Working as a speech and language therapist (often referred to as an SLT or SALT) involves treating both adults and children to improve their speech, language and communication skills. One of a speech and language therapist’s major roles is to assess and treat their patients, ultimately enabling them to communicate to the best of their ability.
What do speech and language therapists do?
Speech and language therapists treat patients who have a range of difficulties. These include an inability to produce and use speech, understand and use language, stammering and voice problems. The role of a speech and language therapist even extends to helping patients with feeding, chewing or swallowing issues.
Working closely with teachers, doctors, nurses, psychologists and other health professionals, they also assess patients whose speech or language capabilities have been affected by disease or disability.
Where do speech and language therapists work?
Speech and language therapists can be found in hospitals, community care roles, health centres, schools, day centres and assessment units, depending on their skills or career path. This will often depend whether you would like to specialise in a certain patient demographic or type of clinical work - alternatively you may prefer to move into a research, teaching or management position.
Developing your career as a speech and language therapist
As a newly qualified speech and language therapist you will usually work with a general caseload for at least a year, which will allow you to interact with a wide range of people and treat a variety of conditions and problems. During this time, your competences are signed off by a more experienced colleague.
After completing this pre-registration programme, you must register with the Health and Care Professions Council before applying for jobs through recruiters or trust websites.
According to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, there are a number of activities which are integral to developing your career within this exciting and diverse industry. One such activity is taking an advanced clinical studies course which will equip you with specialist skills and knowledge, setting you up for a post with very specific responsibilities. This could be working with infants or people with severe learning difficulties.
Other ways to bolster your CV and SLT skills are to take an approved short course or to get involved with specific interest group meetings, seminars, conferences and workshops. Fortunately, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has a number of special interest groups which conduct research and help support those working in this specialist industry.
What job opportunities are open to speech and language therapists?
There are many opportunities to further a career as an SLT.
Locum jobs are a fantastic way to improve your practice as you are exposed to a wider range of cultures and environments. This route also presents you with the opportunity to control your own career, working hours that suit your lifestyle.
Experiencing SLT locum jobs can help you move onto a range of clinical specialisms. These include acquired neurological disorders, linguistics, oncology, counselling, deafness and hearing impairment, specific learning disabilities and working with school-aged children.
Of course, the more experience you gain, the further up the career ladder you may want to climb. Speech and language therapists are able to take on management positions or explore specialist roles, some of which include participating in research projects.
Specific management programmes exist in many healthcare settings and often last around a year. These positions are suited to those who have demonstrated the potential to become involved with strategy, budget and management of employees.
Alternatively you could move into more of a research role by initiating or participating in a new project. This allows you to gain clinical and non-clinical research skills and can equip you with training in social research methods and statistics. Those in research roles can take these back into their SLT career, continue to work in research or move into teaching by undertaking a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Teaching.
Speech and language therapy outside the NHS
While speech and language therapist roles within the NHS can provide excellent opportunities and potential career progression, it’s not a route that suits everyone. There are plenty of opportunities in the private sector or even on an independent basis that can allow you to expand your horizons.
Such roles are ideal if you do not want to move into management and can allow you to experience increased flexibility. Rather than focusing on a single area of expertise, these roles can offer a new-found sense of freedom, allowing you to take on a range of different cases.
Find out more
If you would like to learn more about becoming a locum speech and language therapist with Medacs Healthcare, or if you’re keen to discover the wide range of locum SLT jobs we offer, contact our dedicated SLT team or call 01785 256 605 during office hours.