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Those interested in speech development and disorders may want to become speech pathologists. In order to work in the field of speech pathology, it is generally necessary to complete one or more speech pathology degree programs. The most common types of speech pathology degree programs are the Bachelor of Science (BS), the Master of Science (MS), and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). These degrees vary in duration, rigorousness, and the potential careers they prepare graduates for.
The BS is among the most common types of speech pathology degree programs. This four-year undergraduate degree program provides students with a broad overview of the field of speech pathology. Students are generally required to take classes in a range of relevant subjects, like language acquisition, communication disorders, and anatomy and physiology, and usually must also satisfy a number of general-education requirements. Certain BS programs also entail some hands-on clinical hours. In the US, students who have a BS in speech pathology generally cannot work as full-fledged speech pathologists, but may be able to find work as speech pathology assistants.
As an MS is generally required to become a certified speech pathologist in the US, this two- to three-year program is the most popular option among speech pathology degree programs. The MS covers many of the subjects explored in the BS, but in far greater depth. In addition to taking a number of classes, MS students are also required to complete extensive clinical hours that help them develop the skills they need to successfully work with clients. Some MS programs also require the completion of a written thesis or major research project that relates to the student’s chosen area of specialization. Once a student successfully completes an MS program, she usually must pass an exam to become a certified speech pathologist.
Another option for students who wish to pursue an advanced degree in speech pathology is the PhD. This degree program tends to be very rigorous, and can take five years or longer to complete. PhD students normally begin their course of study by taking a number of advanced speech pathology classes, and then completing an examination on their chosen specialization. Then, students complete and defend a dissertation involving original research in their chosen area of speech pathology. After completing a PhD in speech pathology, graduates are generally eligible to teach at the university level as well as to work as researchers.
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