Speech and language therapy (SLT) provides life-changing treatment for people with communication, drinking, eating or swallowing difficulties. As a registered speech and language therapist, you’ll be qualified to work with both children and adults, although most speech and language therapists specialise in one or the other.
When you graduate from our BSc Speech and Language Therapy programme at UEA, you will be equipped with the clinical knowledge and skills you need to excel. You will also have graduated from one of the best schools of health in the UK, and be ready to embark upon an exciting career.
Following your graduation, you will need to register with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and obtain clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Once registered, you will be eligible to work as a speech and language therapist in the UK and overseas.
The scope of SLT practice means you could be working with any age group, from babies with hearing problems, children with learning difficulties, language delays, speech sound difficulties, or stammers, to adults with voice problems, mental health difficulties, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease or recovering from stroke or head injury. Depending on your training and your role, you may also be working with people who have feeding and swallowing difficulties.
In most cases, you will be an integral part of a multidisciplinary team, which may include doctors, nurses, dieticians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, teachers of deaf people, social workers and special education teachers.
The Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists will support you with the professional requirement of keeping your skills and knowledge updated throughout your career. You will need to register with them as a student and you should remain registered while in practice.
Many speech & language therapists find that there is no such thing as a typical day. Every individual is different, and many posts involve working in multiple locations throughout the week. You may be based in a hospital or clinic with clients visiting you, or travelling to visit community centres, schools or home.
For example, as a paediatric SLT working in the community, you may spend part of your week working in children’s centres and other times carrying out home visits. You will need to plan your days to be able to have enough time to meet the children and write up your notes. You will set targets, plan assessments, and devise therapy activities, coming up with creative ways to elicit speech sounds or encourage social communication skills. You may be identifying signs of autism or cleft palate and referring the child to specialists. You will develop relationships with parents, advising and counselling them.
As an SLT in an acute hospital setting, your day may start with an audit of newly-admitted patients to the stroke unit, following up any queries from the medical team about their swallowing or communication. For patients requiring further contact, you will prioritise your caseload, plan assessments and devise therapy activities or alternative communication methods. You will advise the rest of the multidisciplinary team on how to communicate with the patients and what they may safely eat or drink. You may also be paged to other wards, which could include anything from intensive care to day surgery.
Top tip: It’s OK to ask for help! Speech and language therapists see a wide range of presentations and no-one is an expert in all of them. Share your knowledge and experiences, and benefit from those of others.
There are around 2.5 million people in the UK suffer from a communication disorder, so a wide range of opportunities are available. With experience, you could become a specialist in stroke and rehabilitation, cleft palate, stammering or working with children with special needs, or you could become self-employed and start your own private practice. You could also pursue a career in education or research.
As part of their professional registration, SLTs are required to keep a portfolio to demonstrate that they are keeping their skills and knowledge up to date with annual CPD (continuing professional development).
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. Pay and conditions will vary depending upon your employer and competitive rates are offered throughout the private and voluntary sectors. You should always check with the employer to confirm the pay rate for any post for which you are applying.
What hours would I be working?
37.5 hours per week will be standard, although you may work evening and weekends to suit private clients.
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 a private therapist working with adult clients may work evenings and weekends to meet demand.
Where could I work?
Speech and language therapists are recruited by a range of employers including the health service, education and private practice, and work in an equally wide range of settings, including hospitals (for inpatient or outpatient groups), community clinics, homes, mainstream and special schools, courtrooms, prisons and young offenders’ institutions.
Speech & language therapists are found in every part of the country, from the Shetland Islands to the Isles of Scilly. The range of working environments is hugely varied, and may change throughout your career.
You will be required to travel between client appointments, so access to your own transport and a driver’s licence is useful.
Continuing Professional Development – (Managing Yourself and Leading Others Level 6; Managing Services Level 6; Leadership and Management in Practice Level 7)
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National Careers Service
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Health and Care Professions Council
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