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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 verbal communication or swallowing. This may include difficulties with speech, language, listening, reading or writing.

Pay

New speech-language therapists usually earn

$52K-$73K per year

Experienced speech-language therapists usually earn

$73K-$100K per year

Source: DHBs/PSA and NZSTA, 2020.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a speech-language therapist are good due to high demand for their services.

Pay

Pay for speech-language therapists varies depending on experience.

  • New speech-language therapists usually earn between $52,000 and $73,000 a year. 
  • Experienced speech-language therapists may earn between $73,000 and $100,000.

Sources: District Health Boards/PSA, 'Allied, Public Health and Technical Multi-employer Collective Agreement', 2020; and New Zealand Speech-language Therapists' Association, 2020.

(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 problems such as stuttering
  • co-ordinate and plan treatments
  • help clients learn to speak, listen, read or write
  • 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:

  • English or other languages
  • how the brain, mouth, throat and voice box function
  • medical conditions that can affect speech
  • psychology and education theory, and child development and health
  • community and family support services, and where to refer their clients.

Working conditions

Speech-language therapists:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may also work evenings
  • work in therapy clinics or at locations such as schools, rest homes and hospitals.

What's the job really like?

Speech-language therapist video

Brynlea Collin Stone talks about her job as a speech-language therapist - 2.05 mins

Brynlea: 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)
  • Master's degree in speech and language pathology or speech-language therapy practice.

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, English, languages and te reo Māori.

Personal requirements

Speech-language therapists need to be:

  • patient and supportive
  • able to put people at ease
  • good communicators
  • able to relate to people of all ages, and from a range of cultures and backgrounds.

Useful experience

Work with young children is useful experience.

Registration

Registration with the New Zealand Speech-language Therapists' Association (NZSTA) is recommended. NZSTA provides Annual Practising Certificates for members.

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.

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

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

According to the Census, 942 speech-language therapists worked in New Zealand in 2018.

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, to 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.
  • NZ Speech-language Therapists' Association website, accessed November 2020, (www.speechtherapy.org.nz).
  • NZ Speech-language Therapists' Association, 'How to Become an SLT?', accessed November 2020, (www.speechtherapy.org.nz).
  • Rotherham, A, president, NZ Speech-language Therapists' Association, careers.govt.nz interview, 20 November 2020.
  • Sayers, T, 'NZ Special-Needs Education at 'Crisis Point' ', 30 September 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(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 to work in managerial or research roles. They may also move between work in the education and 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 difficulties swallowing, or cleft lips or palates.
A speech-language therapist teaching a child vocal exercises

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

Last updated 15 December 2020