Advance Your Career in Speech-Language Pathology with a Post-Master’s Certificate

August 24, 2023

Rachel Glade
Rachel Glade

A career in speech-language pathology is dynamic and fulfilling. It provides an opportunity to positively impact the lives of children and adults, enhancing their care and quality of life. With options to work in education and health-care settings, the profession also promises a high degree of flexibility and excellent employment prospects.

As the program director for the Communication Sciences and Disorders program at the University of Arkansas, Rachel Glade oversees the academic and professional development of students in the field of speech-language pathology as they study for their master's degrees and beyond.

"Speech-language pathology is a career that can take you in many directions," says Glade. "You'll find speech-language pathologists (SLPs) based in schools, medical centers, rehab settings and as private practice owners, to name just a few options. There really is a wide field of opportunities in this career."

It was this promise of variety that first attracted Glade to a career as a speech-language pathologist.

"I always knew that I wanted to help people," says Glade. "But I didn't know how I was going to do that. So, I observed several different health-related professionals to see what resonated with me."

Within hours of observing a speech-language pathologist at work, Glade knew where her future career path was heading.

"It was the diversity of people and flexibility with workplace settings that speech-language pathologists worked with that resonated with me," says Glade. "As a speech-language pathologist, you can work with people of any age, from tiny babies to the elderly. I really liked the flexibility the profession offered."

With so many potential areas of practice, it's advantageous that speech-language pathologists have the opportunity to focus on their specific professional areas of interest.


What is Speech-Language Pathology?

Speech-language pathology involves assessing and treating disorders relating to anything that falls under the umbrella of speech, language, or swallowing.

"That can mean we work with individuals who have experienced a stroke, traumatic brain injury, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's," says Glade. "Of course, many speech-language pathologists work in schools with children with conditions like autism and other diagnoses that may impact academic achievement and quality of life."

Whenever possible, speech-language pathologists offer a preventive service. This means SLPs can often find themselves working with preschool children and even babies.

"If we know a baby has a syndrome or some sort of genetic condition that we know is highly likely to result in future delays in speech and language development, we try to get support to the families and the children as quickly as possible," says Glade.

Glade explains that speech-language pathologists often work with individuals on speech production.

"A super cute toddler might say 'Wabbit' instead of 'Rabbit,'" says Glade. "They are replacing the 'R' with a 'W,' which can be developmentally appropriate. But if we have a 9- year-old that still has that same sound production, then we know we need to intervene."

The speech-language pathologist will also look at the fluency of speech.

"Is the speech fluent and smooth?" says Glade. "We work with children and adults who stutter as well as those who might need to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods. AAC often means the use of communication devices to aid communication."

In terms of language, speech-language pathologists evaluate and provide intervention for language use (e.g., pragmatic/social skills), content (e.g., semantics and vocabulary), and form (e.g., grammar and syntax). Essentially, this means they help people develop appropriate language skills, delivered using the best-possible method to help them meet their needs.

"Are we able to put together complete sentences that are logical?" says Glade. "Are we able to understand questions and then respond to them accordingly? Are we able to follow directions? Are we able to give directions? That's how the language piece falls into our scope of practice."

Speech-language pathologists also help on the rehabilitation side for hearing loss. This is an area of practice in which Glade developed a particular passion early in her career.

"I was a graduate assistant in a children's hospital while I was in grad school," says Glade. "Through that training, I gained a love for working with individuals with hearing loss as a speech-language pathologist. Of course, we (speech-language pathologists) don't fit the hearing technology. That's the audiologist's job. But when it comes to training, speech perception skills, and communication repair strategies, a speech-language pathologist can help with those areas."

In medical settings, speech-language pathologists also work very closely with radiologists and physicians to help identify swallowing disorders, which can include having pain or difficulty while swallowing.

When you swallow food or liquid, if any part of it, even a small amount, goes down the trachea rather than the esophagus, that can be dangerous. In layman's terms, that might be known as 'going down the wrong way.' That happens for a variety of reasons. But if that food or liquid gets into the lungs, that can cause bacteria to build and lead to conditions like aspiration pneumonia."

Rachel Glade, Program Director, Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Arkansas

School-Based Speech-Language Pathology

Variety also plays a significant role in school-based speech-language pathology, with different strategies needed for individual student needs.

Glade explains that speech-language pathologists in schools often collaborate with special educators and teachers.

"Speech-language pathologists are often involved in the education planning process for children that have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 plans," says Glade. "Speech-language pathologists are also involved in transition planning. When students are ready for next steps after high school, whether that's vocational training, college, or a job, the speech-language pathologist will collaborate with a variety of professionals to make sure that the student is supported so they can reach those goals."

According to Glade, Arkansas's school-based speech-language pathologists typically have a caseload of around 45 students. That number will vary in other states. Children are referred to speech-language pathologists via a variety of paths.

"Sometimes the parents will come in and ask for an evaluation because their child isn't talking as much as an older sibling or perhaps their speech is not as clear as some of their peers," says Glade. "Other times, it might be a teacher that notices some interesting social interactions and asks us to run a screening for pragmatic skills."

According to Glade, helping students reach their potential is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.

"Every day, you're going to work having an opportunity to impact the rest of someone's life," says Glade. "That's huge. I'm not sure there is a bigger reward."


A Unique Post-Master's Online Certificate Program

The University of Arkansas' Post-Master's Certificate in Advanced School-Based Speech-Language Pathology is the first of its kind in the United States.

Glade explains the program expands on the graduate-level speech-language pathology education, including literacy, fluency, augmentative, and alternative communication, swallowing, and behavior management, which have all been identified as needed areas of professional development for school-based speech-language pathologists.

"At the graduate level, students may only get one course in a particular area of study," says Glade. "Then, in the school setting, they face unique caseloads. Often, speech-language pathologists will report they need more insight into those topics."

According to Glade, speech-language pathology standards are often changing, and the online certificate program enables graduates to update their skillsets.

"Literacy is one of those standards that has changed," says Glade. "It's been changed for a while now. But, people that have been in the job for a long time may not have even had a graduate-level course on literacy development as a speech-language pathologist. The certificate program enables them to add and brush up on those skills."

Glade also explains how SLP certification can help speech-language pathologists advance in their careers.

"All of our courses are counted on an academic transcript," says Glade. "They are ideal for someone who is not quite ready to do a doctoral program but would really like some advanced training."

The online certificate program is worth 15 academic credits. As well as helping SLPs advance in their careers, the certificate may also help increase their earning potential.

"In many school districts, speech-language pathologists are paid based on the teacher pay scale," says Glade. "Usually, you can bump up on the teacher pay scale based on your academic credits. So, that's another opportunity and benefit of this program."


The Online Learning Experience

As a 100% online program, the University of Arkansas certificate gives students flexibility to balance their studies around their professional and personal lives.

"We understand what it is to be a professional while also taking coursework," says Glade. "Our courses are sequential and do not overlap. That allows our students to focus on one content area at a time, which is really nice."

Glade shared that the professional skills many speech-language pathologists already possess help them to progress through the certificate program.

"By nature, our students are determined problem-solvers," says Glade. "Most of the time, they are very organized and good at communicating with a variety of different people and personality types. This all helps with their time management in the program."

Class sizes are also intentionally kept small to facilitate the learning process.

"We want this to be a tight-knit group, enabling our students to have a rich experience," says Glade. "So, we keep the cohorts small, typically 20 students or less. This allows our students to set up meetings with our instructors anytime they would like. Our professors are really good about being there to support their students."


Careers for School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists

According to Glade, the demand for school-based speech and language therapists is consistently increasing.

"There's an incredible demand for school-based speech-language pathologists, and it just continues to grow," says Glade. "We have more jobs than we can fill. We're trying to train as quickly as possible while always providing quality education."

Glade's assessment of the current labor market is supported by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to BLS data, employment opportunities for speech-language pathologists are projected to grow 21% from 2021 to 2031, creating 34,000 new jobs. With 40% of speech-language pathologists working in educational services, many of these new jobs will be in schools.

While salaries for school-based speech-language pathologists are often tied to teacher pay scales, SLPs typically start higher on the pay scale because they already have master's degrees. According to the BLS, the median annual pay for a speech-language pathologist in 2021 was $79,060.

"Completing things like this certificate program, or an Education Specialist degree program (Ed.S.) would bump that salary up even higher," says Glade.


Advance Your Speech Pathology Career

If you are a speech-language pathologist who wants to build on your knowledge and skills to work in schools, learn more about how the University of Arkansas' Post-Master's Certificate in Advanced School-Based Speech-Language Pathology can help you achieve your career goals.

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Post-Master’s Certificate in Advanced School-Based Speech-Language Pathology

Speech-language pathologists in K-12 schools can advance their careers and update skills by enrolling in the nation’s first post-master’s certificate program designed specifically for school-based speech-language pathologists.

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