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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Speech Pathology

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Speech Pathology

Career Support

Nova Southeastern University (NSU) provides the best career-related resources for its online students. The Office of Career Development at NSU offers advisement appointments by phone and on Skype. Online students can also schedule mock interviews with career counselors and access career resources on Sharklink, NSU’s online portal to email, event listings, and more. Webinars cover a number of career-related topics and are held on a monthly basis.

Technology Support

Nova Southeastern University (NSU) offers the best technology support among schools that have online graduate programs in speech pathology. NSU’s Help Desk is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist students with email, online courses, and more. Students can contact the Help Desk by phone or email.

Student Engagement

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) wins the award for student engagement. CSUN created the first ever online graduate program in speech-language pathology in the United States. The program is taught in the cohort format, which fosters a tightly knit community and allows students to interact with faculty and fellow participants. Since the program’s inception, the university has also introduced the first online university chapter of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA). The chapter holds online meetings, and members have opportunities to interact with guest speakers online.

Faculty Credentials

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) offers an online master’s degree in speech language pathology that outranks all other online speech language pathology programs in the area of faculty credentials. The teaching faculty consists of 11 full-time, tenure-track professors. They develop the online curriculum in conjunction with the expert educational technologists at the College of Extended Learning.

New Online Student Orientation

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) wins this category because it provides the most comprehensive online orientation to students. In mid-April, new students will participate in a mandatory two-week online distance learning orientation, designed to familiarize them with the online learning process. Students will complete the orientation with the students in their cohort.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology

Speech pathologists study communication disorders ranging from fluency problems to pronunciation difficulties. In daily practice, they will assess and provide therapy to both children and adults with these and other communication difficulties. Online master’s degree programs in speech pathology seek to provide students with the skills and medical knowledge they need to become licensed health professionals. Once they have met all professional and state licensing requirements, they can work as speech pathologists in educational environments, health care, private practice, or social assistance.

Online students have the flexibility to continue to work and adjust their class schedule to suit their needs. Students may opt to enroll full or part time, with the average time for completion estimated at about three to four years for this type of program. However, the number of classes a student takes each term, the number of credits transferred in, and whether or not a student remains continuously enrolled can influence the time it takes to reach graduation.

Class Curriculum

Most speech pathology programs will include lecture, seminar, research, and lab courses. These will cover anatomy and physiology for speech and language, psychological aspects of communication, speech and language development, diagnostic procedures, and intervention strategies. Core topics in speech therapy will include voice, intonation, phonation, and resonance. Some specific examples of classes that may be included in a master’s degree program are:

  • Early Childhood Language Disorders. Students will learn proper assessment and intervention strategies when working with young children with language disorders. Topics of discussion will include multicultural and multilinguistic differences, social-emotional and cognitive development, communicative processes, and the role of families and caregivers in language development.
  • Introduction to Research Methods. This course covers the critical, historical, and experimental methods used in speech pathology research. This is designed to prepare students to conduct their own graduate-level research projects.
  • Advanced Anatomy, Physiology, and Neurology of Speech.This is a survey course which examines the anatomical, physiological, and neurological bases of speech production.

Typical assignments for speech pathology students may include research papers, exams, presentations, labs, and observation assignments. Due to the hands-on nature of this field, students should expect to fulfill a certain number of supervised field and clinical hours as part of the program. This will often include observing treatment, planning treatment strategies and therapy options, collecting patient data, and compiling notes and progress reports for patients.

Building a Career

Graduates who earn a master’s degree in speech pathology must still meet all the necessary licensing requirements in their state before they can practice as a speech-language pathologist. Please note that these requirements can vary by location. With an aging population and widespread growth in health care, licensed speech-language pathologists have a favorable job outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for speech-language pathologists is expected to grow by 23% over the projection period of 2010 to 2020. This is much faster than the 14% expected growth for all occupations during this time frame.

In 2010, the median annual wage for speech pathologists was $66,920, according to the BLS. Pathologists who worked in scientific research and development services earned the highest salaries at a mean annual wage of $146,810. However, the most common industries for employment among speech-language pathologists are elementary and secondary schools, physicians’ offices, and general medical and surgical hospitals. Please note, though, that actual salaries and job openings can vary based on your level of experience, education, location, type of employer, and the general economic climate.

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