What Does a Speech Scientist Do?

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The ability to connect with friends, co-workers, family, and the community greatly depends on speech, language, and hearing. Impairment to any of those fundamental communication methods can impact a person’s relationship to the world.

Communication-based impairments in the U.S. are common. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 1 in 12 children have struggled with a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing. Of those, 55.2% have received intervention services.

Despite the prevalence of these impairments, lack of awareness around early detection of these issues can prevent people of all ages from receiving timely, effective treatment. Individuals who don’t receive treatment may face speech challenges throughout their lives. Early detection and treatment of communication-based impairments can improve educational, social, and professional outcomes. As such, what speech scientists do can improve the quality of life of their patients.

A speech scientist works with a young child.

What Is Speech Science?

Speech science is the study of sound production, transmission, and perception of speech. This interdisciplinary field includes the study of linguistics, psychology, anatomy, physiology, neurology, and acoustics. Students in speech science programs prepare for various professional roles across the communication disorders field, such as speech-language pathology and speech science research.

An in-depth study of speech science equips students with the skills required to comprehend the complex mechanisms of language production. Speech, language, and hearing research involves the examination of communication challenges and the development of new techniques to assess and treat impaired speech function. Speech science researchers often conduct studies and interpret large amounts of data. They then use their findings to inform clinical practice.

What Does a Speech Scientist Do?

Speech science encompasses many professions. However, one of the most common career paths is to become a speech-language pathologist (SLP). Sometimes called speech therapists, SLPs help children and adults with articulation, stuttering, and language development challenges.

SLPs work with many types of learning disabilities and communication impairments, such as dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, language disorders, social communication disorder, and nonverbal learning disabilities. Speech, language, and swallowing issues can result from trauma (stroke, brain injury), hearing loss, developmental delay, Parkinson’s disease, a cleft palate, and autism.

SLPs work in hospitals, private practices, and school settings. They may specialize in specific kinds of communication disorders and impairments or have a general practice. What speech scientists do varies greatly depending on the needs of the client. For example, they may help children to boost phonological awareness, understand inferences, and improve reading comprehension.

Common tasks include administering testing; evaluating levels of speech, language, and swallowing difficulty; creating and carrying out treatment plans; and teaching kids and adults how to make certain sounds and develop their voices, tones, and pitch. SLPs are also responsible for helping patients to improve their vocabulary, reading comprehension, and social skills. These specialists document patient progress, manage patient profiles, collaborate with others, and educate patients and their family members. This profession calls for compassion, as SLPs counsel patients and families, helping them to cope with the limitations and challenges these disorders create.

Other professions in speech science include speech science researcher, a position usually found at large universities and research institutions. Speech science researchers research new treatment methods for patients with communication disorders. Through their studies, they’re able to develop evidence-based methods for diagnosing and treating individuals with these impairments.

How to Become a Speech Scientist

To step into a role in speech science, education and training are necessary. SLPs need a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Most states also require that they procure a license. Speech science researchers usually have a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in the field, as well as several years of experience in practical research.

A Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders creates the foundation for a career in speech pathology, audiology, and similar fields. Students in bachelor’s degree programs study anatomy and physiology, language structure, experimental psychology, research methods, child development and language acquisition, and instrumental phonetics. Coursework focuses on broadening students’ understanding of voice, speech, language fluency, swallowing, and hearing disorders.

A master’s degree program in speech-language pathology typically combines academic study and clinical experience. Most master’s degree curriculums also include anatomy and physiology of speech and swallowing mechanisms, language development and disorders, dysphagia, and the principles of intervention with speech-language disorders.

Step Into Speech Science

Communication disorders can severely impact a person’s ability to communicate, limiting the ability to make personal and professional connections. What speech scientists do is apply their unique skills to diagnosing and treating speech, language, and hearing disorders, and thus improving the quality of life for their patients. SLPs can also use their expertise to help increase awareness of the early signs of communication disorders, helping to mitigate the impact of these disorders on young people.

Learn More

Are you interested in a career helping others to find their voice? Earn your online bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders with Maryville University. The curriculum is designed to help students develop the specialized skills in speech science, language development, and audiology needed to break through communication barriers. Learn more about how this program can help you create a positive change in the lives of others.

Recommended Readings

Maryville Speech and Language Clinic

What Is Speech Science? An Inside Look at the Science of Speech and Language

Communications Sciences and Disorders — Clinical Experiences


Houston Chronicle, “Speech Pathology Combines ‘Science, Compassion and Art’”

Identify the Signs, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Launches Campaign to Highlight Importance of Early Detection of Communication Disorders

Maryville University, Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Quick Statistics About Voice, Speech, Language

Understood, “Speech-Language Pathologists: What You Need to Know”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Speech-Language Pathologists