which prevents them from enunciating clearly. These patients need physical therapy in addition to speech training. Other patients may simply need therapy to correct minor errors in sound formation; these patients may benefit from guided practice and repetition. Still other patients may have such severe speech difficulties that it is necessary to train them in an alternate form of communication. Many speech therapists advance in the profession by specializing in sign language or electronic communication methods.

When they are not working with patients, speech therapists are usually occupied with paperwork or health care team meetings. Thus, the most effective speech therapists are those who are able to work in cooperation with doctors, parents, social workers, and other care providers. This requires extensive record keeping and information sharing.

Last Updated: 04/28/2014

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