Speech-Language Pathology Graduate ProgramsA Rewarding Path
by Stephanie Small
Published March 23, 2011
The King’s Speech won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2011. You can argue that it was for a number of reasons: stellar acting and directing, compelling screenplay, those lovely British accents. When it came down to it, though, the tale just tugged at our hearts. A man in one of the most visible positions in his country struggling with the basic elements of communication, fighting to make himself heard and understood.
The King’s speech improved thanks to his speech therapist. This is where a masters in speech pathology
or a communication sciences graduate degree
comes in to play. Graduates of these programs can work in a wide variety of settings and on a wide variety of functions, including speech and language, cognitive processes, audiology and sensory awareness.
Read on for some dishing on master’s in speech pathology programs
– straight from the horse’s (or in this case, student’s) mouth.
Emily Doctrow is a 2010 graduate from University of Pittsburgh with a Master's in Speech-Language Pathology.
Sarah Bricker received her Speech-Language Master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Why did you decide to study Speech Pathology?
“I decided to pursue Speech-Language Pathology largely due to my interest in working with people. The wide scope of practice for a speech-language pathologist allows therapists to work with people in any age range, from infancy to geriatrics. I was also attracted to the career because it serves to improve the quality of life for those with whom you work, as well as their family members and friends,” Bricker explains.
Doctrow shares that she decided on this career path in college: “During my second semester I took an introductory speech and language class and it drew my attention to a career that I had never considered. I began to think about how much I valued and took for granted my ability to communicate and wanted to help others by providing them with a way to communicate or enhancing their communication abilities.”
What did you enjoy about your program?
“The number of and variety of opportunities available for clinician practicum placement,” says Bricker. “Not only did I have four complete placements, but I also had the chance to see four drastically different settings in which therapists work.”
Doctrow, too, appreciated her practicum structure: “Pitt did not have an on campus clinic in which to complete clinical practicums. This meant that from my very first semester of graduate school I was able to experience being a speech pathologist in a "real-life" setting. I had a supervisor who was not a university employee and was working in settings outside of the security of the university setting. I strongly believe that this enhanced my clinical confidence through the remainder of my graduate school career as well as when I started my first job.”
Who is an ideal candidate for a Master’s in Speech Pathology?
Doctrow feels that “an individual pursuing speech pathology must have a true interest and investment in the field. Graduate school is not easy, is exhausting and stressful. If one does not have a true passion for the field, completing this degree will be incredibly difficult.”
Bricker advises students to have “a sincere interest in helping people with various speech, language, cognitive-communication, fluency, voice, and/or swallowing disorders. Those considering going into the field should also be flexible, patient, persistent, and tolerant – all important characteristics in performing evaluations and conducting therapy.”
What advice would you give to prospective students?
“Gain as much exposure to the profession as possible before applying to a Master’s program. Not only will this experience be beneficial when applying to Master’s programs and throughout graduate study, but it also may help to shape your eventual career path by providing you with a better sense of what Speech-Language Pathologists do on a daily basis,” advises Bricker.
Doctrow strongly suggests seeking out mentorship. “Take advantage of any mentoring programs offered by your graduate program. Also, don't be afraid to seek advice from others who you may know that have already been through the speech-language pathology graduate school process, whether at the same university or another.”