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How To Become A Speech Therapist

How to become a speech therapistA Speech Therapist helps adults and children who have problems with communication, drinking, eating and
swallowing, making it a very rewarding profession to train for.

Speech therapists work in a large number of places including hospitals, schools and nursing homes using a range of methods to treat a variety of conditions.

Traditionally speech therapy is completed as an undergraduate degree, but if you have an undergraduate degree already you can still become a speech therapist without completing a second undergraduate degree. 

What undergraduate qualifications do you need? 

In the UK there are accelerated postgraduate pre-registration courses available for graduates who wish to become speech therapists. To gain access to these courses you generally require an undergraduate degree in a related subject such as linguistics, biology or psychology at an upper second class honours level. Students are also required to have gained substantial experience in working with those who have difficulty with communication, drinking, eating and swallowing. In the UK international students whose first language is not English must have an excellent English language test score and this is similar for most other countries as speech therapy is generally taught in the institution's local language. 

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What postgraduate qualifications are on offer? 

The accelerated MSc in Speech and Language Therapy (pre-registration) is often completed in two years on a full-time basis or in four years on a part-time basis and there are a number of courses in the UK, such as the one at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, available to graduates. In the UK once you have completed the accelerated pre-registration masters program you will need to gain entry to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and the Health and Care Professions Council. Most countries around the world have similar systems of registration and regulation of speech therapists. Studying a course that is approved by your local regulatory body will allow you to register and practice as a speech therapist. 

In the UK, speech therapists must maintain Continuing Professional Development and show that they are maintaining their professional standards every two years by providing proof of this to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. To maintain professional standards or to focus their career on a specific area of speech therapy some speech therapists go one to further postgraduate study. 

The MSc in Speech, Language and Communication (Advanced Practice in Health and Social Care) at City, University of London is a flexible course for practising speech therapist to expand their clinical practice and research skills. This course is completed in one year on a full-time basis or in two to five years on a part-time basis. If you wish to go onto further research or complete a PhD in speech therapy, then completing a Masters with a strong research element such as the University of Glasgow's MSc in Speech, Language and Sociolinguistics is a good starting point. 

Work experience 

The pre-registration courses provide students with opportunities for work placements, but to gain access to these courses in the first place most students will need to have gained substantial work experience. In the UK most of this will be in the NHS, so getting in touch with your local Speech and Language Therapy Department is a where many students will begin. There are a substantial number of private speech therapists in the UK and they may be willing to offer work experience. Working for a private practice during your university holidays may be a great way to gain additional experience. Many students who are studying a postgraduate pre-registration course in speech therapy will have come into contact with speech therapy through volunteer work, and this is an excellent way to gain work experience. There are a number of charities that work in Speech and Language Therapy around the world, such as the Stroke Association. 

Case study 

Naomi has completed the pre-registration MSc in Speech and Language Therapy at the University College London, after completing an undergraduate degree in Linguistics. During her masters course she spent three days a week in lectures, one day a week in a clinical placement and one day a week doing research. The clinical placements meant that she didn't have to find extra work experience, but she felt that if you of had a clear idea of which area of speech therapy you want to work in then it helps to gain extra experience. She recommends getting as much experience as you can to understand where you want to work after completing the course, as the full-time course is a very busy and intensive time.


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