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How to Become a Speech Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists, sometimes called speech therapists, assess, diagnose, treat and help prevent disorders related to speech, language and cognitive communication. They work with people who cannot produce speech sounds or who cannot produce speech sounds clearly, or have problems with swallowing. The people they work with stutter, have voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice, or have problems producing language. Speech pathologists also teach people how to strengthen their muscles so they can swallow without choking or inhaling food or liquid.

As a speech pathologist, your typical duties may include:

  • Helping children improve their language skills and academic performance
  • Assisting individuals in developing proper control of their vocal cords for correct voice production
  • Helping those who stutter to increase fluency
  • Helping people who have experienced a stroke or brain trauma regain their speech and ability to swallow [source: BLS]

Now let's learn what you must do to become a speech pathologist.

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree in speech pathology along with communication science and disorders.
  2. Earn a master's degree in speech pathology. You will have to accrue 400 clinical experience hours as part of your degree requirements.
  3. Complete a clinical fellowship year, during which all your work will be closely monitored and supervised.
  4. Apply for certification by the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association. You will have to pass an exam, after which you will receive your Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology (CCC-SLP).
  5. Apply for licensing from your state.

Once you're licensed, you can look for a job. Continuing your studies and getting a doctorate degree will help you advance as a speech pathologist [sources: Allied Health].