shutterstock 202513618Speech pathologists perform assessments and create individualized treatment plans for their patients. They use their highly-specialized knowledge of speech and language disorders to offer therapy for people of all ages. By pursuing a career as a speech pathologist, you’ll be qualified to find employment in many different facilities, including:

  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Physician’s offices

The path to becoming a speech pathologist is quite involved, and in most cases, it takes a minimum of seven years. However, there are many ways to speed up the process, and one of them is choosing to earn your speech pathology degree online.

Is an online speech pathology degree worth it?  

Speech pathology is a rapidly-growing field, and a 27% increase in available jobs is predicted by 2028. The median pay for speech pathologists in the United States is $77,510 per year, according to the BLS. With such a promising job outlook in the field, it’s no wonder that so many students are choosing to earn their speech pathology certificate online!

In the past, many students were concerned that their online speech pathology master’s wouldn’t be taken seriously. They were uncertain about the quality of online programs and were skeptical of taking the plunge and signing up for an online degree. However, times have changed, and there are now plenty of trusted speech pathology programs available online.

Now, employers realize that many of the requirements for an online speech pathology degree are the same as an on-campus one. For example, you’ll still be required to complete 400 clinical hours before graduating from your master’s program. You’ll also need to complete a clinical fellowship year before earning your Certificate of Clinical Competence, just like an on-campus student.

Like anything else, online programs have plenty of advantages and disadvantages: Let’s take a look at a few of each so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue your degree online!

What are the benefits of an online speech therapy degree?

Many students are surprised to find that a speech therapy degree translates quite well to distance learning. There are many perks to choosing an online program instead of going the traditional route.

Here are some of the many advantages of an online speech therapy degree:

  • Your communication skills will improve: Excellent communication skills are crucial for every speech therapist. Luckily, an online degree is an excellent way to develop these skills and push yourself! You’ll work to sharpen your written communication skills every single day by posting on discussion forums with other students. And since your classmates will be from all over the country, you’ll learn to deal with people of all backgrounds and personality types. Eventually, you’ll be able to apply your new skills to patients and their family members on the job.
  • You’ll be able to study on your own schedule: One of the best things about online learning is the ability to study anytime, anywhere. You won’t have to worry about scheduling classes around your work hours or leaving early to pick your kids up from school. It doesn’t matter if you’re a morning person or a night owl, either—with online learning, the schedule is entirely in your hands! This will be especially convenient during your master’s program when you’re balancing classes with your clinical hours.
  • The future of speech therapy is online: There’s been a major surge in telepractice in recent years. All types of therapists are now offering their services online, and speech pathologists are no exception. Online sessions are especially convenient for people with mobility issues caused by a stroke or an accident. However, many patients will simply enjoy being able to attend therapy without leaving the house! If you end up working for an organization that offers virtual sessions, they’ll see your online degree as a major advantage. They’ll know that you already have plenty of experience communicating with people online, so you’ll stand out from other candidates from the beginning.

What are the downsides of an online speech therapy degree?

 Online programs have many advantages, but there will always be people who prefer a traditional classroom learning environment. It’s important to keep these downsides in mind while deciding whether or not an online speech therapy degree is right for you.

Here are some disadvantages of an online speech therapy degree:

  • You won’t get much face-to-face interaction: When you land your first job as a speech therapist, you’ll be spending most of your day working with clients face-to-face. You’ll need to be comfortable talking with people for long periods of time, and interacting with students and professors in a traditional college environment is great practice. By choosing an online degree, you won’t be able to benefit from on-campus social interactions. Consider making up for this by volunteering or joining a local study group!
  • Finding a placement for your clinical hours can be challenging: All speech pathology students are required to go through 400 clinical hours before earning their degree. Many traditional programs have agreements with local facilities that make it much easier to find a placement. However, many online programs will require you to do all the research to find a placement yourself. Be sure you’re willing to put in the time and effort to find a placement in your area if you choose to earn your degree online.
  • It will be harder to join clubs and on-campus groups: Although it’s a good idea for all students to participate in extracurricular activities, they can be especially beneficial for speech therapy students. Many colleges have a chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (SSLHA), which provides opportunities and resources for students studying speech language pathology. It opens the door to many unique internship opportunities and allows you to connect with like-minded individuals both in your own school and across the country. Some campuses allow online students to join clubs, so this won’t be an issue—but others aren’t so accommodating.

How will employers feel about my speech therapy degree? 

As long as you’ve earned your degree from a reputable university, most employers will view your online degree exactly the same as on-campus degree. Although grades are important, the best way to stand out from the competition and impress employers is to excel during your placement and Clinical Fellowship Year. You should aim to build good relationships with your superiors throughout both of these unique opportunities: This way, you’ll be able to request a reference letter from a respected professional when it comes time to apply for jobs.

Speech therapy is a rewarding field with many opportunities, regardless of whether you choose to pursue your degree online or on-campus. With a bit of research, you’ll be able to find the right program and begin working towards an exciting career in speech therapy! 

Erica Ciko Campbell

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Biology| Utica College

Associate of Science (A.S.)| Herkimer County Community College

January 2020

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