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A Brief Guide to Becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist Assistant

By Fort Hays State University on August, 31 2022

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Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and their assistants (SLPAs) treat complications associated with the communication and swallowing at places like clinics, hospitals, and schools. They work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech-language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

What Do SLPAs Do?

Just what is a speech-language pathologist assistant? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), SLPAs are support staff who, after completing academic coursework, the required clinic hours, and on-the-job training, carry out duties specified, directed, and overseen by ASHA-certified SLPs. The definitions and responsibilities of assistants differ by state. They are also referred to as communication aides, speech aides, therapy assistants, or paraprofessionals.

The SLPA must work under the guidance of a certified SLP. They are responsible for aiding SLPs in their everyday practice and research; however, they are not authorized to provide clinical interpretation of evaluations. According to ASHA, the certifying body, the duties of SLPAs may include the following: 

  • Provide direction and therapy in accordance with the SLP's specified guidelines or treatment plans. 
  • Observe and record patient progress throughout therapy. 
  • Act as an interpreter or translator for non-English-speaking patients or family members. 
  • Manage administrative tasks such as planning and creating instructional materials. 
  • Perform routine inspections and maintenance on diagnostic tools. 
  • Assist the overseeing SLP with projects, community engagement initiatives, and in-service training. 
  • Educate individuals at risk of speech, linguistic, and swallowing complications with preventative content. 
  • Participate in speech, hearing, and language screenings.


How to Become an SLPA

Get a Degree

With an online bachelor of science degree in communication sciences and disorders, aspiring students will be equipped with the requisite skills to become competent SLPAs. While completing the required coursework, students will acquire interpersonal skills that are essential to the collaboration of care for a client. The coursework covers speech and hearing science, language and speech acquisition, audiology, language development, and more, preparing you to become an SLPA.

Obtain Work Experience

To become an ASHA-certified SLPA, you must undertake clinical practice in speech-language pathology as part of a degree program. While obtaining your degree, you have the option to get certified simultaneously. You'll take 12 to 15 hours of courses to prepare for the certification exam. Note that this is separate from graduation requirements. You'll also learn the role of an SLPA through direct clinical experience in the field.

After completing your degree, gaining relevant experience under an SLP, and displaying high levels of competence, you may choose to pursue additional credentials or education.


Why Become an SLPA?

1. You Will Assist in Providing Better Treatment

Research has found that SLPs are often overburdened in their line of work due to heavy workloads. As a result, the quality of treatment may be impacted. ASHA advocates the use of SLPAs to provide some of the services and reduce the workload handled by SLPs. By becoming an SLPA, you may reduce an SLP's workload, allowing them to devote more time to enhancing patient care and results.

2. You Gain Hands-On Experience

Being an SLPA grants you the opportunity to refine your patient contact skills and perhaps utilize that practical experience toward becoming a certified SLP. It's worth noting that the criteria for certification vary in different states, so you’ll have to check ASHA's state-by-state website for details regarding your state's certification and license requirements.

3. You Have More Available Career Opportunities

In addition to a rapidly growing elderly population, the United States is experiencing a lack of healthcare personnel. It was reported in 2018 that some areas had more job vacancies than job searchers for an SLP position. Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, SLP employment possibilities are expected to rise faster than usual between 2019 and 2029.

4. You Gain Strong Mentorship

As an SLPA, you'll work under the keen guidance of a licensed SLP that will grant you faster growth. Research shows that individuals receiving mentorship have a five-fold higher chance of being promoted than those without. Statistics have also revealed that most SLPs (55%) would gladly supervise assistants, which is a plus side for aspiring SLPAs.

5. There's an Opportunity for Career Growth

Becoming an SLPA could be your lifelong dream or just another step toward becoming a licensed SLP. Most people passionate about helping people with communication disorders start as SLPAs to gauge their job satisfaction. If the job proves to be a good fit, you could aim to take on more responsibility and have greater influence as a licensed SLP. Though, even as an SLPA, the skills and connections you could gain in the line of duty are invaluable.


Why Is Speech-Language Therapy Important?

Speech-language therapy helps identify and treat speech, language and swallowing disorders. It aids in developing abilities such as understanding, clarity, voice, fluency, and sound production. Speech-language therapy may address speech, language and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

A speech-language pathologist assistant has a vital role in helping SLPs with quality patient care and many other important tasks. It can also serve as a step in the path toward becoming an SLP.


SLPA Program at FHSU 

Fort Hays State University


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