Speech Pathology Bachelor’s Degree Programs

If you like communicating with people, you might consider a speech language pathology bachelor’s degree.

Speech language pathologists (SLPs) help people communicate. To become a speech pathologist, a master’s degree is required to practice, and aspiring SLPs usually pursue a bachelor’s as a speech pathology major to transition to a master’s program.

What Is a Bachelor of Speech Language Pathology?

While speech language pathology undergraduate degrees can vary, a bachelor’s in speech language pathology is one path students can pursue to gain in-depth knowledge about swallowing and speech language disorders. A bachelor’s in speech language pathology can also set a solid foundation to prepare students for a career in the field. 

What is speech pathology? It is the study and treatment of a wide range of speech, language, swallowing, fluency, voice and cognitive disorders. SLPs are often associated with providing therapy to people who stutter or have lisps, but they also help people who have issues with language or literacy, patients with traumatic brain injury or stroke survivors.

A bachelor’s in speech language pathology curriculum typically includes foundational topics that prepares students to proceed to graduate programs in speech pathology and related professions. Some undergraduate programs prepare students for support roles, such as a career as a speech language pathology assistant or audiology assistant.

Can You Earn a BS in Speech Pathology Online?

If you think you would like to pursue a career as an SLP, there are options for undergraduate degrees including traditional campus curriculum or programs for online learning as a speech pathology major.

Online classes toward a BS in speech pathology can be convenient for some applicants because it offers flexibility and allows students to juggle work, study and other obligations without having to go on campus. Aspiring SLPs can search “online bachelor’s in speech pathology” to see what programs are available and check requirements. 

Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Pathology Admissions Requirements

Admissions requirements vary by speech pathology program, but applicants are generally expected to have completed a typical high school curriculum for academic preparation that consists of four years each of English and math, three years of natural sciences with at least two labs, two years of the same second language and two years of social sciences. Other admission factors may include any electives in those areas as well as the fine arts, career and technical education fields.

Some colleges and universities have made it optional for applicants to submit standardized test scores. If programs do have SAT or ACT requirements, minimum test scores may vary by school. Certain programs may only consider students with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Other programs only disclose the average high school GPA of freshman students.

What else should accompany your application? High school transcripts, essays and letters of recommendation may be required.

Undergraduate Degree in Speech Language Pathology Curriculum

The speech language pathology curriculum builds on regular undergraduate coursework in the areas of general knowledge, social behavioral, biological and physical sciences.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association education planning guide says that an undergraduate degree in a communications sciences and disorders field such as speech pathology provides a curriculum covering:

  • Historical and philosophical foundations of the profession
  • Normal speech across the lifespan
  • Overview of hearing and balance disorders
  • Overview of speech, language and swallowing disorders
  • Overview of clinical process, service delivery and evidence-based practices
  • Service learning and undergraduate research
  • Exposure to health and education policy and advocacy
  • Teamwork
  • Clinical, academic and research careers, including faculty and graduate student research

Typical classes include Anatomy and Physiology of Speech and Hearing, General Psychology, Communication Disorders and Differences, Introduction to Phonetics, Principles of Audiology and Aural Rehabilitation. Required clinical coursework involves practical experience conducting tests, analyzing results, counseling and managing clients.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor of Speech Language Pathology?

It usually takes four academic years, or eight semesters, to earn a bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology, but an accelerated bachelor’s in speech pathology may be condensed into half a semester or fewer than eight weeks. 

How Much Does a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Pathology Cost?

The bachelor’s in speech pathology tuition cost differs with each program and student’s situation. Tuition generally varies between public and private universities. Housing costs will differ if students commute or live on campus. Expenses for an online programs will differ as well.

The College Board’s Trends in College Pricing Highlights reports that in 2018-2019:  

  • Average published charges of tuition and fees for an academic year at a four-year public institution ranged from $10,200-$26,500. 
  • Average published charges of tuition and fees at a four-year private institution was $14,600-$36,000. 
  • Average published charges of room and board at public and private universities cost $11,000-$13,000. 

Online programs could cost $14,000-$16,000 for the equivalent of an academic year. Keep in mind costs vary per program. Be sure to check with your chosen program’s financial aid office or admissions team for more detailed cost information. 

Can You Become a Speech Pathologist With a Bachelor’s Degree?

A master’s degree is required to practice as a speech language pathologist (SLP). To practice in audiology and speech language pathology in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, a license is typically required. It’s important to check with your state board to find out if a license or other schooling is required to practice in the setting of your choice.

The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), part of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, accredits programs in speech language pathology.  Most states require SLPs to be licensed to practice, while other states require registration, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To be licensed, an SLP is usually required to have a master’s degree from an accredited program, supervised clinical experience and pass a state licensure exam. Check for requirements at the state’s medical or health licensure board.

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get With an Speech Pathology Undergraduate Degree?

While a master’s degree is required to become a practicing SLP, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology do have career options. While they can pursue entry-level speech pathology jobs, such as speech pathology assistant with a recommended minimum of 100 hours of supervised field work or equivalent clinical experience by ASHA, opportunities may extend to other areas.

At hospitals, nursing homes or other medical facilities, someone with a speech language pathology bachelor’s degree may find jobs as a hospice caregiver, patient and family advocate, rehabilitation aide and support staff worker for billing, scheduling and records.

At universities and schools, they may find work as a research lab manager, research assistant, project coordinator and English as a Second Language specialist.

Graduates with a bachelor’s in speech language pathology may find careers in non-traditional settings, including commercial and nonprofit organizations in areas such as training, support, development, promotion and sales.

What Is the SLP Bachelor’s Degree Salary and Career Outlook?

If you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology, you will find that a speech pathology assistant salary is comparable to an assistant in occupational therapy or physical therapy. Some students may even compare the career trajectory of a speech pathologist vs an occupational therapist before deciding on one or the other. Similarly, aides in those fields have comparable salaries. A minimum of an associate’s degree is required. 

In 2019, an occupational therapy assistant had an average annual salary of $62,000 and physical therapy assistant had an average annual salary of $59,000. An occupational therapy aide had an average annual salary of $29,000 and physical therapy aide had an average annual salary of $27,000.

As employment for speech language pathologists is projected to grow 27 percent from 2018 to 2028 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for assistants and aides in the field may reflect that trend. Speech-language-pathology assistants perform tasks under the direction and supervision of licensed SLPs, according to guidance from ASHA. SLPAs can help to increase the availability, frequency and efficiency in an area where demand is growing.

What Advanced Degrees Are Available After Completing a Speech Pathology Bachelor’s?

With a bachelor’s in speech pathology, you may pursue advanced degrees in the field.

Those looking to earn an advanced degree in speech pathology can pursue a master’s degree in the field. After completing an accredited master’s program, graduates are eligible to take a licensure exam to become a speech pathologist. The curriculum combines academic and clinical training for work in communication and swallowing. On-campus programs can be completed in 2 years, but online master of speech pathology programs can be completed in as few as 20 months.

To obtain a clinical doctoral degree in speech pathology (e.g., CScD, SLPD), you’ll likely add on 2-3 years of study after a master’s degree. These degree holders become clinicians, clinical educators, thought leaders and collaborators in clinical research. 

To obtain a doctor of speech pathology in research (PhD), you’ll likely add 3-5 years of study after a master’s degree. PhD graduates apply the scientific method to original research, analyze available research, conduct studies and disseminate results, secure funding and train future professionals and scientists.

Why Pursue an Undergraduate Speech Therapy Program?

An undergraduate program in speech pathology is the foundation in a discipline that focuses on human interaction and communication. A bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology can help prepare students to pursue a master’s degree in the field, which is required to be a practicing SLP. 

Speech therapists  treat people in all demographics – young children with delayed speech, children with swallowing disorders or lisps, young adults who stutter and stroke survivors who have difficulty expressing themselves. Everyone needs to communicate. A bachelor’s degree in speech pathology allows you to position yourself to help people improve their lives.

Information last updated July 2020

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