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Speech Pathology

The Breakdown

Most of us take the ease with which we speak and communicate for granted.  From phone calls and idle water cooler banter to important presentations and frank conversations, we talk and interact constantly.  However, for certain individuals, all of this contact is fraught with stress and anxiety.   Indeed, whether it’s a stutter, a lisp, aphasia or some type of vocal disorder, speaking poses a struggle for some.  Enter the speech pathologist.

Often paired with audiology, speech pathology is the study and treatment of communication disorders.  As a speech pathology major, you’ll learn how to diagnose and evaluate a wide range of issues, from language processing problems to major speech delays and everything in between.  Most programs offer a combination of academic and clinical work.  Indeed, you’ll begin your studies in the classroom, addressing topics such as the physiology of speech and phonetics.  As you near the end of your studies, you’ll get to apply what you’ve learned helping to treat patients.  It’s imperative to note that while you can definitely earn an undergraduate degree in speech pathology, in order to become eligible to practice you must also earn a master’s degree.  Therefore, while this major is great starting point, it is not a means to an end.

Not surprisingly, speech pathology requires strong communication and people skills.  After all, you’ll ultimately be working with a number of individuals and cases.  Additionally, you will need solid reasoning abilities along with a modicum of patience, compassion and sensitivity.  And you should be detail oriented and a great listener.  Finally, you should have an appreciation for the smooth vocal styling of James Earl Jones. 


Nuts and Bolts

As a speech pathology major, you’ll become adept at identifying and treating speech disorders through classes like: Introduction to Language Disorders, Normal Language Development, Anatomy and Physiology of Speech and Hearing, Voice Disorders, Stuttering, Articulation Disorders, Diagnostic Methods in Speech Language Pathology, Phonetics, Audiologic Rehabilitation, Evaluation of Speech-Language Disorders and Field Observation. 

Decisions, Decisions

Speech pathology majors are interested in human development, communication and helping people.  Therefore, they also might consider studying communication disorders, psychology, occupational therapy, education, music therapy, biology, linguistics, neuroscience, deaf education, communications, physical therapy and art therapy. 

What's Next

As we made mention above, in order to practice in the field of speech pathology you’ll need a graduate degree.  Therefore, the vast majority of majors continue on to grad school.  Of course, once that coveted diploma is in hand, there are many avenues to tread.  As a speech pathologist, you can work in hospitals, schools, rehabilitation clinics and development centers.  And you’re apt to work with a wide range of clients, from toddlers to the elderly.  More specifically, you might find yourself running a clinical speech therapy program at a school.  Or you might work with patients who have sustained traumatic brain injuries, helping them develop and recover communication skills.  Another option is working in research, creating new treatment options and programs.  You could even land a job working for a corporation, teaching employees effective communication skills.  Fortunately, no matter what your work day will bring, you can be assured it will be both challenging and extremely rewarding.



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Don Munce