Speech Pathology Assistant Careers and Salary Outlook
Speech language pathologists and their assistants can make a real difference in patients’ lives by improving their ability to communicate with others. Starting your career as a speech language pathology assistant is an excellent way to gain knowledge and experience in the speech language pathology field. Read on to learn more about speech pathology assistant career requirements and salary information.
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What Do Speech Language Pathology Assistants Do?
As a speech language pathology assistant (SLPA), you would assist a speech language pathologist (SLP) in assessing and treating patients with language, speech, fluency and voice disorders or impediments. Assistants aid in things like patient care and research, implementing speech and language programs planned by the SLP, and compiling data to assess the quality of the program.
How Does an SLP Assistant (SLPA) Compare to Related Professions?
Now that you know what an SLPA is and what they do and why you should become one, let’s take a look at a few related professions and how they compare:
SLP vs. SLP Assistant
A speech language pathology assistant aids a speech language pathologist in assessments and research along with putting the SLP’s plans for a particular patient into action. The main difference between an SLP and an SLP assistant is their qualifications. SLPs must receive a master’s degree along with a license from the state in which they wish to practice. SLP assistants, on the other hand, only need an associate degree in a related subject to qualify for a SLPA assistant job.
Audiology Assistant vs. SLP Assistant
Audiology assistants and SLP assistants are both assistants, but they assist different kinds of patients. While SLP assistants assist patients with language, speech, fluency and voice disorders, audiology assistants aid patients with hearing problems exclusively. Also, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), you usually only need a high school diploma or GED to apply to be an audiology assistant, while you’ll typically need at least an associate’s degree to be a speech language pathology assistant. However, check specific requirements in your state.
SLP Aide vs. SLP Assistant
Speech therapy aides and SLP assistants handle similar duties, including assisting the SLP and their patients. However, ASHA says speech therapy aides generally have a narrower training base and more limited responsibilities than assistants. Therefore, aides require direct supervision by an SLP, while assistants are free to perform tasks prescribed by the SLP.
Communication Aide vs. SLP Assistant
In some states, speech language pathologists are required to register support personnel under certain titles to differentiate between their experience and educational backgrounds. In some of these states, the term “communication aide” is applied to personnel fitting ASHA’s traditional definition of a speech language pathology aide.
How to Become a Speech Language Pathology Assistant
Keeping in mind that SLPA requirements vary by state, here are three common steps to become a SLPA:
Earn an associate degree in a related field. While not all states require SLPAs to earn a degree, ASHA recommends earning an associate degree in an SLP program. Courses cover normal communication processes, communication disorders and workplace behaviors.
Complete 100 hours of supervised fieldwork. After completing your degree, go to work shadowing an ASHA-certified SLP. ASHA recommends completing 100 hours of fieldwork supervised by a practicing SLP. Without this supervised experience, some SLPAs may not be fully recognized in their profession.
Check your state’s SLPA licensing guidelines. Since the requirements for speech pathology support personnel like SLPAs vary around the country, you must check your state’s specific licensing requirements. For example, state licensure boards may require minimum fieldwork hours as well as degree specifications or credit hours. These agencies may also credential speech pathology assistants to work in certain settings, such as schools. There are also a few states that have continuing education requirements for speech therapist assistants.
Speech Pathology Assistant Certification
Earning an ASHA certification is a great way to prove to employers that you have both the knowledge and experience to do your job well. To be eligible to take the SLPA certification exam and subsequent certification, you’ll need to complete one of three pathway options that best fits your education background and qualifications. On top of your education, you’ll also need to complete the following mandatory course and experience requirements no more than two years before taking the exam, according to ASHA:
A one-hour ethics course.
A one-hour course in universal safety precautions.
A one-hour patient confidentiality training course (HIPAA, FERPA, etc.).
A minimum of 100 hours of clinical fieldwork, to include:
80 hours of direct patient/client/student services under the supervision of an ASHA-certified SLP;
20 hours of indirect patient/client/student services under the supervision of an ASHA-certified SLP.
According to ASHA, it is difficult to discern the demand for Speech Pathology Assistant jobs, but it seems to be on the rise. In 2006, only 20% of schools surveyed by ASHA reported they employed SLP support personnel. However, in 2009, 42% of the schools surveyed in the ASHA Membership survey had SLPs who reported using support personnel in school settings.
“It appears that use of support personnel may be increasing in health care settings, based on the 32% [of SLPs] in these settings who indicated on the ASHA 2009 membership survey that they employ one or more SLP support personnel,” according to ASHA. That number is up from the 14% of health care-based SLPs who reported they used support staff in the 2003 ASHA omnibus survey. All signs point to this being a great time for you to become an SLP aide or assistant.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Speech Therapist Assistant?
To become a speech therapy assistant or speech language pathology assistant, many states require at least two years of proper schooling, such as an associate degree in an SLP program. After that, you need to spend at least 100 hours performing supervised fieldwork. So, becoming a speech therapist assistant will take you a little over two years.
What Is the Median Speech Pathology Assistant Salary?
The salary of a speech language pathology assistant can vary depending on many factors. As with other speech pathology careers, your education and amount of relevant experience directly influence the salary you earn, as does the region of the country in which you live. ONET Online, a division of the Department of Labor, reports the median salary for a speech language pathology assistant in 2019 was $18.49 an hour, or $38,460 a year.
Is a Speech Pathologist Assistant Career Right for You?