If you're interested in both the biology and the psychology of how people
communicate, and you have a desire to help others, check out a speech-language
pathology assistant (SLPA) program.
Program length varies between schools, but usually ranges from one to two
years. Some programs may require applicants to hold a previous degree or
Shelley Williams, program coordinator for an SLPA program, says applicants
to her program must already have a four-year or a two-year degree.
Prospective students must have related work and volunteer experiences
listed on their resumes, as well as a valid first aid certificate. "Volunteer
work is becoming more and more important regarding exposure to the speech
and hearing field," Williams says.
In high school, start focusing on biology, anatomy, sign language, child
development and psychology. You must be able to speak and write well,
and you must undergo a complete physical examination before being considered
for acceptance to most programs.
"Students need to be able to listen, communicate effectively, follow instructions,
read on at least a 12th-grade level and display above-average written language
skills if they want to succeed as an SLPA," says Jeanne Mullins, lead instructor
of the SLPA program at Cape Fear Community College in North Carolina. Cape
Fear offers a two-year program that culminates in an associate's degree.
At Evergreen Valley College in California, program coordinator Louise Rasmussen
looks for students who are committed, motivated self-starters. They should
be analytical and demonstrate concern for others. They must also be fluent
in the English language, with reading and writing skills at least at the college
Rasmussen advises high school students to seek any activity which will
give them experience in working with physically challenged individuals.
Occupational Outlook HandbookFor more information related to this field of study, see: Occupational
Therapist Assistants and Aides
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication DisordersLearn more about hearing disorders
Common Speech DisordersCommon problems speech pathology assistants might help treat