There is a rising demand for speech-language pathologists (SLP) in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) projects employment in this field to grow by 29% from 2020 to 2030. That is a more rapid increase than the average for all occupations. Meanwhile, the most affordable online masters in speech pathology become a sensible choice for those eyeing to further their career in this field but could not afford to take a leave of absence from their work.
Here is a brief list of the affordable speech pathology graduate programs, along with the estimated tuition per credit, total credits required, and some sample courses to help prospective students decide where to enroll.
Typically, the entry-level education for speech-language pathologists would be a master’s degree. Meanwhile, considering the present global health crisis, taking an online master’s degree would be reasonable.
However, before choosing an online program, the first consideration to take is accreditation. A quarter of surveyed online program alumni suggest that students look into whether an online program is accredited. (Venable, 2021) Take note that the online master’s programs in this list have Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) accreditations.
The CAA is the semi-autonomous accrediting arm of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and serves as ASHA’s stamp of educational excellence for SLP graduate programs.
Tennessee State University’s online Master’s Program in Speech and Hearing Science is an eight-semester part-time program that starts in January of each year. The distance learning program has only 30 students per cohort. A conditional admission with a 3.0 GPA for the first nine semester hours is available to students who do not meet the criteria.
Visiting campus for meetings or exams is necessary, but the faculty limits the number of visits. There are also two three-week and six-week on-campus practicums. The final year includes an on-campus clinical in the summer and a practicum closer to home.
Program: Master’s Program in Speech and Hearing Science
Texas Woman’s University’s (TWU) 61-credit Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology takes six to seven semesters to complete. Dallas’ Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic or The Stroke Center accepts students for practicum.
Students can enroll in communication disorders leveling courses as part of their pre-degree preparation. Each spring, new graduate students enroll in seven online courses totaling 21 credits, which they complete entirely online. Meanwhile, a total of four significant grants are available to applicants.
Program: MS program in Speech-Language Pathology
East Carolina University’s (ECU) Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders is 60 credits long. Internships may take place locally or at the on-campus clinic.
Every year, ECU only accepts 10-12 new students into the program. Applicants must have 21 Communication Science credits and three Letters of Recommendation to be considered for admission. ECU offers in-state tuition to active military personnel. There is also a variety of programs and resources geared toward returning veterans.
Program: Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders
The online MS in Speech-Language Pathology offered by the University of South Florida is designed for students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree and work as SLP assistants or clinicians in public schools. Admission to the program and completion of degree requirements are all done online now. Non-thesis majors select three courses that meet their needs as school-based clinicians. Meanwhile, the clinical practicum requires 24 credits. One is completed either on the Tampa campus or at a nearby externship site.
Program: Master of Science in Speech Language
The University of Akron’s Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology is an eight-semester part-time program. It also includes advanced phonetics, neurology for communication problems, and dysphagia. Students can finish internships at any location they want. Admission to the program requires a 3.0-grade point average in undergraduate courses in speech-language pathology and audiology.
The School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology is home to the Audiology and Speech Center, which serves the greater Akron community.
Program: Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology
James Madison University’s (JMU) online Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology is ideal for adult learners looking for a career change. Admission to the program does not require a Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
After the first year of study, students must complete a six-week residency and four additional clinical rotations in their local communities. A student who is working at the same time will need to adjust their schedules to participate in clinical assignments.
Program: Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology
At Western Kentucky University (WKU), full-time students can complete the online Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology in eight semesters, while part-time students might take nine semesters to finish. Meanwhile, to finish the 60-credit program online, international students must complete a six-week summer practicum on campus. Evening online synchronous classes are available.
Students can transfer up to 12 credits and complete a 50-hour undergraduate SLP internship as part of the curriculum.
Program: Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology
The University of Northern Colorado’s (UNC) online Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology program prepares students for entry-level employment as a speech-language pathologist. The means of instruction are primarily online to accommodate non-traditional students with work or family obligations.
This three-year master’s degree program is available entirely online through the UNC Extended Campus. The program design centers on cohorts, which are groups of students who are progressing through the program simultaneously.
Program: Master’s Degree Preparing Skilled Speech-Language Pathologists
The University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire’s online Master’s program in Communication Sciences and Disorders is a 54-credit program. It is considered part-time, but students must enroll for 2-6 credits per semester.
The coursework is similar among all students, but some may need extra courses to meet prerequisites, resulting in a heavier course load. The program offers scholarships.
Program: Master’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders
California State University – Northridge has on-campus clinical externships that are part of the 41-month online Communicative Disorders Master of Science. The school offers a two-year online pre-SLP program, and the master’s cohorts meet each spring.
Students who live in the United States must participate in a two-week online orientation. Those who hold a job can transfer up to 75 hours of undergraduate SLP clinical credit toward their degree.
Program: Master of Science Communicative Disorders
In 2020, speech-language pathologists held about 158,100 jobs. About 38% are in the state, local, and private educational services while some 22% are in offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and audiologists. (BLS, 2021)
The median wage of SLPs amounts to $80,480, which is about $38.69 per hour. The bottom 10% earned less than $50,370, while the top 10% earned more than $122,790. (BLS, 2021)
The state that has the highest employment level of Speech-Language Pathologists is California, with an employment of 14,640. That is double that of Illinois, which is fifth on the list. Also on the list are Texas, New York, and Florida. Meanwhile, the top-paying states for this career are the District of Columbia, where wages could reach up to $101,920, Connecticut ($100,590), New Jersey ($100,330), New York ($98,010), and California ($95,570). (BLS, 2021)
BLS (2021) projects a 29% increase in employment from 2020 to 2030 for speech-language pathologists. That is about 15,200 jobs available on average in the next decade.
Many of the foreseen job openings are due to workers changing occupations or leaving the workforce due to retirement. (BLS, 2021) ASHA, meanwhile, offers several reasons for the growth as well.
Another destination worth looking into is telehealth.
In a 2021 study by Campbell and Goldstein titled “Evolution of Telehealth Technology, Evaluations, and Therapy: Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Pediatric Speech-Language Pathology Services,” it appears that “The unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic forced many providers in health care and education settings to immediately consider and implement teleassessments and the delivery of their pediatric speech-language therapy services through synchronous videoconferencing.”
In this study, which appeared in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Campbell and Goldstein found that while survey respondents believe telehealth services were not going to replace in-person care, they “acknowledged the benefits of having the option of remote delivery of services.”
This study’s findings show how remote speech-language pathology services have evolved. Clinicians discovered unexpected benefits of synchronous videoconferencing as they were forced to reconsider telehealth’s scope and utility. (Campbell & Goldstein, 2021)
Telehealth is indeed adding to the prospects of aspiring SLP workers.
Indeed, satisfaction with online learning is quite high. In a survey of 1,800 students, 83% of remote learners said they would recommend online programs to others, and 74% thought online learning was better than, if not the same, as on-campus learning. (Venable, 2021)
Besides, seeing the positive prospects available to SLPs, one might hurriedly jump into any best online speech pathology programs. However, like all other degrees, the master’s in speech pathology, especially one offered online, raises concerns like instruction quality and academic support and balancing education with personal and professional obligations. (Venable, 2021)
Before deciding to enroll in an online master’s program for speech pathology, students better consider any, if not all, of the things listed here.
Examining a school’s or program’s accreditation should be a primary consideration when deciding where to enroll. For speech pathology, ASHA’s CAA is the accreditation that students should check.
Examining the curriculum of the program is critical. This assists in determining whether a program or curriculum offers the courses that will equip students with the needed SLP skills and knowledge.
The most offered advice from online program alumni in the U.S. is to “do more research about cost and financial aid.” (Venable, 2021) While some online programs are significantly more affordable than others, comparing the programs’ value to their cost is critical. The more affordable accredited master’s program related to speech pathology is not always the best option. Similarly, the most expensive one does not always mean it is the best.
It is best to find an online program that accepts external funding sources, such as student loans, grants, or scholarships in the same vein as cost.
Online programs are not always 100% online. For master’s programs related to speech pathology, online courses would often be mixed with on-campus courses or internships. As such, students should check whether the arrangement would meet their circumstances, needs, and preferences.
Some schools offer career services or even job placements to their students. It is yet another thing to consider, as it would help students easily find jobs after finishing their programs.
Online learning means fewer interactions with professors or other school personnel. As such, some students who struggle in their program find it difficult to seek assistance. Finding a school with a clear means for students to find help with their technical or curriculum-related questions would be ideal.
Another common piece of advice from online program alumni is to speak with current students and alumni (Venable, 2021) of the program that prospective SLP students are eyeing. Naturally, those who have attended the program would have better insights into it.
An internship is vital to SLP students. It is where they gain experience. As such, it is best to look for online programs that offer internships, whether on-campus or in locations closer to where the students are staying.
Alumni of online programs also advise prospective students to compare more programs, have better technological resources, speak with employers or professionals in the field, understand how long it would take to complete the program, and find out if credits will transfer. (Venable, 2021)
Indeed, a career in speech pathology has positive outlooks. Investing in an SLP education may yield positive returns, as implied by BLS (2021) data. Still, the question of whether an online master’s speech pathology program is worth it would not be easy to answer.
In the first place, most online programs related to speech pathology may not necessarily be 100% online. As such, prospective students must make sure they can attend required in-person meetings or activities.
Online master’s programs in speech pathology tend to be 60 credit hours long. Prospective students must make sure they will stay motivated. Another related issue to the program length, even with the best online master’s degree programs, is the cost. Students must make sure they have enough resources to cover the cost of their program.
Ultimately, whether an online master’s in speech pathology is worth it would depend on students’ current disposition, preferences, and, most importantly, motivation.