As a speech and language therapist, you’ll provide life-changing treatment, support, and care for both children and adults.
Your support will also help people with difficulties beyond communication such as eating, drinking, and swallowing. You'll also help people with underlying physical or psychological problems.
You’ll meet a huge variety of patients. The people whose life you’ll have a chance to change for the better might include children whose speech is slow to develop, or older people whose ability to speak has been impaired by illness or injury. You’ll also meet people of all ages with learning difficulties, who find it difficult to communicate with others.
Your support will help people overcome stammering and speech difficulties that developed as a result of a head, neck or throat cancer.
What are the pay and conditions like?
Your standard working week in the NHS will be around 37.5 hours a week. Elsewhere, your hours will depend on where you work. You may work evenings and weekends to suit private clients. If you work in the NHS, you’ll be paid on the Agenda for Change (AFC) pay system, typically on band 5.
You will be able to claim £2,000 a year towards childcare costs through the NHS Learning Support Fund, and there’s funding available for adult dependants and some placement travel costs too. If you have a disability, there are grants to help with essential costs via the Disabled Students’ Allowance.
You'll also have access to one of the best pension schemes in the UK, as well as access to exclusive health service discounts and benefits at some of the most popular brands.
Where could you be working?
Speech and language therapists work in a range of settings. You may find yourself in a hospital, a community clinic or even the homes of patients.
What are your career development opportunities?
With experience, you could begin to specialise in different areas. You might focus on helping children with special needs to eat, drink, and swallow correctly. Or you may specialise in areas such as cleft lip and palate or learning disabilities. Other options include teaching or research.
You might take courses in advanced clinical practice or move into management. As the head of a local speech and language therapy service, you would be responsible for a team of staff and for managing budgets. Some speech and language therapists also set up their own practice on their own or with other professionals. They can take on private clients, sometimes alongside NHS work.
Occupational therapists empower people to overcome the difficulties they face with living independently. They improve the quality of life for people living with disabilities, illnesses, traumas, ageing, and long-term conditions.
You’ll help improve the quality of people’s lives by treating eye disorders and spotting serious neurological conditions
Is it for you?
Are you a good communicator?
You must be able to communicate clearly. That will include talking about test results, diagnoses, and treatments in a way that families can understand. It’s just as important to be able to communicate clearly with carers and hospital staff as it is with those with speech difficulties.
Are you compassionate?
You’ll work with people who are often extremely frustrated by the difficulties they face. You must be able to listen attentively and give emotional support to both your patients and their families.
Are you an innovator?
No two patients’ problems are ever the same. While medical conditions may be similar, their personal circumstances and road to recovery won’t be. You will need to think creatively about how to use new methods and equipment. As you evaluate problems and establish effective treatments, you could introduce new technology such as mobile apps.
Are you a critical thinker?
You must be able to adjust your patients’ treatment plans as they need you to. Recovery is a process – and a very different road for every individual. You’ll need to be flexible and be able to find alternative ways to help should your patients need them.
Are you a patient person?
You’ll work with people who may achieve their goals slowly. You will need to remain patient and supportive to ensure that your patients can overcome any issues they are facing or perfect new techniques.
Are you a good listener?
You must listen to patients carefully, doing all you can to understand their symptoms and problems before you decide on a course of treatment. With an ability to listen, you’ll achieve more in less time.
If you've got a degree in a science or language-based subject, you could do a two-year fast-track postgraduate course in speech and language therapy.
You'll find it helpful to get some paid or voluntary experience in the health or care sector before you apply for a course.
Entry requirements for an undergraduate degree include:
two or three A levels along with five GCSEs (grades A – C) including English language, maths, and science
Or equivalent qualifications include:
a BTEC, HND or HNC which includes science
a relevant NVQ
a science-based Access course
equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications
Every university sets its own entry requirements, so it’s important to check with them directly.
Applying with a degree apprenticeship
A degree apprenticeship in speech and language therapy has been approved. This will offer an alternative route to registration with the HCPC.
There are no nationally set entry requirements for degree apprenticeships – this will be down to the employer offering the apprenticeship – but you will usually need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship.