An online associate degree in speech pathology represents a valuable and flexible academic credential. Those who hold this degree have the background needed to pursue entry-level jobs in the field. Alternatively, students can further their education by proceeding into a bachelor's program with advanced standing. Read on to learn more about the basics of applying to a speech pathology program, what to expect in your classes, and the field's top-rated associate degrees.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates rapid growth in the field of speech and language pathology. Between 2018 and 2028, the BLS projects a 27% increase in the number of speech pathologist jobs in the U.S., making it one of the fastest-growing professions in the nation.
What Are the Best Speech Pathology Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Five:
|1||College of Our Lady of the Elms||Chicopee, MA|
|2||Mitchell Technical Institute||Mitchell, SD|
|3||Alexandria Technical & Community College||Alexandria, MN|
|4||Copiah-Lincoln Community College||Wesson, MS|
|5||Lake Region State College||Devils Lake, ND|
Although you typically need a master's degree to work as a speech pathologist, earning an associate degree provides a strong academic introduction to the field, and it also affords degree-holders the chance to launch careers in assistant-level positions.
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2020 Best Accredited Online Associate in Speech Pathology Programs
College of Our Lady of the Elms
|Chicopee, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
Based in Chicopee, Massachusetts, Elms educates about 1,500 students annually, many of whom enroll online. The college offers an online associate degree in speech-language pathology. Throughout this 20-month program, students gain the skills needed to help licensed pathologists enhance clients' abilities to read, write, learn, and communicate.
The 64-credit curriculum includes courses like anatomy and physiology of the speech mechanism, phonetics and phonology, and rehabilitation of language disorders in children and adults. Students also learn about autism spectrum disorders. The program culminates in a practicum.
Elms accepts applications on a rolling basis and does not charge a processing fee. First-year applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores. The college powers distance learning with the Moodle platform.
Mitchell Technical Institute
|Mitchell, SD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 78%||
MTI offers over 30 programs, including an online associate in speech-language pathology. Students develop the communication and administrative skills needed to support certified pathologists or work as special education paraprofessionals. Learners can choose a two-year or three-year degree plan.
Students pursuing this associate in speech pathology complete coursework that covers topics like speech and language development, adult communication disorders, and alternative and augmentative communication. The 65-credit curriculum also includes courses in screening processes and clinical management/procedures. All learners complete multiple practicum experiences.
MTI requires applicants to submit ACT, ACCUPLACER, Compass, or SAT scores. Distance learners can access financial aid opportunities like the Thomsen Family Endowed Scholarships for first-time students.
Alexandria Technical & Community College
|Alexandria, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Based in Alexandria, Minnesota, ATCC offers an online associate degree in speech-language pathology. Throughout a comprehensive curriculum, students learn to support children and adults with communication disorders under the guidance of a licensed pathologist. The program delivers coursework asynchronously through the Desire2Learn platform.
This 60-credit degree is the only degree of its kind in Minnesota. Students take courses like phonetics for language, essentials of anatomy and physiology, and children with differing abilities. They personalize the curriculum by choosing a technical elective. The program culminates in a clinical practicum.
ATCC uses an open-admissions process that does not require a GPA minimum or standardized test scores. The college funds more than $300,000 in foundational scholarships annually.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College
|Wesson, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Located in Wesson, Mississippi, Co-Lin serves over 3,000 students each year. The college uses the Canvas platform to provide 33 fully online programs, including an online associate degree in speech pathology.
The 63-credit curriculum includes required courses in English composition, college algebra, and general biology. Students also take four semesters of Spanish. Learners personalize the program through three electives.
Prospective students must submit ACT scores or sit for an institutional placement exam. Students pay tuition prices based on residency status. Co-Lin considers academic merit, athletic performance, and creative talent when awarding institutional scholarships.
Lake Region State College
|Devils Lake, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 40%||
LRSC offers technical training and transfer programs to about 2,000 students every year. The college's online speech language pathology paraprofessional program prepares graduates to work with children in a school setting. The program delivers coursework asynchronously through the Blackboard platform.
The 63-credit AAS curriculum includes required courses in applied phonetics, language and theory and treatment, and articulatory phonological disorders. Students also examine behavior management and exceptionalities among children. All learners complete a 100-hour practicum.
Applicants must submit a personal essay that provides a brief biography and explains why they want to enroll in the program. Prospective students must also submit two reference letters.
Online Associate in Speech Pathology Program Overview
At the associate level, programs typically focus on two objectives: providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to become speech-language pathology assistants and building a versatile educational foundation that supports continued learning. Most fully credentialed speech-language pathologists hold a master's degree and a license, but associate programs deliver the technical training required to qualify for some entry-level positions in the field.
Certificate programs for emerging speech pathology assistants are also available as an alternative, but associate degrees deliver greater flexibility because they usually transfer more easily into four-year bachelor's programs.
Common coursework topics include the anatomy of bodily systems used in speech and communication, language acquisition and development, observation methods, and intervention methods. Because many people who seek the assistance of speech pathologists have autism, online associate programs in speech pathology may also include a survey course in autism spectrum disorders.
Common Associate in Speech Pathology Degree Courses
- Introduction to Communication Disorders
In this course, students learn about the causes and pathology of the most common congenital and acquired communication disorders affecting speech and language. Instructors typically pay particular attention to classification methodologies and current incidence rates for specific disorders.
- Introduction to Language Development
This class delivers a general overview of the usual processes that govern communication, language, and speech development in children. Students also explore prominent theories regarding language acquisition -- including the environmental and innate variables involved -- and examine their basic clinical applications.
- Speech Mechanism Anatomy and Physiology
Often delivered over several parts or modules that extend across multiple academic terms, courses related to the anatomy and physiology of the speech mechanism explore the physical processes that produce human speech. Featured body systems include the tongue, teeth, lips, vocal chords, glottis, and lungs.
- Phonology and Phonetics
Phonology content focuses on the systems and features of spoken communication, enabling students to identify and understand the various sounds and sound groups that define a language. Alternatively, phonetics coursework typically includes an introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet, including its utility as a transcription tool and transcription techniques.
- Observation Techniques and Methods
In clinical and field settings, speech pathology professionals must adhere to a common set of established observation methods and techniques. In this introductory course, enrollees explore the extensive applications of observation methods and techniques in the identification, diagnosis, and management of speech disorders.
Online Associate in Speech Pathology Admission Requirements
High School Diploma or GED Certificate
To pursue an online associate degree in speech pathology, you must hold a high school diploma. A GED certificate functions as the most common equivalent. Proficiency examinations and external learning options may also be available as additional alternatives in some states and jurisdictions.
Schools almost always request official copies of your academic transcripts as part of the admissions process. You can arrange to have these automatically forwarded from your high school and/or postsecondary school(s). Note that many programs impose academic performance requirements, such as GPA minimums, for eligibility.
Academic Background in the Sciences
Though your online associate program in speech pathology may lead to an AA, the field requires a strong background in science -- particularly biology. If you do not possess the necessary academic prerequisites, a school may offer you conditional admission that is dependent on your successful completion of equivalency courses designed to fill your knowledge gap.
Letters of Recommendation
Some programs -- especially ones with more competitive admissions processes -- ask applicants to submit letters of recommendation from authoritative sources. Other forms of supplementary documentation, such as personal statements and resumes or CVs, may also be necessary. Schools use these materials to make final decisions when program capacity is limited and multiple applicants with similar profiles are competing for spaces.
Many online speech pathology programs include practicum components that require students to undertake fieldwork in a clinical setting. In some jurisdictions, you must pass a criminal background check before getting cleared to participate, especially if you plan to work with or around children.
Online Associate in Speech Pathology Career Paths
After earning an online associate degree in speech pathology, you hold the necessary academic background to become a speech and language pathology assistant (SLPA). According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), SLPAs must meet three key criteria to qualify for professional positions. These include: (1) an associate degree or its certificate equivalent, (2) at least 100 hours of supervised clinical experience or fieldwork, and (3) demonstrated proficiency in SLPA job skills.
ASHA notes that while an associate degree suffices for SLPA positions, job-seekers with bachelor's degrees tend to be preferred by employers. To become a fully credentialed speech pathologist, you must upgrade to at least a master's degree. Most states also require these professionals to obtain a license from the relevant state-level regulatory authorities.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I become a speech pathologist?
To become an authorized speech pathologist, you must earn at least a master's degree in the field. Licensure requirements vary among jurisdictions, and they are regulated at the state level. In many cases, you must supplement your education with fieldwork or fellowships before passing a standardized speech pathology licensing exam.
- Is a degree in speech pathology worth it?
According to BLS data from May 2019, speech-language pathologists earn mean salaries of $82,000 per year. As of June 2020, PayScale reported that SLPAs took home average wages of about $40,000 per year. Both professions offer promising returns on the level of educational investment.
- Is speech pathology a good career choice?
The BLS projects major increases in demand for speech-language pathologists in the coming years. As a result, SLPAs should also enjoy high rates of job growth. Right now is an excellent time to launch a career in speech pathology; this field is projected to rank among the fastest-growing areas of the 2020s.
- What kind of jobs do speech pathology majors get?
Many speech pathology majors go on to find employment as SLPAs or return to school to work toward their speech pathologist licenses. However, graduates can also pivot into many other career paths, including roles as speech-language educators, audiologists, special education teachers, and child hearing specialists.
- What is the salary of a speech pathologist?
BLS data shows that the median annual salary for speech pathologists is about $80,000, while earners in the top 10% make more than $121,000 a year.
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