Within an educational setting, speech-language pathologists fall under the institutions ranking system and have titles such as full, associate, or assistant professor. Communication science researchers or research scientists are also based at universities.
Therapists working in a medical clinic setting come into contact with many different people who have a wide variety of disorders. They are able to establish close relationships with their clients because they work with them over a period of time. The relationship usually begins from the point before they've had the cause of the disorder diagnosed, through the diagnosis, and treatment and therapy.
Therapists in this setting also get to work closely with other professionals-physicians, nurses, neurology professionals, psychologists, physical therapists-to collaborate on effective treatment plans.
Therapists who work in outpatient hospital departments function similarly to those in outpatient medical clinics. They also work with inpatients who are recovering from strokes, head injuries, or other problems affecting communication that would require hospitalization.
Nursing Homes/Rehab Centers
In these settings, therapists work with elderly patients or patients who have recovered enough from their stroke or injury to be released from the hospital but are not yet independent enough to return home. Work duties consist mainly of diagnosing and carrying out treatment plans.
Here, the speech-language pathologist works with children, most commonly treating them in a group situation. Children with similar problems would be excused from their regular classrooms for an hour, two or three times a week, to work on particular speech disorders.
Some speech-language pathologists are based at one school, while others travel to several different schools within the district.
In a school setting, screening for hearing impairment is usually done by the school nurse. The audiologist works more with diagnosis and therapy.
The situation in private schools for speech-language pathologists and audiologists is similar to work in the public schools.
State Schools for the Deaf and Similar Institutions
Therapists at these institutions work with a more narrow range of problems. Students might all be deaf, or perhaps deaf and blind. Students and therapists would meet on a more regular basis than in public or private school settings, and the work would focus mainly on improving speech skills.
Working with completely deaf or deaf and blind children is by far the most challenging-and for some the most rewarding-area of the communication disorders field.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists can carve out an excellent career for themselves in private practice. Their services are covered by insurance and they can visit clients in their homes or set up their own offices and take referrals from hospitals; ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists; and other professionals in the medical community.
Because the schools don't have enough staff to serve all the students who have been identified as having communication disorders, private practitioners also receive referrals through the school board. During the summer months, when schools are closed, parents might take their child to a private practice speech-language pathologist to continue the therapy started during the regular school year.
Home Health Care Agencies
Home health care agencies operate on both local and national levels. A therapist or audiologist registered with a local agency will be given assignments as requests come in. National agencies are used by hospitals and other concerns all over the country and provide an opportunity for a practitioner to travel to different cities on short- or long-term assignments.
Colleges and Universities
Some experienced speech-language pathologists and audiologists choose to work in an academic setting, teaching students preparing for careers in communication disorders.
The typical college or university instructor has spent four years beyond the master's degree, earning a Ph.D. In addition, the majority have master's degrees in speech pathology and have worked in the field before returning to the classroom as instructors.
The Ph.D. degree is primarily a research degree, preparing the recipient to do research in speech or hearing disorders.
The job prospects are good at this level because there are fewer people choosing teaching over practicing in the field. In fact, it is not unheard of for some professors to leave their teaching post and return to field work. The salaries are better in the field, but universities offer longer vacations and sometimes lighter workloads. For those more interested in teaching and research than actual practice, the academic setting is ideal.
The work you do will depend on the type of clientele your hiring institu-tion serves. The range of settings we've just covered suggests there is a wide variety of people to be served by this profession.
Your hours will also depend on the setting. If your duties consist of mainly diagnostic work or testing, you would see a larger number of clients per week than if you were doing more therapy.
In schools, you might work the same number of hours as classroom teachers-or less. Most of your time would be spent in testing, screening, diagnosing, providing therapy, and supervising noncertified B.A.-level speech-language pathologists or master s-level pathologists fulfilling the requirements for their clinical fellowship year.
Those working in medical settings generally avoid the shift work that most nurses and other medical personnel are subject to.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists working at a university teaching future pathologists, generally divide their workload evenly among these three activities: teaching, research, and supervising graduate students. In addition, university professors are responsible for other duties associated with academic life, including administering and grading exams, classroom preparation, attending departmental meetings, and maintaining regular office hours.