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Speech-Language Pathology/Pathologist

Program Description

Just the Facts

Speech-Language Pathology/Pathologist. A program that prepares individuals to evaluate the speaking, language interpretation, and related physiological and cognitive capabilities of children and/or adults and develop treatment and rehabilitative solutions in consultation with clinicians and educators. Includes instruction in the anatomy and physiology of speech and hearing, biomechanics of swallowing and vocal articulation, communications disorders, psychology of auditory function and cognitive communication, language assessment and diagnostic techniques, and rehabilitative and management therapies.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Related Careers

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Additional Information

Students in speech language pathology and audiology programs learn how to help people whose communication abilities are interrupted. Both programs involve communication. There is some overlap in what you study. But they are two different fields.

"Audiologists really work on diagnosing hearing problems and in some cases fitting hearing aids or doing aural rehabilitation with people who have varying degrees of hearing loss, and some people get into sign language and that kind of thing," explains Walter Manning. He's a professor and associate dean at the school of audiology and speech-language pathology at the University of Memphis.

"But that's very different from the speech language pathologists -- the scope of practice for a speech language pathologist is just huge," Manning says.

For example, speech language pathologists work with voice problems, articulation, language development and fluency disorders like stuttering. They assist clients with cleft palate and motor speech problems. They help children (and sometimes adults) with swallowing disorders. They assist with literacy. And the list goes on.

"The scope of practice is just very, very wide in speech pathology and it has two implications," says Manning. "A lot of people don't necessarily know what we do because we do so many things. It also means that you can't assume that a speech language pathologist is particularly good in all those areas. People tend to specialize, as they do in many fields."

Manning's area of specialty is helping people with fluency problems, particularly those who stutter.

You'll be facing stiff competition if you apply to get into a speech language pathology or audiology program.

Phyllis Schneider is a professor in a university department of speech pathology and audiology. "They [speech language and pathology master degree programs] are all very popular, so we tend to get very strong students," says Schneider. She says a lot of applicants have honors degrees, but they aren't required.

What does it take to get into a program? "Grades are number one," says Schneider. "If they have research experience, that's very good."

Some universities in the U.S. offer bachelor's degrees in speech-language pathology and audiology (sometimes also called communication disorders). However, to work in most regions of North America, you'll need at least a master's degree. Bachelor's degree graduates may act as assistants to professionals.

Audiologists go straight from their undergrad program to an Au.D. program. This is a clinical doctorate in audiology. Although it's a doctorate degree, an Au.D. is not the same a PhD.

"You don't really focus on research like you do in the PhD," says Manning. "It's more [like a] master's degree. It takes three years of coursework and then a year of internship or externship in a clinic or hospital."

A master's degree in speech language pathology typically takes two or two and a half years. Then you do a clinical internship that is nine months to a year in duration.

The most common undergraduate degree for applicants to the master's program at the University of Memphis is speech language pathology, says Manning. But there's a wide variety, he says, and they need not be honors degrees.

"We often advise people to go into the psychology program if there's no undergraduate program [at their university] in speech language pathology," says Manning.

Graduates of speech language pathology and audiology programs can choose to write a certification exam given by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Getting certified is optional but most choose to do it. Certification provides clients and employers evidence of your skills and knowledge. More than 140,000 audiology and speech-language professionals currently hold ASHA certification.

Typical courses in a speech-language pathology and audiology program cover language disorders, communication problems of the hearing impaired, audiological disorders and evaluation, neurogenics, and communication and aging.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Audiologists

American Speech-Hearing-Language Association
Lots of career info, including student profiles

Caroline Bowen's Speech-Language Pathology Reciprocal Links
Links and articles of interest


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