A speech-language pathologist assesses, diagnoses and treats patients who have difficulty communicating through speech. The standard level of education needed to be a licensed speech-language pathologist in most states is at least a master’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those with either Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree can be accepted into a master’s program because this field requires a strong arts and science background, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Universities across the U.S. offer both B.A. and B.S. degrees in speech-language pathology. Both degrees help you understand the processes of human development and communication and how these processes can be impaired. During your undergraduate studies in speech-language pathology, you will take classes with a strong scientific and clinical background so that you can understand and treat communication disorders.
Bachelor of Arts or Science?
Historically, the distinction between a B.A. and B.S. was based on Latin, according to Mark Sullivan, legal information librarian and lecturer in law at Boston College. If a student took Latin, he got a B.A.; otherwise he received a B.S. Nowadays, the distinction between a B.A. and B.S. is more obvious. Both programs can be rigorous; a B.A. tends to include a variety of career interests, while a B.S. is more narrowly focused. Bachelor of Science degrees tend to focus exclusively on sciences and technology, while B.A. degrees allow students to develop other topics such as business, ethics, law and political science.
While you can receive both types of degrees for speech-language pathology, a B.S. is more common because this is a medical field. If you do receive a B.A. degree for speech-language pathology, you may have to take additional science and math courses along with your core curriculum and general electives. If you are working toward your master’s degree and a license in speech-language pathology, many graduate programs require undergraduate prerequisite courses. To avoid unnecessarily increasing the length of your studies, select a program that includes these courses. Examples of grad school prerequisites for the Master of Arts program in speech-language pathology at the University of Iowa include theory and application of phonetics, introduction to hearing science, basic neuroscience for speech and hearing and anatomy and physiology of speech production.
At the University of Texas Dallas, to receive a B.S. in speech-language pathology, students must complete 42 hours from the university’s core curriculum, 39 hours in speech-language pathology and 39 hours of electives. Students are encouraged to select electives in psychology to complement their coursework. At the University of North Texas, which offers a B.A. in speech-language pathology, students must complete 42 hours from the core curriculum, 39 hours in speech-language pathology, four total additional math, biology, chemistry and physics courses and 18 hours of electives.
At the University of Texas Dallas and the University of North Texas, the core curriculum is similar. Both schools require students to take courses in English, mathematics, sciences, history, politics and humanities. The main difference is that B.S. students are advised to take electives that complement their coursework while B.A. students are advised to take electives that are outside of speech and hearing sciences.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Fact Sheet for Speech-Language Pathology
- Boston College: Bachelor of Arts? Or Science? It's All a Matter of Degrees
- St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
- University of Texas Dallas: Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
- University of North Texas: Speech-Language Pathology/Audiology, BA
- The University of Iowa: Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders: Prerequisites / Waiver of Coursework
- University of North Texas: General University Requirements
- University of North Texas: Core Curriculum
- Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images