Choosing a new career path can be a complex decision, but those leaning toward a job that lets them spend time helping others should consider the benefits offered by careers in speech and language therapy. Speech and language therapists are highly-trained professionals who work with patients and clients of all ages to help them improve their communication skills. They also assist people who need to learn or reacquire basic skills such as eating or swallowing.
Because every individual in need of services may have different needs, speech and language therapy can be a creative endeavour that continually offers fresh experiences and challenges.
According to the NHS, almost 2.5 million people in the UK have difficulties with speech or language, 5% of children start school with speech problems, and 30% of people who have experienced a stroke have ongoing issues with speech and language.
What is speech and language therapy?
Although speech and language therapists do sometimes work in medical settings, they are not usually "on call" in the same way that doctors and nurses can be. Instead, they generally enjoy set hours, and this in turn means that work responsibilities may interfere less with their family and personal lives.
In addition, opportunities for flexible and part-time work in the field are good, with career breaks and job-sharing being common.
Speech and language therapy jobs.
Jobs prospects for speech and language therapists are growing due to two primary factors, both of which look to hold steady for the foreseeable future.
The greying of the UK population is responsible for a steadily increasing demand for all types of rehabilitative services. As the average age in Britain rises due to improved life expectancy, so does the number of patients with physical challenges such as stroke, dementia, and hearing loss. Speech and language therapists work with such patients to help them continue to meet daily communication needs despite the difficulties posed by their health-related limitations.
Where do speech and language therapists work?
Demand for speech and language therapists is also growing at the other end of the age spectrum, due to rising awareness that children should be assisted to overcome communication challenges at the earliest possible age.
Increasingly, jobs in speech and language therapy are becoming commonplace in care settings such as day care centres, schools, and even in private homes. This means that highly-qualified speech and language therapists can also find work in settings other than typical medical environments, should they wish.
Careers in speech and language therapy are open to candidates who can demonstrate appropriate qualifications to the Health and Care Professions Council. Registering with the HCPC requires attainment of a three-four year recognised degree. Most require the equivalent of three A-levels or five Scottish highers, while some ask for specific A-Levels or GCSEs including biology.
The courses combine academic study and practical experience in the field, in environments such as NHS hospitals, schools or community clinics.
Many courses also welcome applications from appropriately qualified mature students. If you have an honours or equivalent degree, you can enter a two-year postgraduate qualifying course. Subjects in related areas (e.g. social sciences or linguistics) are preferred.