Speech and language therapist: job description

Speech and language therapists diagnose, advise about and treat speech and language problems to help people communicate effectively.

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More than half of all those helped by speech and language therapists are children.

What does a speech therapist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Speech and language therapists work in health centres, hospitals, clinics, schools, independent practices and patients' homes. They work with adults and children whose symptoms are the results of illness, accident, disability, acquired disorders or congenital or emotional problems.

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • undertaking assessments
  • planning and providing appropriate treatment
  • giving advice and support to patients, family members and teachers
  • writing reports
  • maintaining records and case notes
  • liaising with doctors, physiotherapists, teachers, family members and carers
  • performing controlled therapy sessions with individuals, groups and/or families.

Some therapists work with people who have difficulties swallowing or eating.

Typical employers of speech therapists

  • The NHS
  • Schools
  • Voluntary and charitable organisations

Some speech and language therapists work as private practitioners. Vacancies are advertised by recruitment agencies, in national newspapers, and on relevant websites including the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) website, which has a jobs board.

Qualifications and training required

A degree accredited by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is required. This can either be an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. Competition for postgraduate places is strong, so relevant work experience can be helpful. Undergraduate degrees usually take three to four years full time and postgraduate programmes usually take two years. Alternatively, you could undertake a degree apprenticeship in speech and language therapy.

Applications to course providers must be made before October of the preceding year.

You will usually need two or three A levels or equivalent to be considered for a speech and language therapy degree course, along with five GSCEs at grade 4 (equivalent to C) or above – including English language, maths and science.

Before speech therapists can practise they must register with the HCPC.

Registered speech and language therapists sometimes work with speech and language therapy assistants. There are no set entry requirements for speech and language therapy assistants.

Key skills for speech therapists

  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Communication skills
  • Initiative
  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • Patience
  • Teamworking skills
  • Business skills for private practice
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