Entry to the speech pathology profession

1. Position

Speech Pathology Australia is supportive of universities offering Bachelor, Bachelor (hons), Graduate Entry Master and dual awards (Bachelor/Master) which result in an Australian professional entry speech pathology degree.

Speech Pathology Australia (the Association) is recognised by the Federal Government of Australia, Department of Education, Skills and Employment, as well as the National Alliance of Self Regulating Health Professions (NASRHP) as the professional body which represents speech pathologists in Australia.

The Association grants accreditation to speech pathology programs that meet the prescribed accreditation standards. All Australian professional entry programs, whether undergraduate (with or without honours) or graduate-entry, are evaluated against the same standards.

Speech Pathology Australia acknowledges that a variety of entry pathways promotes diversity in the profession and ensures a choice of entry level options for prospective speech pathology students.

2. Information about professional entry level speech pathology degrees in Australia

2.1 Higher education requirements

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) registers, evaluates and monitors higher education providers to ensure they are meeting the requirements of the relevant qualification type. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) details the requirements for various types of qualifications, using a numbering system. Speech Pathology Australia recognises degrees which prepare graduates to work as an entry level speech pathologist by the conclusion of the degree. These degrees have an AQF of 7 (Bachelor degree) or above.

2.2 Bachelor and Master degrees

A Bachelor degree in speech pathology is usually 4 years in duration. At a minimum, students who have completed year 12 (or equivalent) and have the required prerequisites and entry score can apply for a Bachelor program. Many Bachelor degrees offer students who satisfy particular academic requirements an opportunity to obtain their Bachelor degree with honours. This is usually an embedded component within the degree and is and is offered to students who meet specific educational requirements. Honours programs typically include a research component. These students will graduate with a Bachelor degree (hons), whereas the remainder of the cohort will graduate with a Bachelor degree.

If a university offers a Bachelor degree that includes ‘honours’ in the name of the qualification, eg. Bachelor of Speech Pathology (honours), the program will require all students to demonstrate higher levels of knowledge, integration and thinking than a non-honours degree. The program will typically have a research stream that may prepare graduates for further post graduate study.

‘Dual degrees’ award the student with both a Bachelor of X (eg. Health Sciences/ Allied Health/ Communication) and a Master of Speech Pathology (or equivalent). Graduates must complete all units in the dual degree program to qualify as a Speech Pathologist. That is, students who only complete the Bachelor component of a dual degree will not be eligible to work as a speech pathologist.

Graduate Entry Master (GEM) degrees require the student to have already obtained a tertiary qualification. Often the primary degree may be a Bachelor degree in Arts, Science, Education or other Health Sciences. A GEM degree in speech pathology equips graduates to enter the profession and generally takes 2-3 years to complete full time. A GEM degree does not build on an undergraduate speech pathology degree, so should not be confused with a post graduate Master degree, which is typically pursued by speech pathologists with a special interest or relevant experience in research in a particular area of speech pathology.

Bachelor programs, those with honours programs, dual degrees and Master programs are all accredited against the same standards, and graduates must demonstrate the same speech pathology competencies by the conclusion of the program.

2.3 Length of Graduate Entry Master degrees

As detailed, Graduate Entry Master (GEM) degrees are significantly shorter in duration than Bachelor degrees. However, GEM students bring previous learning and experience to the shorter university program. GEM students have already demonstrated successful completion of another degree and have typically developed lifelong learning, professional and reasoning skills that prepare them for, if not accelerate, their learning at a Master level.

Master programs usually require a high number of contact hours and students are required to transition quickly from one topic area to the next. Some Master programs require students to complete a ‘bridging’, ‘booster’ or ‘intensive’ course prior to or at the very beginning of the program, to prepare students for the assumed knowledge embedded in the program

2.4 Competency outcomes for Master and Bachelor graduates

The standards used to accredit Speech Pathology programs in Australia are the same for all speech pathology programs in Australia, irrespective of the type or duration of the degree. Universities must assure Speech Pathology Australia that their graduates have the necessary competencies to work as a new graduate speech pathologist by the completion of the degree. Therefore, a new graduate from a Master program is required to demonstrate the same professional standards of practice at entry to the profession as a graduate from a Bachelor program.

2.5 Graduate pay scales

Pay scales vary according to sector (eg. health versus education) and Australian states and territories. In some settings, such as Victorian and New South Wales Health settings, graduates with a Master degree will commence on a starting salary one increment higher than a graduate with a Bachelor degree. This acknowledges the graduate’s years of tertiary training. However, in other settings, the pay scale is dependent on years of practice and both Bachelor and Master graduates commence at the same starting salary. Notably, salaries for speech pathologists vary considerably across Australian states and sectors, irrespective of type of degree.