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Introduction

This page is for those interested in a career as a speech and language therapy assistant/associate practitioner (AP).

Speech and language therapy assistants help support people who have difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking or swallowing.

Job titles

There is considerable variability in job titles, across locations and settings, for those who are often referred to as SLT assistants and/or support workers.

For consistency, the title of assistant/associate practitioner (AP) is used in this guidance and throughout the resources included and developed by the RCSLT.

This was not without considerable debate and discussion.

Read more detailed information on the dilemmas faced and the options considered (PDF).

There was recognition of the many titles used and with the incredible variety of roles it is not possible to use only one job title.

Your career as an AP

This information is for those interested in a career as a speech and language therapy assistant/associate practitioner (AP).

Speech and language therapy assistants help support people who have difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking or swallowing.

The RCSLT YouTube channel gives information about how speech and language therapy transforms lives. There is a specific focus on careers and diversity on the channel.

General careers information

The NHS provides information about healthcare support worker roles generally and a focus on a career as an assistant/associate practitioner.

A career as an AP

Find specific information about being an AP/speech and language therapy assistant on the NHS Careers website and National Careers Service.

Working alongside SLTs

As an AP you will work alongside and be supervised by SLTs. You may find the information for those considering a career as an SLT interesting.

There are some informative video interviews with SLTs at an early stage in their careers to give insight into their training and development.

Volunteering

When considering a career as an AP you might find volunteering can help you to gain insight into speech and language therapy roles.

You might find it useful to approach charities involved with different clinical areas. To find these, please visit the clinical areas section of the website and then look for information under ‘Key organisations’.

If you’re a student, could also ask whether your university runs a community volunteer scheme.

What clinical areas would I work in?

APs work in a wide variety of clinical areas, the same as speech and language therapists.

Find out more and explore our open-access clinical information about these individual clinical areas.

Learning and development

Once employed in a role all APs are supported in developing job specific competencies. There is usually emphasis on work based learning, with formal training opportunities, eg short courses to supplement learning.

Framework

Health Education England (HEE) has developed the AHP Support Worker Competency, Education and Career Development Framework (PDF). This framework was developed by King’s College London, working with HEE and AHP professional bodies and provides guidance on training, education and competencies for AHP support workers, including speech and language therapy assistant practitioners. There is a route for progression in this career, with clearly identified common and transferrable skills across eight learning domains.

The RCSLT adapted this framework to create the Assistant Practitioner’s Professional Framework (APPF).

Following core competencies, the APPF gives a structure for APs to develop more specific skills in their professional area of speech and language therapy.

Becoming a registered SLT

Many APs stay in this role and build skills and expertise, moving in their career to become a senior, specialist or advanced practitioner.

Others may move on to train as a registered SLT, eg as an apprentice. Read about some of the different routes APs have taken to become SLTs.

Your membership benefits

APs are entitled to a range of benefits as part of their member registration, including:

  • The RCSLT Assistant Practitioner Professional Framework (APPF) – a framework to support the professional training and development of APs in speech and language therapy.
  • The AP toolkit – including resources on competencies, professional training and development, safe and effective delegation, becoming a reflective practitioner, professional/clinical supervision, equality and diversity and mitigating risk.
  • Insurance
  • Eligibility for minor grants and awards
  • Access to RCSLT professional networking groups (by invitation), eg Hubs and CENs
  • RCSLT online discussion forum
  • Access to the full versions of our online clinical information and professional guidance
  • RCSLT CPD diary, which can be used alongside:
    • The RCSLT 5 core capabilities (communication, partnerships, leadership and lifelong learning, research and evidence-based practice, professional autonomy and accountability)
    • The RCSLT graduate SLT capabilities

Position statement

The AP position statement explores current themes in the development of this crucial role in the speech and language therapy workforce.

It introduces the RCSLT APPF (Assistant practitioner Professional Framework) and reinforces some key messages for speech and language therapy managers in relation to supporting initial training and ongoing development in the role.

Download the AP position statement (PDF)

External and joint guidance

These links provide information on national developments and additional resources:

Contributors

Lead author: Ruth Howes

Supporting authors:

  • Breege McCaughey
  • Samantha Thinnesen
  • Kathryn Brown
  • Tamson Chipperfield
  • Charlotte McCollum
  • Angela Moar
  • Kirsty Paton
  • Lucie Atkins
  • Lorna Ringer
  • Monica Rodriguez
  • Clare Jewkes
  • Carly Hartshorn
  • Alice Howells
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