How to become a speech and language therapist

How to become a speech and language therapist

What do speech and language therapists do?

Speech and language therapists (SLTs) help people of all ages with speech, language and communication problems. They can also help people with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties.

These issues can be caused by:

  • physical or learning disabilities
  • mental health issues
  • developmental delays
  • illnesses and injuries

There’s no such thing as a typical day for an SLT. They can work as part of a multidisciplinary team or as a private practitioner.

However, one thing they have in common is their work to improve the quality of life for their patients and clients.

Whether it’s helping an adult who has had a stroke learn to talk again, or helping premature babies with feeding and swallowing problems, SLTs make a huge difference to the people they work with. Watch our selection of videos to find out more about what SLTs do.

Where do speech and language therapists work?

Speech and language therapists work in more places than you might think. These include:

  • Hospitals in emergency care, acute care and outpatients
  • Schools
  • Prisons
  • Secure units
  • Child development centres
  • Care homes
  • Nurseries
  • Their own speech and language therapy business
  • Day centres for people with learning disabilities
  • Community clinics
  • Client’s homes

Do speech and language therapists help with elocution?

No. Speech and language therapists provide treatment, support and care for children and adults who have difficulties with communication, eating, drinking and swallowing.

Do speech and language therapists help people who have problems with choking?

Yes. Speech and language therapists help people with dysphagia, which is the medical term for swallowing difficulties.

Do speech and language therapists only work with children?

Speech and language therapists work with all age groups.

Is speech and language therapy scientific?

On your degree course, you’ll learn about a wide range of biological and medical sciences, including:

  • anatomy
  • biological processes
  • neurology
  • audiology
  • psychiatry
  • paediatrics
  • gerontology

How do I know speech and language therapy is the right career choice for me?

Do you…

  • Enjoy working with people of all ages?
  • Enjoy working as part of a team?
  • Have good communication skills?
  • Enjoy solving problems?
  • Have the capacity to study?
  • Want to be part of a dynamic, rapidly developing profession which draws on science, education and medicine?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, speech and language therapy could be the profession for you.

Get in touch with us if you have any more questions about becoming an SLT.

Speech and language therapy courses

In the UK, the title speech and language therapist is protected. Therefore, you must complete a registered, accredited degree-level course to practice as a speech and language therapist.

The degree level courses can be completed at either undergraduate (BSc hons) level or postgraduate (PGDip or MSc) level.

The main differences and requirements for each are:

Undergraduate (BSc) – requires A level passes in various subjects which are set by the individual universities but, typically, subjects like languages (including English), biology, psychology, or sciences are accepted.

Postgraduate (PGDip or MSc) – requires a previous degree qualification in a related subject (check with the individual universities) usually a science, language or psychology degree. The applicant normally is required to have achieved a grade no lower than 2:1 in their previous degree to be accepted.

Undergraduate courses take between 3-4 years to complete depending on the university chosen. Postgraduate courses usually take about two years to complete. On successful completion, you will be able to apply to the HCPC to register to practise as an SLT in the UK and to use the protected title.

If you are unsure which route is best for you, contact the individual universities who will be happy to talk through your options.

Accredited courses

Use our interactive map to find universities that offer accredited speech and language therapy undergraduate, postgraduate and masters courses.

These programmes are approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and accredited by the RCSLT.

Click the pin of the university location and the details of the university. Their programmes will then appear in a pop-out box.

You can filter by delivery mode. For example, part-time or full-time study, or undergraduate or postgraduate level.

You can also download a list of universities offering accredited programmes (PDF).

Apprenticeship degrees

We are working on a new route to becoming a speech and language therapist via a degree apprenticeship. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that development work has been delayed, but it has now restarted.

This means a likely delay in the dates universities and employers will offer the apprenticeship. However, we are aware that the University of Essex, in partnership with employers, has announced its intention to offer the apprenticeship from 2022. We are aware that other universities are also considering whether to offer it.

When the apprenticeship is available, you can apply for an apprenticeship with an employer who is offering them. Take a look at our flyer and our FAQs for more details.

Financial information for students

England

Visit the gov.uk student finance pages for basic information about student finance in England.

The guide at The Funding Clinic covers more detailed information about the student loan in England, including the special arrangements for loans for postgraduate students on healthcare courses.

Students who have taken out a student loan are able to access another loan to study these courses. This is not the standard postgraduate student loan but the loan accessed by undergraduate students to cover tuition fees and support living costs.

In December 2019, the Government announced that, in addition to existing student support, from September 2020 students studying the nursing, midwifery and allied health subjects will receive a non-repayable and non-means tested grant of at least £5,000 a year.

We have confirmed that this funding will be available to speech and language therapy students. Funding will be offered to existing students as well as new course entrants.

There will be additional funding available to attract students to the highest-priority subjects based on the Government’s assessment of vulnerability and workforce priorities.

Additional funding will also be available for childcare and to support regional vulnerabilities. Total additional funding could come to as much as £3,000 per year for some students.

Useful guides

Scotland

In Scotland, students are supported under the general funding system and can apply for bursaries and loans depending on status and income.

Additional allowances are available depending on circumstances such as:

  • dependants’ grant for carers
  • lone parents’ grant
  • disabled students’ allowance

You can also claim travel and accommodation costs for placements.

Visit the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) website or call 0300 555 0505 for more information.

Useful guides

Wales

This Welsh NHS bursary is only available for students studying in Wales who have committed to work in Wales for two years on completion of their course. The NHS Welsh Bursary Scheme is provided by Student Awards Services.

In addition to tuition fees, the NHS Wales Bursary Scheme includes a bursary for living costs, including:

a £1,000 non means tested grant
a means tested bursary

Students are also supported for costs such as:

  • travel
  • accommodation (while on placement)
  • childcare
  • disabled student allowance
  • dependents allowance
  • parental learning allowance

Visit the Gig Cymru/NHS Wale website or call 029 2090 5380 for more information.

Northern Ireland

For students who have lived in Northern Ireland for the last three years, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland will pay tuition fees directly to the university. Students can apply for an income-assessed bursary to help with living costs and may also be eligible to apply for a reduced rate non-income assessed loan.

Students from EU countries who are ordinarily resident and studying in Northern Ireland may also qualify for financial support. The amount of bursary available to students will depend on an individual and family’s income.

For further information contact NI Direct on 028 902 577 77 or visit:

Speech and language therapy salary

As a speech and language therapist, your salary will depend on:

  • where you work
  • your level of seniority
  • demand for services
  • type of employer

Information on NHS pay scales can be found on the NHS health careers website.

Useful guides

Resources for prospective students

Getting some relevant work experience can make a big difference to your chances of being accepted on a speech and language therapy degree course.

However, during the coronavirus pandemic, access to work experience for prospective students has been in short supply.

Universities that provide speech and language therapy courses understand this situation, So if you haven’t been able to secure work experience this year, don’t worry. Your chances of being accepted on a speech and language therapy course will not be affected.

All universities have their own admissions criteria. Some set out their expectations for relevant experience on their websites.

When writing your personal statement or preparing for an interview at university to study speech and language therapy, you will need to demonstrate your interest and understanding of the profession.

Luckily, there are ways of doing this without leaving your front door!

Reading list

These books will give you an understanding of some of the conditions and disabilities a speech and language therapist might help to support.

You can use some of the insights from these books to support your university application.

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby – A memoir where the writer describes his life before and after suffering a stroke that left him with locked-in syndrome.
  • The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic by Siena Castellon – Advice and tips to help autistic girls live their best lives.
  • A Stitch of Time: The Year a Brain Injury Changed My Language and Life by Lauren Marks – One woman’s journey to regaining her language and identity after a brain aneurysm affects her ability to communicate.
  • Adventures in the Mainstream: Coming of Age with Down Syndrome by Greg Palmer – A father chronicles two of the most important years in the life of his son, who has Down syndrome.
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks – The famous neurologist Dr Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients struggling to adapt to their neurological disorders.
  • My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor – A doctor’s first-hand account of a stroke and the process of recovery.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon – A murder mystery in which the protagonist is 15 years old with Asperger’s Syndrome.
  • Let me finish: A rare insight into living with a lifelong stammer by Paul O’Meara – A memoir about navigating the world as someone who stammers.

Anti-racist reading and resources

The RCSLT wants to encourage more students from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to become speech and language therapists. A diverse profession makes for a stronger profession. A diverse workforce helps us to reflect the communities we serve.

The RCSLT has compiled this anti-racist reading and resources list to support learning on the subject.

Other RCSLT resources

When writing a personal statement or preparing for an interview to study speech and language therapy, you can draw on the following resources to develop your understanding of the profession and what it means to be a speech and language therapist.

External resources

The following service user organisations, charities and support groups offer valuable resources and insights for prospective SLTS:

Writing your personal statement

When writing your personal statement or preparing for an interview at university to study speech and language therapy, you will need to demonstrate your interest and understanding of the profession.

Tips from university speech and language therapy university admission tutors and what they look for when reviewing applications:

  • Evidence of wide and diverse reading to support the applicant’s understanding of their choice, which goes beyond more that ‘what an SLT does’.
  • An explanation of why the applicant wants to train as a speech and language therapist and what makes them suitable for this degree and career.
  • An application specifically tailored to a speech and language therapy course.
  • Evidence that the applicant has undertaken research into the speech and language therapy profession and what they learned as a result.
  • Skills from all parts of life that the applicant can bring to the profession.
  • An understanding of what might be important from a service user’s perspective.
  • An understanding of how the applicant’s personal values align with those of the NHS constitution.

Videos

Want to know more about what speech and language therapists do and how they change peoples’ lives? Take a look at the videos on this page to get a better idea of the work SLTs do.

Virtual reality experience

Experience a day in the life of an SLT with the new virtual reality film produced by Health Education England (HEE). Created with input from SLTs and the RCSLT, the video covers a good range of settings and service users to give a vivid insight into the profession. It was filmed both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The video can been viewed with or without a virtual reality headset.

View the virtual reality film on the HEE website.

Health Careers Live talk

If you have a little longer, watch a 50-minute discussion, which features SLTs and recent students talking about what it is like being an SLT, what the degree course is like. You’ll also hear tips on applying to a course from a university lecturer. The workshop was first broadcast at the #healthcareerslive virtual event in July 2020.

SLTs during COVID-19

Want to learn more about the role of SLTs during the pandemic? Watch videos on how SLTs support patients following COVID-19.

BBC Tiny Happy People

These videos, courtesy of BBC Tiny Happy People, discuss various aspects of being a speech and language therapist.






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