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A Guide to Postgraduate Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and Language therapy is a rewarding and fulfilling career and popular at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, therefore the application process can be competitive. As with similar health pathways, tuition in most cases is paid for by the NHS and there are a set number of places at each institution. If you did not study a pre-registration course accredited by the HCPC (Health Care and Professionals Council) then you need to do a pre-registration, accelerated course in Speech and Language Therapy to practice as a Speech therapist.


What do speech therapists do?


Speech and language therapists (SLT) assess and treat speech, language and communication problems in people of all ages to help them better communicate. They'll also work with people who have eating and swallowing problems.


They work with people of all ages, who may have other health problems that affect their speech, or may be recovering from an accident or stroke.


Career Progression


When qualified and registered with the HCPC, the first year of work is normally spent under supervision, in order to become a full member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. This is usually a post in the NHS, which often involves working from health centres, hospital clinics and special schools. Many qualified Speech and Language therapists decide to specialise in a particular patient group or disorder, but others move around. Senior positions are in clinical specialisms, management, research and teaching..


Self-employment is an increasingly growing career path; the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP) provides support for therapists in this area.




Speech and language therapy jobs in the NHS are normally covered by the Agenda for Change Pay Rates, but individual NHS trusts have their own terms and conditions. Speech and language therapists usually have a starting salary of £21,176 (Band 5), rising to £27,625. Other employers, like charities and local education authorities, offer similar pay. Specialist speech and language therapists (Band 6) earn £25,528 - £34,189. Advanced speech and language therapists (Band 7) can earn £30,460 - £40,157. Full-time NHS speech and language therapists work 37.5 hours a week. Hours are typically 9am to 5pm with the possibility of some extra hours as and when required.



>See all speech and language therapy courses



Interview with Jane Stokes, programme leader on the Speech and Language therapy pre-registration course run jointly by the University of Greenwich and Canterbury Christ Church.


The application process for our programme is competitive - we routinely get 200 applications for 28 places, so a ratio of about 7 to 1. This is similar to the ratio nationally which is about 8 to 1.


How can applicants improve their chances of getting a place on the course?


To improve their chances of being accepted, applicants should obtain as much information about speech and language therapy by shadowing therapists working, by gaining experience in health, education or social care settings generally, by attending open days at the university, or by finding out about the profession through reading.


On this programme, the typical student has already worked either paid or in a voluntary capacity in a health, education or social care setting. They have had some personal or professional experience of people with communication difficulties and have a commitment to developing their skills in interacting and communicating with people who have difficulties. The typical student has a first degree in a related subject - linguistics, psychology, biological sciences, or Early Years, although we do accept students who have other degrees as long as they have relevant experience.


What are the main strengths of the course?


The main strength of the course is that it has a strong practice focus, and is founded on the principle that it provides the workforce with effective, autonomous and safe practitioners. We encourage personal development as a feature of the programme and introduce the students to people with communication disorders early on in the programme so that they can understand the impact of communication difficulty on daily life. There is also a strong emphasis on self directed learning. The student group is diverse and we welcome the contributions that experienced people bring to their studies.

The course is intensive, as it covers in two years, what an undergraduate will cover in four years. We ask students to consider the course as full time, not to expect to be able to do much paid work during the two years, and therefore the best way to prepare for the course is to ensure that they have thought through the financial implications. There are no fees to pay and students can apply for a means tested bursary.


>See further details on the Greenwich and Canterbury course


Interview with Paul Turner, Senior Lecturer in Audiology and Programme Manager in the Division of Language and Communication Science at City University, London.



Ratio of applicants to places?


8 or 9 applicants per place


What can people do to improve their chance of being accepted?


Undertake some relevant work experience and reflect on what they have learned in their application to demonstrate their understanding of the types of communication difficulties people can experience and what SLTs can do about them.


What does the application process consist of?


Paper applications are scored and moderated using a detailed scoring system. We will assess applications on the basis of previous academic record (i), two references (ii), a written personal statement (iii) and a written second statement answering our additional questions (see our site for further details).


What’s the main strength of the city course?


City is a leading provider of speech and language therapy courses in the UK with an excellent reputation.  We train more SLTs every year than any other UK university and our courses have a focus on developing clinical skills. Our graduates have achieved distinction in all areas of the profession, including as clinical experts, senior managers of services and internationally recognised research leaders.


How intense is the course? How can students prepare for this?


Generally students have four full days per week (three at University and one on placement). Students can prepare by studying our pre-course reading list and getting sufficient suitable experience so that they are sure that Speech and Language Therapy is the right career choice for them.


What is the typical pathway of a graduate?


Following successful completion of the course they register with the Health and Care Professions Council and move to a Band 5 Therapy job for a probationary year under the supervision of a senior therapist. Career progression can be in clinical specialisation, management, research or education.


Has the profession changed in recent years?


 If yes, how have courses and students adapted? There is increasing pressure on clinicians to demonstrate evidence-based practice. There has also been growing recognition that the patient’s/ user’s perspective on health services is paramount.  Both are priorities for the course. Our expert academics are leaders in the field of speech and language therapy and renowned worldwide for their teaching and research and we employ SLT users and carers as part of the teaching for professional studies.


>Search all Speech Therapy courses


Key points


- It’s important to be sure it is for you and prove you have shown an interest through work experience.


- Competition is tough, so you may need to spend more time volunteering or working in related sectors to stand a chance at gaining entry, you might have to apply more than once and perhaps to a centre located in a different part of the country.


MSc Courses


For registered therapists wishing to further their knowledge or pursue an area of expertise there are also MSc and PhD courses available at UK universities, covering various areas, some examples include: Speech Technology Research, Speech Difficulties and Cleft Palate Research. 


We spoke to Professor Shula Chiat, from City University about the MSc Advanced Practice in Health and Social Care (Speech, Language and Communication)


Ratio of applicants to places?


Roughly one applicant per place, but not all applicants are suitable, so our applicants do not exceed our places.


What can people do to improve their chance of being accepted?


This programme is not competitive. We don’t reach our target numbers because the field of speech and language therapy is small, and not that many clinicians want to undertake postgraduate study; the number of non-clinical applicants (also eligible to take the course) is very small. Hence applicants who meet our entry criteria will be accepted. Applicants who do not meet our entry criteria may succeed if they undertake further preparation. For example, overseas applicants who do not meet the English language requirement need to take a further course in English; applicants who have a clinical qualification but do not show sufficient understanding of the programme and readiness for research-oriented studies might increase their chances of acceptance if they take a course preparing students for postgraduate study.


What does the application process consist of?


Completion of the application form, including personal statement; two references; and an interview conducted by Programme Director. The decision to offer a place can often be determined from the application. The interview serves as a further check that applicants have a good understanding of the programme they are applying for, and gives them an opportunity to discuss what they want from the programme, indicate their main interests and likely module choices, and ask further questions about the programme. For applicants whose first language is not English, it provides further evidence of English language skills to supplement their score on the English language test.


What’s the main strength of the City course?


The main strength is that it supports students to develop their knowledge, critical thinking, and analytical and research skills in their particular areas of interest. More specifically, it gives students the opportunity to:


- Learn about the latest theoretical and clinical developments in key areas of speech and language therapy through lectures, seminars and student-led workshops


- Collaborate with staff who are internationally recognised researchers in their field


- Gain a better understanding of speech, language and communication problems from the client's perspective


- Conduct a research project under expert supervision, building on the knowledge and skills gained.


This course is not very intense, with teaching supplemented by many hours of self-study. Full-time students attend taught courses on average two days a week through the Autumn and Spring terms. Each term is eleven weeks, with a break for reading week in the middle.  During the term they are expected to read extensively, prepare for group discussions and workshops in their modules, and they may have assignments in some. The main assignment for each module comes at the end of the term and can be completed in the vacation. Students have up to one year after completing the taught programme to complete the research dissertation required for the MSc qualification.


What is the typical pathway of a graduate?


Most students are already clinically qualified, and the MSc will help them obtain higher grade and specialist posts. It also prepares them for undertaking research, and a small proportion of graduates go on to undertake MPhil/PhD studies and/or take up lecturing posts.


 Has the profession changed in recent years? If yes, how have courses and students adapted?


There is increasing pressure on clinicians to demonstrate evidence-based practice. There has also been growing recognition that the patient’s/ user’s perspective on health services is paramount.  Both are priorities for the course. Clinical and research methods modules  give students access to current evidence in specific clinical areas and disorders and develop their skills in evaluating and collecting evidence.  The programme offers one module (‘Identity, inclusion and living with disability’) that focuses on users’ perspectives and includes presentations by users; the importance of users’ experience is a strand in all other clinical modules.


A further change in the profession has been the result of cut-backs in NHS funding for continuing professional development, including payment of MSc fees and time off to undertake an MSc. This has reduced the number of UK clinicians on the course. At the same time, the number of non-UK students has grown, with students who have completed a BSc degree in their home country wishing to obtain a Masters-level qualification.



Useful Links


HCPC (Health Care and Professions council)


Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists


NHS (funding)


- Stamma


ICAN (Charity supporting speech, language and communication development in children)


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