How to become a speech therapist

Job description: What does a speech therapist do?

A speech therapist is a recognized three-year training course, partly in a vocational school and partly in speech therapy practices or rehabilitation facilities. The patients are people of all ages who suffer from speech, voice, or swallowing disorders. Therapy aims to improve communication skills and thus also the quality of life of those affected.

Speech therapy is based on a doctor’s prescription and is paid for by the health insurance company. At the beginning of treatment, there is always the examination and diagnosis. It may turn out that hearing impairment or minor brain damage is the root cause of a speech disorder. The speech therapist selects the appropriate treatment methods and creates an individual therapy plan based on the respective condition.

Early speech therapy may be necessary as early as infancy if, for example, a baby is affected by sucking or drinking problems. In such cases, advice and guidance from parents also play a significant role.

Dysgrammatism, language development, or pronunciation disorders are language disorders that occur primarily in preschool children. In this age group, language support and the training of the motor skills relevant for speaking are playful. The speech therapist also instructs the principal caregivers on how to properly deal with the respective language deficit and how to create speech stimuli.

Schoolchildren and adults affected by a so-called myofunctional disorder – an inadequate facial muscle balance – are trained to perceive the oral cavity and tongue and lip exercises to prevent misaligned jaws and teeth temporomandibular joint problems.

Stuttering is probably the most widespread language disorder in United States. Therapy is about changing the way you speak and dealing with situations that trigger stuttering. This takes place, for example, in the form of role-playing games.

Stroke patients often have to learn to speak from scratch. Treatment usually begins in the hospital and continues at home.

After working with the patients, speech therapists document which therapies they have used on whom. She is also responsible for writing treatment reports for the respective general practitioner or specialist doctor.

Speech therapists mainly work in speech therapy practices, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. Many of them also work in special schools, homes, or language therapy kindergartens.

Average salary: How much does a Speech Therapist make in the United States?

The average wage for a speech therapist is $84,950 per year ($45.50 per hour) in the United States. Wages typically start from $51,500 and go up to $130,000.

Source: U.S. Bureau of labor statistics

Speech therapist responsibilities and requirements

For the training to become a speech therapist, an intermediate level education, or a secondary school diploma followed by at least two years of professional training is required. Other essential prerequisites for practicing the profession are excellent hearing and clear pronunciation. Speech therapists should also know about the functioning of the speech and respiratory organs.

Above all, employers’ wish lists include a sense of responsibility, professional and personal competence, motivation, and enjoyment of dealing with people. They also expect their future employees to work independently and responsibly. In the context of the treatment of disabled or sick people, great value is placed on the willingness to work in an interdisciplinary manner with members of related professions, e.g., occupational therapists.

Another essential characteristic is flexibility. A speech therapist deals with patients of all ages and with a wide variety of problems. He/she must be able to adapt to the respective person and their individual treatment needs. Success at work depends, among other things, on the extent to which he/she manages to show empathetic and appreciative behavior towards each patient. Besides, he/she should have mental stability, resilience, and assertiveness.

Dealing with stroke patients can be very difficult. Older people often find it difficult to regain their flexibility and language skills. To motivate them to work and help them achieve more autonomy and quality of life through constant practice is a precious task for which a speech therapist sometimes needs a lot of perseverance and persuasiveness.