What Can You Do with a Bachelor’s in Speech Pathology?

Want to learn about how to obtain a bachelor’s in communication sciences and disorders and how it may serve you? You’ve come to the right place. A speech pathology bachelor’s degree may help you develop professional skills and prepare you for multiple career paths. 

After completing their undergraduate studies, some graduates choose to pursue master’s-level studies in audiology or speech-language pathology, while others head straight into the working world. There are a number of jobs to consider post-graduation. Think about what it is exactly that you want to do. Do you want to become a speech-language pathologist assistant (SLPA) and dedicate your life’s work to supporting speech-language pathologists (SLPs) as they strive to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults? Perhaps you’re more concerned with work setting. Do you see yourself working in an elementary school or at a hospital?

Your communication disorders major may help you as you take the next step in your career, equipping you with the necessary skill set to take on the range of responsibilities that come with your desired role in speech pathology.

Why Study Speech Language Pathology at the Undergraduate Level?

When deciding whether to major in speech pathology, you may consider the questions listed below. This is not a comprehensive list of questions or factors to keep in mind—there may be many more to explore. Be sure to conduct thorough research as you set out on the path to obtaining your Bachelor of Speech Pathology. 

  • Am I collaborative? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), speech-language professionals often work as part of interdisciplinary teams—so being able to collaborate with others may be useful.
  • Am I compassionate?  Perhaps you were drawn to this major because of a personal experience. Having empathy may be useful to you as a speech-language pathology professional. On any given day, you may work with patients whose life experiences are entirely different from your own. Demonstrating genuine compassion for their struggles may help you to provide the quality care they need.
  • Am I a people person? Those with careers in speech-language pathology work with many different individuals (e.g. patients, teachers, physicians, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, rehabilitation counselors, and more). If this element of the job piques your interest, a career in speech-language pathology may be a fit for you. Equally, if it’s a turnoff, you may want to consider alternative career paths. 

In reviewing what it takes to become a speech pathologist, think about the motivation behind it all.  And if you do decide to complete a bachelor’s in speech-language pathology program, you may use that opportunity to gain insight into trends in the field.

Bachelor’s in Speech Pathology vs Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy

While researching different undergraduate programs, you may reach a fork in the road: Should I pursue speech pathology or occupational therapy

Both fields attract those with a desire to help others improve the overall quality of life. However, there are differences between the two professions. As their job title suggests, speech-language pathologists focus on treating speech, language, swallowing, fluency, voice, and cognitive disorders. Occupational therapists, on the other hand, work with movements and activities involving the whole body—and are more likely to be physically active during the workday as they demonstrate exercises and move equipment.

Even within the field of speech-language pathology, there are different professional paths you can take. For instance, do you want to be a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA)? Research is needed to crack the SLPA vs. SLP conundrum, helping you uncover which option is right for you and what educational training either requires.

What Does a Communication Disorders Major Entail?

At the undergraduate level, majoring in communication sciences usually means taking courses in foundational areas such as psychology, linguistics, communication disorders, and statistics.

More specifically, students majoring in speech pathology might find their schedules filled with courses like: Introduction to Audiology, Language Acquisition in Children, Phonetics in Communicative Disorders, Speech Science, and Aural Rehabilitation. Since courses vary by program, be sure to compare classes if you’re eyeing more than one program.

Through in-depth lessons and hands-on clinical practice, communication sciences and disorders (CSD) students are able to acquire strategies that will help with providing informed and effective patient care.

What Types of Jobs Can You Get with a Bachelor’s in Speech Pathology?

In short, there isn’t one right answer. Rather, majoring in communication sciences can prepare students for a number of different career paths across different settings and specializations. 

After majoring in speech pathology, graduates may consider pursuing one of the following roles:

  • Speech-language pathologist (SLP). Speech-language pathologists assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults.  It is important to note that in order to become an SLP, you’ll have to follow your undergraduate studies with a master’s degree in speech-language pathology.
  • Speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA). As the job title implies, speech-language pathology assistants work under the supervision of SLPs to aid them in the assessment and treatment of patients with language, speech, fluency, and voice disorders or impediments.  Depending on the state, certain responsibilities may be outside their roles of clinical practice so be sure to familiarize yourself with what being an SLPA in your state looks like.  

Alternatively, graduates may explore additional career paths like:

  • Voice coach. Voice coaches train actors, executives, and others to reduce their accents, adapt new dialects, and heal and prevent voice injuries by using their voices properly.
  • Researcher or professor. Some people find higher education to be an intriguing career path. Communication sciences professionals in academia may teach prospective speech pathologists and conduct research in the field of speech-language pathology.

2 Skills You May Obtain from a Speech Pathology Bachelor’s Degree

An education in speech-language pathology may prepare you for a  variety of jobs in the speech pathology industry. By studying hard, students can gain skills to help them in their career. We’ll explore just two of those below.

Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication skills may maximize communication effectiveness—which is why the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) considers this skill a must-have for speech-language pathology professionals.

Data Analysis

According to ASHA, speech-language pathologists use data collection methods to analyze the relationship between client behaviors and specific clinical outcomes. That means data analysis skills may prove useful to professionals in the field.

These skills alone don’t make you a speech pathologist. There may be many more that can help you to provide quality care. 

Is a Bachelor of Speech Pathology in Demand?

Demand for speech pathology professionals may be one of the many factors you consider as you decide whether or not to major in speech-language pathology and explore different professions within the field. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is not tracking job growth for speech-language pathologist assistants, it does document career outlook for speech-language pathologists who typically need a master’s degree to practice. Employment of SLPs is projected to grow 25% from 2019 to 2029, according to 2019 BLS data. That’s about six times higher than the average growth rate for all occupations. 

If becoming an SLP is not for you, you may use your undergraduate studies to launch a career as an interpreter or translator—those professions are expected to grow too. According to the BLS, employment of interpreters and translators is projected to increase by 20% between 2019 and 2029.

Should You Do an Accelerated BS to MS in Speech Pathology Program?

Before applying to speech pathology school, you might wonder: What about getting an accelerated BS to MS? Is that a worthwhile option? The truth is, there’s no right answer. Each path has its pros and cons—and the “best” choice for you depends on a number of personal factors. 

In contrast to the traditional bachelor’s or master’s, an accelerated degree in speech pathology may be an attractive option for those who wish to expedite their education. For instance, some accelerated BS to MS programs can be completed in five years (rather than the six years it would typically take to complete a bachelor’s and master’s separately). 

However, there may also be some drawbacks to accelerated programs. For example, in shaving a year off your education, you may have to forego using elective credits outside your major area. Some students may not be bothered by this, but others might feel like they’re missing out on opportunities outside of speech pathology. 

Fundamentally, the decision to choose an accelerated program is entirely up to you. Sit down and consider your personality, individual learning style, and professional goals—then ask which option is best for you.

Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders Right for You?

At the end of the day, only you can decide your professional path. But if reading this guide piqued your interest, then speech-language pathology may be an option to consider—and perhaps pursue—in the future. 

Information last updated October 2020

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