So you’ve declared your major and it's official -- you’re going to earn a bachelor’s in speech-language pathology. But what does that mean in terms of a future career? Because licensed speech-language pathologists actually need to have at least a master’s degree, you won’t be able to jump into that sort of professional clinical work right away. However, you still have many options for how you can put your degree to good use after you’ve graduated from your undergraduate institution. Just a few of the places that you could find work include schools, hospitals, private medical practices, universities, health care centers, government departments and rehabilitation centers.
Speech Language Pathology Assistant
Though you won’t have the education necessary to call yourself a pathologist, you can still work with licensed pathologists and get some real-world experience in the field of communication disorders. Depending on the state you live in, you might be called an aide rather than an assistant, but in either case you will be performing specific tasks with a limited amount of clinical responsibility. Assistant duties can include documenting patient progress, helping with patient assessment and maintaining equipment. Be aware that not every state permits employment of speech-language pathology personnel, though if that’s the case, you could find related work as a teacher’s assistant or in a position with a similar title.
Medical Sales and Publications
If you don’t see yourself working directly with patients, you could pursue a career in medical sales or with a medical publication. Your background in communication disorders will make you a good candidate to sell and promote medical equipment related to diagnosing and treating speech language issues. You could also be a strong candidate for a position in medical publishing, which could mean working as a contributing writer or editor for a medical journal.
Health Care Administration
With a bachelor’s degree and an educational background in a particular type of medical therapy, you could go on to work in health care administration, such as at a rehabilitation center or other group with patients needing speech therapy. Your exact duties and job title will depend on where you are, but you can generally expect to manage other personnel, stay up-to-date with any pertinent rules and regulations, and create records and work schedules.
Of course, it’s likely that if you’ve studied speech-language pathology as an undergrad, you have aspirations to become a full-fledged speech-language pathologist. Most bachelor degree programs in speech-language pathology are designed to be pre-professional; that is, they are a basis for immediate entry into graduate school following their completion. Many schools offer a shortened program if both degrees are earned at the same school. Alternately, you could go to grad school to earn a degree in counseling, education or even audiology, which usually requires a doctorate degree for professional practice.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Speech-Language Pathologists
- Fort Hays State University: Undergraduate Degree in Speech-Language Pathology
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Fact Sheet for Speech-Language Pathology
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association:Frequently Asked Questions - Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLPAs)
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical and Health Services Managers
Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.