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Speech-Language Therapist

Kaihaumanu Reo ā-Waha

Alternative titles for this job

Speech-language therapists assess and treat people who have problems with communication or swallowing. This may include difficulties with speech, language, thought processes or moving their bodies.

Pay

Speech-language therapists usually earn

$47K-$100K per year

Source: District Health Board/PSA, Allied, Public Health and Technical 'Multi Employer Collective Agreement'; and NZ Speech-language Therapists' Assn.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job are average for newly-qualified speech-language therapists but good for those with experience.

Pay

Pay for speech-language therapists varies depending on experience.

  • Graduate speech-language therapists start on about $47,000 a year. 
  • Experienced speech-language therapists may earn between $70,000 and $100,000.

Sources: District Health Board/PSA, Allied, Public Health and Technical 'Multi Employer Collective Agreement; and New Zealand Speech-language Therapists' Association. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Speech-language therapists may do some or all of the following:

  • assess and diagnose communication disorders such as stuttering or lisps
  • co-ordinate and plan treatments
  • help individuals learn to speak, move or communicate
  • lead group therapy sessions
  • help children and adults learn to swallow and eat
  • report on their clients
  • educate and advise clients and their families.

Skills and knowledge

Speech-language therapists need to have:

  • knowledge of speech and language
  • knowledge of the human body and its physiology 
  • understanding of medical conditions that can affect speech
  • knowledge of psychology and education theory, and child development and health
  • knowledge of community and family support services, and where to refer their clients.

Working conditions

Speech-language therapists:

  • usually work flexible hours and may need to work longer hours to keep up with their caseloads
  • work in either a dedicated practice or on-site at locations such as schools, rest homes, hospitals or other private clinics.

What's the job really like?

Speech-language therapist video

Brynlea Collin Stone, Speech-language therapist talks about her job – 2.05 min

I’m Brynlea Collin Stone, I’m a speech and language therapist and I work at Kimi Ora School.
Speech and language therapy is a real intersection of education and medicine, and that’s something I was looking for when I was leaving school.
One of my favourite things to do at Work is the session we’re doing this morning. That’s a time we spend with some of our students who are pre-intentional communicators. And that means that they don’t necessarily recognise that their behaviour can be interpreted by other people as communication. So we’re supporting them to develop their intentional communication skills.
So basically by us being really good communicators and spending time with them showing them responsively what being a good communicator is about – so that’s sharing space with them, maybe imitating them selectively, we only choose the things that we want to reinforce, that are good communication skills, then they learn that those things can connect them to other people.
One of the biggest challenges is actually sharing information with other staff members. So the work that I do will only make a difference for the students if they are able to be exposed to the kind of language input all day long through their day, so sharing information with the staff members and the families as well is one of the more difficult aspects
Working as a speech and language therapist has a huge variety of benefits, for a whole lot of different clients. The speech and language therapist is often the person who will spend the most time with a patient or a client, and one of the professionals who sees them first, both in the medical world and the educational world. And it’s a helping profession. Again, that’s something that’s important for me.

Entry requirements

To become a speech-language therapist you need to: 

  • have a Bachelor's degree in Speech and Language Pathology (Hons) or Speech and Language Therapy (Hons)
  • complete a Master's degree in Speech and Language Pathology or Speech-Language Therapy Practice.

Speech-language therapy scholarships 

The Ministry of Education offers speech-language therapy scholarships to students who intend to work with children.

Vulnerable Children Act

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children. 

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, health, languages, te reo Māori and English.

Personal requirements

Speech-language therapists need to be:

  • patient and supportive
  • able to put people at ease
  • good communicators
  • able to work with people of all ages, cultural backgrounds and lifestyles.

Useful experience

Experience with young children is useful.

Physical requirements

Speech-language therapists need to have clear speech and good hearing.

Registration

Speech-language therapists need to be registered with the New Zealand Speech-Language Therapists' Association.

Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Newly qualified speech-language therapists usually find work within a year of finishing study, or sooner if they are accepted into a graduate programme.

Experienced speech-language therapists have a good chance of finding work.

Fixed-term speech-language therapy work is often available.

Demand for speech-language therapists steady

Demand for speech-language therapists is steady because:

  • New Zealand's ageing population means that speech-language therapists are needed to help older patients such as stroke victims recover speech and language functions
  • more private practices are opening to help school children and new entrants who cannot be treated through the public health service.

Most speech-language therapists employed by government agencies

Most speech-language therapists work for the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Health. Other employers include:

  • private speech-language therapy practices
  • charitable trusts
  • universities
  • schools.

Sources

  • Collinstone, B, speech-language therapist, Careers New Zealand interview, November 2016.
  • Sayers, T, 'NZ Special-Needs Education at 'Crisis Point'', 30 September 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Speech-language therapists may progress into management or research roles. They may also move between work in the education or health industries.

Speech-language therapists may specialise in a field of work, or work with particular groups of people, such as:

  • children (paediatrics)
  • the elderly
  • children and adults who have physical disorders, such as swallowing difficulties or cleft lips or palates.
Hannah Clements showing a young client a video game

Speech-language therapists need to be able to relate to a wide variety of people

Last updated 6 March 2019