From hospitals and doctor’s offices to schools and camps across the country, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and their assistants (SLPAs) treat disorders of the mouth, tongue, and throat. Their work is caring for patients who experience difficulty with their language and speech.
For those who are wondering how to become a speech-language pathology assistant, the process is shorter than that for becoming an SLP, which requires at minimum a graduate degree and several certifications, as well as hundreds of hours spent in supervised clinical internships, with specific rules and regulations varying by state. Becoming an SLP assistant allows professionals to prepare to help patients improve their communication skills –– and thus their potential for success in life –– in a shorter time span. Many SLPAs continue their education to gain SLP designation.
What Does a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Do?
As the name suggests, SLPAs aid SLPs in their work in a variety of settings. SLPAs are also known as communication aides, speech aides, therapy assistants, or paraprofessionals. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) states that SLPAs are support personnel who, following academic coursework, fieldwork, and on-the-job training, perform tasks prescribed, directed, and supervised by ASHA-certified speech-language pathologists. The definitions and responsibilities of aides or technicians vary from state to state.
For example, an SLP could oversee the treatment of students in a school district, and an SLPA could assist those students in the classroom. In a clinical setting, where SLPs work one-on-one with patients, aides or technicians can collaborate with them by assisting patients without any supervision. According to ASHA, SLPAs help with clerical duties like paperwork, follow prescribed treatment plans in assisting patients, keep informal documentation, note improvements in clients over time, and gather data and information for SLPs to use to track important metrics.
How to Become a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
It takes several years to become an ASHA-certified SLPA, but the end result can be a rewarding profession that makes a real impact on the lives of clients. These are the steps required to become an SLPA.
Earn a Degree
By pursuing the right degree, future SLPAs gain deep knowledge of communication disorders and learn how to best assist those living with those disorders. They also acquire competence in interpersonal communication skills and empathy. A program such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders provides graduates with clinical fieldwork and the ability to enter the workforce on the track to becoming an SLPA, with classes that cover speech and hearing science, language and speech acquisition, audiology, language development, and more.
Gain Field Experience
Becoming an ASHA-certified SLPA involves clinical work in speech pathology as part of a degree program. Clinical hours might include shadowing an SLP, assisting with record keeping, and tracking the progress of individual patients. A degree program provides graduates with the appropriate amount of field experience needed to enter the job market.
Pursue Additional Credentials
Once candidates have completed their degree, gained experience under supervision, and demonstrated their competency, they may choose to become certified or additionally credentialed, or pursue additional education.
Each state has different requirements for SLPA certification and obtaining SLPA licensure or certification in any state is not guaranteed, as some states do not allow the use of support personnel for SLPs. Students are required to research their state licensing requirements.
Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Salary
PayScale — which sources its data directly from workers in the market — reports that SLPAs have an average wage of $39,957, with those earning salaries in the bottom 10% of the range making $25,662 and those with salaries in the top 10% making $55,112. Pay depends on a number of factors, including education, experience, credentials, certifications, workplace settings, and geographic location.
Employment Outlook for Speech-Language Pathology Assistants
ASHA indicates there is a growing need for SLPAs. As the number and diversity of clients expands, more SLPs are relying on assistants to reduce costs, become more efficient, and provide a higher level of client service.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job market for SLPs will continue to grow at a strong pace. It projects an 18% growth in the market between 2016 and 2026, which is more than double the national jobs average and represents the addition of 25,900 new jobs to the existing 145,100 positions (as of 2016).
Learn More About Becoming a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
For anyone researching how to become a speech-language pathology assistant, it’s important to recognize that the first step is earning the right degree.* The skills and subject matter knowledge gained from a degree together with compassion and a desire to help others can help students become successful in the field. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders is a dynamic degree program that allows you to receive a flexible, affordable, and highly personalized education. Find out more about how a degree from Maryville University can move you forward on your professional journey in speech pathology.
*Obtaining SLPA licensure or certification in any state is not guaranteed. Students are advised to research their state licensing requirements.