How to Become a School Speech Pathologist

Janelle Cox
Janelle Cox
M.S. in Education
A speech pathologist works with a young girl.

If you’re interested in being a part of a growing number of experts within the field of communication sciences, then speech-language pathology may be your career path. Because of early identification and diagnosis in school environments, there is a growing need for speech-language pathologists.

As a trained professional, you’ll spend time in a school setting working with students to improve their various speech issues. However, for this to be a successful career choice you’ll need the required skills, education, certification, and licensure. Here’s what else you need to know about speech-language pathology jobs at schools.

What Does a School Speech Pathologist Do?

School speech pathologists, also called speech-language pathologists (SLP), or “speech therapists” are experts in communication. They work in a school setting and assess students with a range of physical and cognitive communication issues in speech, language, fluency, and voice.

Their core roles and responsibilities include:

School Speech Pathologist Requirements: Skills

There are several skills required to be a successful school speech pathologist. Those skills include:

Flexibility

As a pathologist, you’ll need to be flexible and have the ability to adapt and think on your feet. When you’re in a school setting, you’ll see children with various speech challenges, and to meet their specific needs you’ll need to be ready to adjust plans from one child to the next to meet these needs.

Analytical Thinking

To correctly diagnose and develop an accurate treatment plan for each child you see, you’ll need to be able to use diagnostic tools to help you analyze the best results based on these tools. Once you make an informed decision based on your data you’ll then formulate and execute this plan while working with the student, parents, teachers, and administration.

Organization

Speech pathologists are often given small spaces to work in, so you will need to learn to be extra organized. Besides the supplies you’ll need for therapy with students, you’ll also have to write assignment reports and an IEP which means you’ll need to stay organized to succeed at your job.

Compassion

You will need compassion to work with children who may feel frustrated about their communication difficulties. You must be understanding and supportive for students to be able to learn to communicate efficiently and effectively.

School Speech Pathologist Requirements: Education

To become a speech-language pathologist in a school setting, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), indicates that you at least need a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. A master’s degree in this field usually takes about two years to complete. Although requirements may vary, you may not need one specific bachelor’s degree for admission. However, many schools require students to complete coursework in healthcare-related fields, as well as biology and social science.

Why Should You Consider a School Speech Pathologist Position?

Becoming a speech pathologist requires years of coursework and field experience through speech pathologist schooling, but if you like the idea of working with children to help them overcome speech disorders, then a career down this path may be the ideal choice for you. Here are a few more reasons to pursue this career path.

Competitive Salary

According to the BLS, the average national salary for a speech pathologist in elementary and secondary schools as of 2021 is approximately $75,000 a year. SLPs can also earn extra income in summer or after-school programs and get paid for holidays, summer, and winter breaks.

High Demand

BLS says the number of jobs as an SLP is expected to grow by 21% over the 10 years, which is much faster than average job growth. Also, as more and more experts retire, there should be about 14,000 new job openings each year over the next decade.

Impact on Students’ Lives

As a speech pathologist, you’ll work closely with children to overcome speech disorders and help them learn to communicate more effectively, which can hugely impact their education and lives.

How to Become a School Speech Pathologist

If you’re interested in becoming a school speech pathologist, there are a few steps you’ll need to take. First, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree to start your speech pathologist education. You don’t need a specific degree, but a degree in a related field would be helpful. You can research the prerequisites for the master’s program you want to enter to help you decide which bachelor’s degree would be most beneficial for you.

Next, you will earn your master’s degree in speech-language pathology. You will complete academic and clinical coursework that is essential for your job as an SLP. To develop and refine your skills, you will complete a clinical fellowship that lasts one year.

According to the BLS, all states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed, so you must pass a Praxis exam after your fellowship. Once all of that is completed, you’ll apply for a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) and state licensure since you plan on working in a school. Once you apply and get a job as an SLP you will have to keep your license and certification up to date throughout your career.

Starting your career as a school speech-language pathologist may seem overwhelming after knowing all that it takes to get you there. However, graduate programs are designed to help you. Choosing the right program will help you get through the process and allow you to learn from professionals in the field.

Interested in advancing your career in education? Check out our available graduate programs and get started today!

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