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Speech and language therapist: Entry requirements

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To practise as a speech and language therapist you must have a degree accredited by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and be a registered member of the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) .

Undergraduate degree courses last three or four years and typically cover both theoretical and clinical studies. Theoretical subjects include anatomy, physiology, neurology, psychology, phonetics, linguistics, child development, speech pathology and therapeutic methods. Clinical practice takes place in hospitals, schools, clinics and day centres, under the supervision of qualified therapists.

Most universities accept applications from mature students who have completed access courses and have relevant work experience, although they may request additional qualifications in science. Contact individual institutions for details of entry requirements. All applications for undergraduate degrees should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) .

If your degree is in a subject other then speech and language therapy, you must undertake an accredited two-year postgraduate course in order to qualify. A degree in the following subjects will increase your chances of being considered for entry on to a postgraduate course:

  • communication studies/speech science;
  • linguistics;
  • psychology;
  • physiology;
  • biological science/human biology;
  • social science.

Postgraduate courses require relevant work experience. Applications should be made directly to the relevant institution. Closing dates vary between institutions but generally fall between September and December.

Visit the RCSLT and HCPC websites for a list of universities offering accredited undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses.

Candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent communication and listening skills - to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds and to motivate clients and gain trust. Clients may be uncooperative because they are frightened, frustrated or disorientated by their situation;
  • patience - progress may be slow, involving repetitive exercises to aid clients who have problems memorising, processing and retaining information;
  • creativity and problem-solving skills - to design programmes appropriate to different learning styles and communication issues;
  • teamworking skills - for interacting with other professionals;
  • organisational skills and flexibility - to deal with a range of clients in varied settings;
  • ability to be at ease in a clinical environment.

Empathy, assertiveness, tact, a sense of humour and physical and mental stamina are also important qualities. A driving licence is essential for community speech and language therapists, particularly in rural areas, as there is frequent travel between different settings. Knowledge of Welsh, Gaelic or community languages may be a requirement or an advantage in some parts of the UK.

Competition for places on courses is strong and pre-entry experience and knowledge of the profession is essential. Experience can include working with children, elderly or disabled people, or work as a speech and language therapy assistant or bilingual co-worker. Speech and language therapy assistants and bilingual co-workers are both supporting roles, working under the guidance of a qualified SLT. Before applying, visit child and adult clinics to observe and talk to practitioners. The RCSLT website contains further information on obtaining work experience.

The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) administers bursaries for healthcare and social work students on behalf of the Department of Health (DH) . Students on undergraduate speech and language therapy courses that lead to HCPC registration may be eligible to have their tuition fees paid in full by the National Health Service (NHS) and may also receive financial support from a bursary. Eligible students receive a grant of £1,000 each year. They can also apply for a means-tested bursary of up to £4,395 a year (£5,460 in London). For more information, see NHS Student Bursaries   and contact the relevant university to find out if the course is approved for NHS funding.

In Scotland, funding is usually available through the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) .

For postgraduate courses, applicants are often eligible for a bursary, but you should check with individual institutions before making an application.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.

Written by AGCAS editors
December 2012

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