Speech-Language Pathologists

Career, Salary and Education Information

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Top 3 Speech-Language Pathologist Jobs

  • Speech Language Pathologist - The Reading and Language Learning Center - Vienna, VA

    We are conveniently located in Vienna, Virginia, with a second location in Washington, D.C. Our services include 1:1 therapy, group therapy, and

  • Speech Language Pathologist - Speech Pathology Group - San Francisco, CA

    SPGs widespread recognition for providing quality diagnostic and intervention services is a direct result of its unique employee mentoring program

  • Speech Language Pathologist - Beth Ingram Therapy Services - Tampa, FL

    Our extensive involvement with the medical community, as well as with public and private schools, allows us to develop a comprehensive treatment plan

See all Speech-Language Pathologist jobs

What Speech-Language Pathologists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults. Speech, language, and swallowing disorders result from a variety of causes, such as a stroke, brain injury, hearing loss, developmental delay, Parkinson's disease, a cleft palate, or autism.

Duties of Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists typically do the following:

  • Evaluate levels of speech, language, or swallowing difficulty
  • Identify treatment options
  • Create and carry out an individualized treatment plan that addresses specific functional needs
  • Teach children and adults how to make sounds and improve their voices and maintain fluency
  • Help individuals improve vocabulary and sentence structure used in oral and written language
  • Work with children and adults to develop and strengthen the muscles used to swallow
  • Counsel individuals and families on how to cope with communication and swallowing disorders

Speech-language pathologists work with children and adults who have problems with speech and language, including related cognitive or social communication problems. They may be unable to speak at all, or they may speak with difficulty or have rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering. Speech-language pathologists may work with people who are unable to understand language or with those who have voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or a harsh voice.

Speech-language pathologists also must complete administrative tasks, including keeping accurate records and documenting billing information. They record their initial evaluations and diagnoses, track treatment progress, and note any changes in a individual's condition or treatment plan.

Some speech-language pathologists specialize in working with specific age groups, such as children or the elderly. Others focus on treatment programs for specific communication or swallowing problems, such as those resulting from strokes, trauma, or a cleft palate.

In medical facilities, speech-language pathologists work with physicians and surgeons, social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other healthcare workers. In schools, they evaluate students for speech and language disorders and work with teachers, other school personnel, and parents to develop and carry out individual or group programs, provide counseling, and support classroom activities. For more information on teachers, see the profiles on preschool teachers, kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, and special education teachers.

Work Environment for Speech-Language Pathologists[About this section] [To Top]

Speech-language pathologists hold about 145,100 jobs. The largest employers of speech-language pathologists are as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 43%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 20
Hospitals; state, local, and private 14
Nursing and residential care facilities 5
Self-employed workers 5

Speech-Language Pathologist Work Schedules

Most speech-language pathologists work full time. About 1 out of 4 work part time. Some speech-language pathologists, such as those working for schools, may need to travel between different schools or facilities.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Speech-Language Pathologists near you!

Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master's degree. Most states require that speech-language pathologists be licensed. Requirements vary by state.

Education for Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master's degree. Although master's programs do not require a particular undergraduate degree for admission, certain courses must be taken before entering a program. Required courses vary by institution.

Graduate programs often include courses in speech and language development, age-specific speech disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical experience.

The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, accredits education programs in speech-language pathology. Graduation from an accredited program is required for certification and, often, for state licensure.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Speech-Language Pathologists

All states regulate speech-language pathologists. Most states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed; other states require registration. Licensure typically requires at least a master's degree from an accredited program, supervised clinical experience, and passing an exam. For specific requirements, contact your state's medical or health licensure board.

Speech-language pathologists can earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP), offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Certification typically satisfies some or all of the requirements for state licensure and may be required by some employers. To earn CCC-SLP certification, candidates must graduate from an accredited program, pass an exam, and complete a fellowship under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist. To maintain the CCC-SLP credential, speech-language pathologists must complete 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years.

Speech-language pathologists who work in schools may need a specific teaching certification. For specific requirements, contact your state's department of education or the private institution in which you are interested.

Speech language pathologists may choose to earn specialty certifications in child language, fluency, or swallowing. Candidates who hold the CCC-SLP, meet work experience requirements, and pass a specialty certification exam may use the title Board Certified Specialist. Three organizations offer specialty certifications: American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders, American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders, and American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders.

Speech-Language Pathologist Training

Candidates can gain hands-on experience through supervised clinical work, which is typically referred to as a fellowship. This training is a type of internship in that prospective speech-language pathologists apply and refine the skills learned during their academic program under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist. The CCC-SLP certification requires candidates to complete a fellowship lasting at least 36 weeks.

Important Qualities for Speech-Language Pathologists

Analytical skills. Speech-language pathologists must select the most appropriate diagnostic tools and analyze results to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Communication skills. Speech-language pathologists need to communicate test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments in a way that individuals and their families can understand.

Compassion. Speech-language pathologists work with people who are often frustrated by their difficulties. Speech-language pathologists must support emotionally demanding individuals and their families.

Critical-thinking skills. Speech-language pathologists must adjust their treatment plans as needed, finding alternative ways to help.

Detail oriented. Speech-language pathologists must take detailed notes on progress and treatment.

Listening skills. Speech-language pathologists must listen to symptoms and concerns to decide on the appropriate course of treatment.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists is $74,680. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $116,810.

The median annual wages for speech-language pathologists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Nursing and residential care facilities $92,220
Hospitals; state, local, and private 81,090
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 80,580
Educational services; state, local, and private 65,540

Most speech-language pathologists work full time. About 1 out of 4 work part time. Some speech language pathologists, such as those working for schools, may need to travel between different schools or facilities.

Union Membership for Speech-Language Pathologists

Compared with workers in all occupations, speech-language pathologists have a higher percentage of workers who belong to a union.

Job Outlook for Speech-Language Pathologists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 18 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the large baby-boom population grows older, there will be more instances of health conditions such as strokes or dementia, which can cause speech or language impairments. Speech-language pathologists will be needed to treat the increased number of speech and language disorders in the older population.

Increased awareness of speech and language disorders, such as stuttering, in younger children should lead to a need for more speech-language pathologists who specialize in treating that age group. Also, an increasing number of speech-language pathologists will be needed to work with children with autism to improve their ability to communicate and socialize effectively.

In addition, medical advances are improving the survival rate of premature infants and victims of trauma and strokes, many of whom need help from speech-language pathologists.

Job Prospects for Speech-Language Pathologists

Overall job opportunities for speech-language pathologists are expected to be good. Generally, speech-language pathologists who are willing to relocate will have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Speech-Language Pathologists, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Speech-language pathologists 145,100 170,500 18 25,400


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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