Speech-Language Pathologist

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Average Salary Range: $60,000 to $79,999

Average Hourly: $ 37.26

Education Minimum: Master's degree

Number of Jobs: 153700

Jobs Added to 2028: 41900

Growth: Much faster than average

What Speech-Language Pathologists Do

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

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 special education teachers.

Work Environment

Some speech-language pathologists work in schools. Most others worked in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals.

Work Environment Details

Speech-language pathologists held about 153,700 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of speech-language pathologists were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 40%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 23
Hospitals; state, local, and private 14
Nursing and residential care facilities 5
Self-employed workers 3

Work Schedules

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

Job Outlook

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 27 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the large baby-boom population grows older, there will be more instances of health conditions that can cause speech or language impairments, such as strokes or dementia.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

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

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

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.

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

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.

Source:

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Speech-Language Pathologists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm (visited ).