Updated on 4 Nov 2019
What is a speech pathologist?
Speech pathologists study, diagnose and treat communication disorders, including difficulties with
speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, social skills, stuttering and using
voice. They work with people who have difficulty communicating because of developmental delays,
stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, dementia and hearing
loss, as well as other problems that can affect speech and language. People who experience
difficulties swallowing food and drink safely can also be helped by a speech pathologist.
How can I find out more about speech pathology?
If you are interested in a career in speech pathology, it would be helpful to speak with speech
pathologists currently working across different sectors. Work experience or workplace observations
are a helpful way to determine if you would like to pursue further study in the area of speech
Can SPA find me a work experience placement?
If you are interested in organising a work experience placement, you will need to contact a speech
pathologist or speech pathology department directly. Speech Pathology Australia cannot
recommend a speech pathologist or organise a placement for you. You can use SPA’s “Find a
speech pathologist” search to find a practitioner in your local area.
How do I become a speech pathologist?
All speech pathologists must complete a university qualification at a Bachelor or Master level.
What is the difference between a Bachelor and a Masters degree?
Currently, speech pathologists are able to gain a recognised qualification at either a Bachelor or
Masters level. Both courses are equally recognised by Speech Pathology Australia and employers.
Where can I study?
To be eligible to practise in Australia as a speech pathologist you must undertake a university program
that is accredited by Speech Pathology Australia.
Speech Pathology Australia is recognised by the Department of Education and Training as the
assessing authority and accredits university programs that offer speech pathology training. A list of
accredited courses is available at: accredited speech pathology university courses.
Speech Pathology Australia grants accreditation to programs that meet certain requirements. All
university programs (Bachelor and Master level) are assessed to the same standards in the
Accreditation assures the general public that the speech pathology degree programs in Australia have
the appropriate qualities to produce professional speech pathologist practitioners who are eligible for
certified practising membership of Speech Pathology Australia. Accreditation is cyclical so all
universities programs are at various stages of the accreditation process. Some universities are in the
process of being accredited for the first time or may have accreditation for up to 5 years.
What is the best university program for me?
Speech Pathology Australia is unable to provide recommendations on university programs or assist
you in choosing a university. Each university will have differences in their teaching delivery, clinical
placement requirements and expectations of students. You will need to liaise with your preferred
universities to determine what suits your learning needs and personal circumstances.
How do I get accepted into a course?
Each university has their own pre requisites. You will need to contact the universities you are
interested in attending directly to find out their entry requirements, entry scores (if applicable) and if
you will get any credit for previous study.
Where can I work?
Speech pathologists can work in public and private settings in a variety of areas including: schools,
hospitals, community health centres, disability sector, correctional facilities, mental health, aged care,
residential aged care facilities etc.
Where can I find out information about job prospects?
The number of speech pathology graduates has increased in recent years primarily as a result of an
increase in the number of speech pathology programs offered by universities. Speech Pathology
Australia now has over 8000 members
Job placements are competitive and graduates don’t always find a position immediately after
graduating in a geographical location, sector or with client group they would ideally like to work. Early
career speech pathologists often work in more rural and remote locations and some graduates may
find they have two part time roles rather than one full time position.
Over the last few years, availability of jobs in the public sector has not changed significantly though
more speech pathologists are now working in private practice. Government support for speech
pathology programs through programs such as the Chronic Disease Management program, Helping
Children with Autism and the Better Start program for students with disabilities have had an impact on
the need for private practitioners. A similar effect might be observed with the introduction of the
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). However, as the NDIS has only recently started to be
rolled out nationally there is no clear indication of the impact this program will have on the need for
speech pathology services.
The Australian Government job active website has information about job prospects for speech
What will I earn?
The national award for speech pathologists is the Health Professionals and Support Services Award
(2010). This award is available on the Fairwork website. This Award indicates the minimum pay rates
for speech pathologists in Australia. Some organisations may have separate agreements for pay and
other entitlements beyond this award. Positions may be advertised on SPA’s Job Board and external
job search sites.
Once I have graduated can I set up my own practice?
Speech Pathology Australia advises members to gain a minimum of 3-5 years of clinical experience
before starting their own business. This enable early career speech pathologists to gain valuable
experience and have adequate supervision and support prior to branching out on their own.
Are speech pathologists all trained the same?
Speech pathologists complete a degree at university which encompasses all aspects of communication including speech, writing, reading, signs, symbols and gestures. Speech pathologists also work with people who have difficulties swallowing food and drink. They are experts in the areas of communication and swallowing difficulties. Please refer to our Fact Sheets for more information on specific clinical areas. There are a number of university courses throughout Australia which offer entry level training for speech pathologists. Courses may be an undergraduate (bachelor) or masters level entry degree. These qualifications for speech pathologists are equivalent in Australia. Speech Pathology Australia is the peak professional body that represents speech pathologists in Australia and has an important role in accrediting university programs that train speech pathologists.
Is speech pathology and speech therapy the same thing?
Speech pathologists or speech-language pathologists were formerly known as speech therapists. These titles are taken as meaning the same thing and those with these qualifications are all university or tertiary institution trained. They are different from speech and drama teachers.
What will a speech pathologist charge?
Currently, Speech Pathology Australia is unable to publish set fees for speech pathology services as this practice contravenes the Australian Competition and Consumer and Commission (ACCC) guidelines. A survey completed in 2005 found that speech pathologists charge a range of fees: $80 - $140 per hour. However, this information is outdated and should not be used as a guide. Fees are determined by individual practices and are based on a range of variables: ie geographic location, experience, business overheads etc. A fee is generally assigned to one specific session or service. Some speech pathology practices however may set fees that may be a packaged fee, for example a Full Assessment, which may include a number of sessions and the Assessment report. Others may have separate fees for each part of their service. Always ask your speech pathologist for details of their fees and charges, as well as terms of payment.
Can I claim on Medicare for speech pathology?
Yes, speech pathology services can be rebated under specific Medicare Allied Health Initiatives, however there are criteria that clients need to meet. Chronic Disease Management items (known as the Enhanced Primary Care [EPC] plan) Patients with chronic conditions or complex care needs, who are managed by their General Practitioner (GP) under an EPC plan may qualify for Medicare rebates. Chronic conditions are defined as conditions which have been, or are likely to be, present for six months or more. Complex care needs are those where the GP considers the patient would benefit from care provided by two or more health professionals as well as themselves. In the case of complex and chronic communication and swallowing difficulties, it is likely that specialists such as paediatricians, neurologists, psychologists, occupational therapists and audiologists may also be involved in the client’s management in addition to the GP and speech pathologist. Please note that patients admitted to a hospital or day hospital facility do not qualify for Medicare rebates. Speech pathologists must be registered with Medicare Australia to accept patient referrals under this scheme. The Medicare - Allied Health Services initiative commenced on 1st July 2004 and allows patients under an Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) plan to gain access to Medicare rebates, for complex and chronic conditions, for up to 5 visits per year to an allied health provider. That’s a total of 5 visits per patient, not 5 visits per provider, and may be spread across different allied health services – for more information. The Helping Children with Autism Package is an initiative to assist families with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The initiative has two funding components: Medicare Rebates Medicare rebates for specialist and allied health services are now available to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or a condition which comes under the term Pervasive Developmental Disorder [PDD]) Up to four Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) services in total will be available for eligible allied health professionals, including speech pathologists, to collaborate with the referring practitioner in the diagnosis of a child (aged under 13 years) and/or the development of a child’s PDD treatment and management plan. A further twenty Medicare rebate services in total will also be available for eligible allied health professionals, including speech pathologists, to provide treatment to a child (aged under 15 years and who was under 13 years at the time of receiving their diagnosis from the specialist and the PDD treatment and management plan) for their particular condition, consistent with the treatment and management plan prepared by the referring practitioner. Early Intervention Multidisciplinary Programs funding The Helping Children with Autism package may also provide additional funding to ensure that children aged 0 to 6 years diagnosed with ASD have greater access to a range of early intervention services, including packages of individual assistance. Specifically the program provides: up to $12,000 ($6,000 per year for two years) in individual assistance for children, diagnosed with an ASD, and aged six years and under when eligibility is approved, and under 7 years of age when receiving service, to support the provision of structured and intensive early intervention services such as one-on-one intensive activities, behavioural therapies and tailored group and individual programs; up to 40 Autism Advisors to assist families and carers of children diagnosed with an ASD by providing specific information and referrals to the most appropriate early intervention services; and an additional $2000 for families in rural and remote areas to assist their child in benefits from early intervention. This will provide these families with options for accessing early intervention services, such as accommodation and travel to and from support, as well as training, respite and resources such as books and computers to access online information PlayConnect Playgroups – which targets children aged 0-6years with ASD or ASD like symptoms Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres – six centres are being established to provide early learning and specific support for children with ASD Early Days Family Workshops – aimed at providing support and resources for parents and carers of children with ASD. Further information can be obtained from the Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) who administers the early intervention component of the “Helping Children with Autism” package – for more information
How much can speech pathologists charge under a Medicare scheme?
The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) scheduled fee is set by Medicare for different item numbers. The Medicare rebate for the Chronic Disease Management Items is different from that under the Helping Children with Autism Items. The Medicare rebate often will not equal the usual fee for speech pathology services. Where the speech pathologist’s charge is above the scheduled fee they cannot bulk bill. The patient will need to take the fully paid account / receipt to Medicare to claim back the rebate amount and cover any gap amount themselves. The rebate is only payable for face-to-face consultations. There is no amount payable for care planning or paperwork prepared by the speech pathologist. It is important to note that once a claim is made to Medicare there is no private health insurance rebate available to the patient for that particular consultation. Therefore it is necessary for the patient to consider if they are financially better off continuing to claim on any private health insurance they may have instead of Medicare, depending on the out of pocket amount. It is also important to note that any gap amount payable qualifies towards the patient’s Medicare Safety Net. If a patient has claimed their full entitlement from Medicare for speech pathology services they may then revert to claiming under their private health insurance, providing they have not exceeded the annual limit under their particular ancillary plan.
My son was assessed at the local school by a speech pathologist – should we be given a report on what was found Speech pathologists should document information relating to any assessment performed?
This information may be provided to you, and where your consent is provided, this information may be forwarded to other health and educational service providers.
Do I need a referral from the doctor before seeing the speech pathologist?
Generally, a referral to a speech pathologist is not necessary. A self referral is adequate. However, some public health services (ie hospitals) do require a referral from a GP or other specialist. To access a Medicare rebate, a referral from the GP or relevant medical specialist will be necessary. A specific GP referral will also be necessary to access speech pathology services under the Department of Veterans Affairs and Motor Accident and Workcover Authority programs.