(6.9 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||28,800|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Social Services Jobs||#4|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#28|
Communicating effectively involves enunciating sounds correctly, using proper intonation and tone of voice, and comprehending what's heard in order to respond in kind. Speech-language pathologists, or speech therapists, evaluate and diagnose those with disorders and challenges in these areas, and help them improve their communication skills. Clients could include stroke victims, people with dyslexia, cancer patients, and even public figures—George VI of the United Kingdom famously spoke with a stutter, as noted in the 2010 film The King's Speech. In this country, more than 117,000 employed therapists work in hospitals, schools, private offices, and nursing homes, devising treatment plans that might involve vocal lessons, muscle and swallowing exercises, or possibly coaching on how to communicate using alternative methods. This is often a collaborative profession that requires input from school teachers, counselors, and physicians to determine the best treatment plan for a patient.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a hiring boom for speech-language pathologists before the decade's close to accommodate the aging population. Instances of speech and language impairments increase with age, and the BLS expects approximately 28,800 new openings in this field before 2020.
Speech-language pathologists have seen a pretty good spike in pay just from 2010 to 2011. In 2011, the average salary for therapists was $69,100, while in 2010 it was $66,920. The best-paid in the profession earn six figures, while the lowest-paid earn around $44,000. Jobs within healthcare generally pay more than schools pay for speech therapists, and some of the top-paying cities include Bowling Green, Ky., and Morgantown, W.Va.
To practice, a speech therapist needs at least a master's degree and preferably from one of the 253 programs accredited by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Part of the curriculum would include courses in age-specific speech disorders and alternative communication methods, plus around 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience. Passing the national board PRAXIS exam is mandatory, and most, if not all, employers will require new hires to have licensure and certification. The ASHA also offers Certificates of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, but licensing mandates vary state to state.
Janet Brown, director of health care services in speech-language pathology at the ASHA, says speech therapists hoping to work in education need as many field placements as possible during graduate school. And, "if someone knows they want to be in a healthcare setting, I would advise that they look for a degree program that has healthcare placements readily available," she recommends. Job prospects are good, but still, speech-language pathology is a competitive field. For an inside edge, "Ask in advance when looking for your master's program about their available placements," Brown says.
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Last updated by Jada A. Graves.