According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job opportunities for workers who assist with language and communications disorders will grow faster than the average through 2012 and promises to continue to expand as the aging population grows. A speech-language pathologist degree opens doors for many careers within this fast-growing field.
Although licensing and employers generally require a master's degree for speech-language pathologist jobs, some schools offer initial training at the associate degree level. For instance, Los Rios Community College District in California offers an Associate of Science in Speech-Language Pathology Assisting. Students take general education courses in areas such as math, science, social studies, humanities and composition. For the specific degree, course offerings cover concepts like working with special needs children, voice and diction, human development, American Sign Language and introduction to the speech-language pathology field.
Bachelor's degree programs in speech-language pathology help students determine what aspect of the field they want to enter when they continue with graduate studies. Besides the speech-language pathology major, options include audiology and education. After the general education studies, bachelor's programs for these communications majors build on previous learning, allowing students to examine aspects of physiology, neurological processes, psychology, language and word formation, human growth, data study, communication disorders and therapeutic methods.
The specific coursework for the graduate degree depends upon the path chosen. For instance, an audiology major focuses more on anatomy. Most programs allow master's and doctoral students to personalize their programs based on the aspect of the field they want to work in. Classes offered include focus on auditory testing procedures and evaluation, alternative communication methods, developing linguistic abilities, autism, neurological communication disorders, research methods, learning disabilities, rehabilitation methods and observational practices.
Most speech-language pathology degrees, including the associate degree, require students to observe or perform clinical work under the guidance of a licensed professional to gain real-world understanding of coursework and practical experience. Some programs specifically help students prepare for certification requirements such as those through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. ASLHA certification requires passing an exam and working in a clinical setting. Graduates may find work in education, research, medical facilities or private practice.