ABSTRACT: A speech therapy career requires qualification as a speech therapist (speech-language pathologist) by studying an approved speech therapy education course. A wide range of subjects are studied, including linguistics, phonetics, anatomy and psychology. Students and speech therapists must demonstrate good interpersonal skills and a commitment to life-long learning.
Speech Therapy Courses
How do I become a speech therapist?
If you wish to take up a speech therapy career, the route to becoming professionally qualified will vary depending on which country you intend to study (and practise) in. Within the UK you will need to have completed one of several speech therapy courses approved by the Health Professions Council (HPC). They are typically either an undergraduate first degree or post-graduate conversion course. You can view a list of approved UK courses here.
Whilst still not a major mode of learning in the UK, there are some online degree speech therapy courses available, particularly in the USA (you may wish to search EdFind). Owing to the need to gain practical, hands-on clinical skills in working directly with people with communication and/or swallowing difficulties, it is not usually possible to gain a full professional qualification by this means. However, distance learning online is becoming more popular and one may be able to complete specific parts of a course curriculum online.
Speech therapy jobs are varied but every speech therapist must be able to assess and diagnose speech, language, stuttering, voice, communication, and swallowing difficulties in people of all ages. In addition, they must be able to provide appropriate therapeutic interventions to assist in preventing difficulties and in improving the effectiveness of an individual’s communication/swallowing. As such, they will typically have studied the following essential areas:
Where can I get more information?
You may also be able to get information about the speech therapy profession in your selected country by contacting the appropriate professional body. In the UK this is the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (see Speech Therapy Associations for listings of other major national professional bodies).
Your local Speech and Language Therapy service may also be able to assist with further information. Many arrange open days and organise group visits, or allow individuals considering studying speech therapy to observe some clinic sessions.
Finally, your local Careers Service will have information about speech therapy careers and may have so-called skills audits that allow you to check whether or not you feel this is the right career for you and if you have the prerequisite personal skills.
Personal Skills Required
By its nature, a speech therapy career is a people profession that involves a great deal of social interaction. You should, therefore, be someone who likes working with people of all ages. See Personal Skills Required to ba Speech Therapist.
Speech Therapy Continuing Education
Speech therapy education does not stop once you are qualified. Most regulatory bodies require practitioners to engage in speech therapy continuing education (CPD). Indeed, it is a requirement of the Health Professions Council in the UK that registered speech and language therapists “maintain a continuous, up-to-date and accurate record of their CPD activities” (HPC, 2009). The purpose of this is to ensure that the speech-language pathologist has maintained and improved his or her practice and service delivery and that these continue to benefit people with communication and/or swallowing difficulties who use their services. As indicated above, a speech therapist needs, therefore, to be committed to life-long learning.
HPC (2009) Standards of Continuing Professional Development [WWW] http://www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/standards/cpd/ Accessed 10.03.2009.