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Starting a career in speech and language therapy

By Dan Allard

​Speech and language therapists do more than just help people to communicate effectively, they provide support for those with delayed development, neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s Disease), or those who’ve had an illness or injury.

What does a speech and language therapist do?

Some speech and language therapists may choose to specialise in helping children with their speech or working closely with midwifery teams to help premature babies feed. Others may prefer working with adults who are recovering from a stroke or injury. Speech and language therapists can easily switch between adult and children’s work in their career.

Where do speech and language therapists work?

In an NHS role, speech and language therapists may find themselves based within a clinical setting, or part of multidisciplinary teams working within schools, health centres, or outpatient clinics. Or they may choose to specialise in specific areas, such as residential care homes or prisons and youth offending institutions.

How do I train to become a speech and language therapist?

Speech and language therapy is a protected title; they must have a degree in speech and language therapy and be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

To apply for a 3-4 year undergraduate degree, applicants may require A-Levels in subjects such as English, Biology, or Psychology, however, this varies between universities. Postgraduate courses are also available for those with a qualification in a relevant subject.

Will my speech and language therapy training be funded by the government?

As speech and language therapists play a crucial role within allied health, funding is available for new students from September 2020. Students can receive a grant of at least £5,000 to help with living costs. Further funding may also be available for eligible students (such as those living in certain regions or to help with childcare costs).

What are the career options for a speech and language therapist working within the NHS?

You can start your career by working as an speech and language therapy assistant. Like other allied health assistant roles, support worker jobs allow people to gain valuable experience as they work closely with registered professionals.

Newly qualified speech and language therapists will be expected to base their learning around the core capabilities framework, which has been set out by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT). After a year of working across different wards, you may choose to concentrate in a particular area.

Examples of specialisms include developmental language disorders, hearing impairments, cleft lip and palates or head, neck or throat cancer.

How much do speech and language therapists earn?

NHS speech and language therapists will start their career in band 5 (approx. £24k-£30k). Those who choose to specialise in key areas will likely be classed as band 6 (approx. £31k-£36k).

There are options to become self-employed or work for private companies. You can even choose to combine private practice and NHS work through a variety of agency jobs which allow you to gain further experience.

To find out more about how you can prepare for an exciting career in speech and language therapy, look at our careers hub.