Support worker to SLT route

If you are a speech and language therapy support worker already you will already know what a fantastic career option it can be.

As a support worker you will already have significant relevant experience and skills to bring to the profession – and you might choose to take the next step and apply for a pre-registration degree to become a qualified SLT.

Speech and language therapy degrees

Even if you are already working as a support worker, you will need to complete a pre-registration degree to become a qualified speech and language therapist.

There are three routes to qualify as an SLT:

  • an undergraduate degree (usually 3 or 4 years)
  • if you have a degree already, you may be able to take a two year master’s degree
  • a degree apprenticeship from 2022 (England only).

What qualifications will I need?

For an undergraduate degree you will usually need three A-levels or their equivalent at BTEC or Scottish Highers, preferably in subjects relevant to speech and language therapy, such as biology, sciences or languages, though some universities will be flexible.

For the master’s route you’ll need a degree, preferably in a relevant subject, such as languages or science. Most universities require this to be at 2:1 level, although some will accept 2:2.

Universities will also normally require passes at GCSE level in maths and English.

The requirements are similar for an apprenticeship (available in England only).

Universities and your employer will also take into account your experience as a support worker when assessing your application.

Going back to learning after a break or being an older student

Around 60% of SLT students are over 21 when they start their course, so you are unlikely to be the only one going back to learning.

Take the time to discuss expectations of students with universities and existing students, for example how much time you’re expected to spend studying and whether placements might be over summer holidays. You can ask the university directly or by attending an open day.

Some prefer you to be able to show recent study experience in the last five years.

Consider whether the undergraduate or postgraduate route (or apprenticeship, in future) is more likely to suit your personal circumstances. The master’s route, in particular, can be a challenging time commitment, and most universities advise that it is not usually possible to also fit in part-time jobs alongside the course.

Further information

See our pages on the university degree route and the degree apprenticeship routes for more details including funding in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Funding your studies

The funding rules are different in each of the four UK nations. They also vary depending on whether you already have a degree and which career route you prefer.

If you intend to study in a country different from the one in which you live, the rules are very complex so it is worth being very clear ahead of time what they are. Not all of the UK nations, for example, will fund you to do a second degree. See our funding information for details.

One important thing to note is that in England, the master’s funding available for speech and language therapy degrees is not the usual master’s loan available in non-healthcare subjects. Instead it’s the same package available to undergraduates, which includes access to a £5,000 grant for each year of study, in addition to a student loan.

You might have concerns about taking on a student loan, or in some cases a second loan, and paying it back. This article from Money Saving Expert summarises the main points.

You do not need upfront cash to go to university and you do not make any repayments of your loan until you are earning more than £27,295/year (2021/22 rate). What you repay is fixed at 9% of what you earn above this amount, so whether your student loan is £30,000 or £60,000 makes no difference to your monthly repayments.

Traditional degree or apprenticeship?

Speech and language therapy apprenticeships are currently being developed in England, with the first being delivered from October 2022 at the University of Essex and Birmingham City University.

The main difference between an apprenticeship and the traditional university route is that as an apprentice, you will be an employee, not a student.

The academic degree element of the apprenticeship is funded by the Government and you will earn an apprenticeship wage while you study.

You will be paid by your employer for both the time you are in the workplace and the time you are in academic learning. You will not have a student loan. However, the apprenticeship is likely to take longer than a traditional course – around four years for an undergraduate apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship is not starting until 2022, and at this time there are likely to be limited places. You may wish to discuss with your employer first whether they are likely to take part in the apprenticeship, as this may influence your decision about which route to go down. We hope that in due course more places will become available via this route.

Will I continue my existing support worker responsibilities?

The apprenticeship will need to provide for appropriate duties for an apprentice SLT and recognise the time required in other settings for placements and study time. So, while some support worker duties may continue as an apprentice it will also be different to any existing support worker role that you may already be in.

See our page for prospective apprentices for more information.

1  of  3

Related content

University degrees

Details about courses and funding

Apprenticeship route

FAQs for prospective apprentices

Career changers

Information for career changers, mature students, and graduates of non-SLT courses