Linguistics Department offers new speech language pathology minor


Photo courtesy of Dr. Nielsen

Kerry Macintosh, class of 2021, writes symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet at the board. The Linguistics Department at OU is now offering a minor in speech language pathology.

Sarah Gudenau, Features Editor

The Linguistics Department at Oakland University has a new minor program in speech language pathology (SLP) that launched during the fall 2021 semester. The program prepares students for graduate studies in SLP and their careers in the field beyond education — in which they’ll work with a variety of patients “to evaluate, diagnose and treat speech, language and swallowing difficulties,” according to U.S. News. 

Department Chair and Associate Professor Kuniko Nielsen, Ph.D. took the initiative to create the minor in 2018. According to Dr. Nielsen, all the required courses for the SLP minor count toward the requirements of many SLP post-baccalaureate programs — with the exception of LIN 2201, Introduction to Linguistics. 

“Having an Intro to Linguistics course among the SLP requirements makes us [OU] stand out from other programs because our students will have a deeper understanding of human language,” Dr. Nielsen says. “Degrees in SLP are typically offered by departments such as Hearing and Speech or Communication Sciences and Disorders at most institutions. According to our alumni who became speech language pathologists, knowing linguistics helped them become better speech language pathologists.” 

Third year student Alivia English is graduating this spring from OU with a major in linguistics and a minor in SLP, with the goal of working as a medical speech language pathologist. She originally intended to graduate in three years because of the post-baccalaureate year that is required for many graduate programs, but she likely will no longer need to take that year with the new SLP minor. 

“With the SLP minor at Oakland, I will be able to get into some schools without taking any additional classes after I graduate,” English says. “Some schools I’ll have to take one or two classes this summer if I decide to go there, but this minor has definitely helped a lot with saving time and money for that extra year.” 

Additionally, up to 12 credits of overlap are allowed between a major in linguistics and a minor in SLP. Linguistics, though, is not the only major that can pair well with an SLP minor. 

The program has also seen psychology majors, and it may be attractive to communication students with an interest in American Sign Language. A faculty member from the School of Music, Theatre and Dance contacted Dr. Nielsen and explained that some vocalists are also interested in SLP — as they study the International Phonetic Alphabet in their classes. 

To become a speech language pathologist in Michigan, students must complete a graduate-level degree in SLP — which typically takes two years — before applying for licensure. 

Speech language pathologists may work in a variety of settings, including nursing and residential care facilities, hospitals, educational services and private practices. Salary varies depending on the work environment. 

According to Northeastern University, the number of speech language pathologists is expected to increase by approximately 25% between 2019 and 2029, which amounts to around 40,500 open positions in the next decade. 

“It is a meaningful job because you’re helping people communicate, but also in this economy, I think it’s quite special to have some skill set which pays right away,” Dr. Nielsen said.