A Day in the Life of a Speech and Language Therapist

Speech and Language Therapist job description

A speech and language therapist assesses, diagnoses and treats people of all ages, with speech, language, communication and swallowing disorders. 

What would a typical day look like for a Speech and Language Therapist?

There is no typical day for this role as it varies significantly depending on the setting in which they work. Usually, a day would consist of meeting service users , assessments, individual therapy and group sessions, consultation, swallowing assessments and community events.

Where could I work?

Employers include the health service, education and independent practice, and a wide range of settings including hospitals (for inpatient or outpatient groups), community clinics, individuals’ homes, care homes, mainstream and special schools, courtrooms, prisons, young offenders’ institutions, charities and the private sector.

You maybe required to travel between client appointments, so access to your own transport and a driver’s licence is useful but not essential for many roles.

What would my starting salary be?

Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change pay scales and as a recently graduated speech and language therapist you will usually start at Band 5. For each pay band in the NHS, there is experience-linked pay progression. Pay and conditions will vary depending upon your employer and competitive rates are offered throughout the independent, education and voluntary sectors. 

What hours would I be working?

37.5 hours per week will be standard, although you may work evening and weekends depending on the setting. Outside of the NHS your hours will be dependent on where you work – a school-based therapist may work largely during term-time and fit within the school days, while an independent therapist working with adult clients may work evenings and weekends to meet demand.

What is the career progression like for a Speech and Language Therapist?

There are varying opportunities for specialisation, advancement and further education including advanced clinical practice, educational settings, research development and international opportunities.

To explore this career in more depth visit: NHS Health Careers

Are there more specialised roles in Speech and Language Therapy?

Adult neurology speech and language therapy 

SLTs can specialise in working with adults with neurological conditions in various clinical settings. They may specialise in stroke rehabilitation in a stroke unit or community setting. Some SLTs develop expertise in working with people with progressive neurological conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease. Others may specialise in supporting people with eating, drinking and swallowing and leading specialist assessment clinics such as a videofluorscopy clinic, where a moving x-ray can be used to visualise the swallow process. Many therapists choose to focus on their development in a clinical specialism whereas others choose to emphasise their development in a leadership role.   

Voice therapy

SLTs can work with adults and children with voice difficulties caused by different factors including abuse and misuse of the vocal apparatus (broadly, behavioural, or functional voice difficulties), changes to the physical structures of the body affecting voice production or neurogenic lesions affecting sensory and motor signals to the vocal tract. The SLT role is to assess the nature and impact of the difficulties and work with individuals, providing voice therapy and addressing any lifestyle or behavioural factors that might be affecting the voice and contributing to the difficulties. SLTs in a specialist voice role may be based within or work closely alongside an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) clinic, and with additional training, may be involved in the diagnostic stage of voice disorders.

Cleft Lip and Palate

Every year around 1 in 700 babies are born with a cleft lip and/or palate.  A cleft occurs when, in the womb, the formation of the lip and palate don't merge effectively, leaving a gap. This affects how well the baby can talk and feed. SLTs can work as part of a multidisciplinary team to monitor and support the babies and their family throughout their life. The SLT role is to monitor speech development, provide speech and language therapy where needed, and provide knowledge and expertise to support the surgeon in their surgical decisions.  

International speech and language therapist

The UK is part of the Mutual Recognition Agreement, which is a reciprocal agreement between the UK, Republic of Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand enabling your qualification to be recognised in these countries. Some countries may have further requirements, e.g., audiology experience. You are also able to work in other countries, by complying with any registration requirements in that country. 

Do I need a degree for Speech and Language Therapy?

Yes, you will need a degree recognised by the Health and Care Professions Council to work as a speech and language therapist. The titles of speech and language therapist and speech therapist are protected and can only be used by graduates of such a programme. 

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