Looking to marry your expertise in communication with a passion for helping people? A career in speech pathology may be perfect for you. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, evaluate, and treat speech, language, and swallowing problems. The SLP domain includes a diverse patient population and an equally diverse set of disorders, covering everything from communicative disorders among adults, speech and fluency issues common among elderly stroke victims, and even life-threatening feeding and swallowing problems affecting premature infants.
This wide array of patients translates to a plethora of careers for a speech pathologist, from clinical settings to the classroom and more.
The attributes of speech-language pathologists extend beyond their knowledge of communicative sciences and disorders. They also have compassion for those struggling with speech and language disorders, the patience to help those they work with achieve their goals, and a genuine desire to make a difference in the world. If this sounds like you, there are speech pathology careers to turn your inherent empathy into a full-time job.
- Emerson College offers a Master's in Speech-Language Pathology online - Prepare to become an SLP in as few as 20 months. No GRE required. Scholarships available.
- NYU Steinhardt's Master of Science in Communicative Sciences and Disorders online - ASHA-accredited. GRE and bachelor's degree required. Graduate prepared to pursue licensure.
- Calvin University’s online Master of Speech-Language Pathology degree program - Prepares you to become a certified speech-language pathologist.
Strong Job Growth in a High-Demand Field
If you’re considering SLP as a career and wondering, “What is the demand for speech pathologists?” there’s excellent news: the speech-language pathologist job outlook is quite strong. According to 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the job market for speech pathologists is expected to grow by 25% over the next decade, making it an incredibly promising field for potential therapists. Consider these statistics from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders that highlight this demand for speech-language pathologists in the U.S.:
- Nearly 1 in 12 U.S. children (ages 3-17) has had a disorder related to speech, language, voice, or swallowing in the past 12 months.
- An estimated 17.9 million U.S. adults (ages 18 and older) reported having a problem with their voice in the past 12 months.
- About 5 percent of U.S. children (ages 3-17) have a speech disorder that lasted for a week or longer in the past 12 months.
- More than 3 million Americans stutter.
- Nearly 180,000 Americans acquire aphasia (the loss of ability to use or understand language) every year; about 1 million Americans currently have aphasia.
Why are speech pathology careers on the rise? Factors contributing to the growing demand include:
- An expanding population of older Americans
- Increased survival rates among those who have experienced strokes and other issues that affect speech
- Early identification and diagnosis
- Increased elementary and secondary school enrollment
Speech-language pathology jobs are dynamic and varied, as these professionals work in a variety of roles and settings with many different population groups and people of all ages. Perhaps the most unique characteristic of the speech-language pathology profession is the wide variety of settings in which speech therapy is applied, as well as the many people and patient populations that benefit from it.
Thanks to the evolving nature of therapeutic technology, assessment, intervention methods and procedures, and an increased emphasis on prevention, the demand for this personally rewarding and intellectually stimulating profession continues to increase.
Speech Pathology Graduate Programs by State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Types of Speech-Language Pathology Jobs
Speech-language pathologists focus on a range of human communication and swallowing disorders for people of all ages, from pediatrics to geriatrics. Their broad scope of practice encompasses the prevention, assessment, habilitation/rehabilitation, enhancements, and the scientific investigation of communication and swallowing. A few examples of speech pathology careers include:
- Pediatric speech therapist: You’ll work with children who need extra assistance with communication, whether it’s working on pronunciation, vocabulary, or even swallowing/feeding issues that are inhibiting language performance.
- Adult speech therapist: Your patients may include adults with brain trauma or those with speech-inhibiting illnesses.
- Fluency disorder specialist: You’ll help people of all ages with speech issues like stuttering and other disruptions to normal speech patterns.
- Forensic speech-language pathologist: You’ll serve as an expert witness in both civil and criminal cases, lending your expertise to help explain speech difficulties to a general population (i.e., a judge and jury) that otherwise may not understand highly specialized aspects of the case.
Speech-language pathologists provide services to individuals and groups in a wide variety of settings. You’ll find speech-language pathology in schools and daycare centers, hospitals and clinics, rehab centers, long-term care facilities, behavioral and mental health centers, and more. SLPs are also often found in settings not directly related to healthcare, such as correctional institutions, corporate offices, and research facilities.
According to BLS, the largest concentration of speech-language pathology jobs was in:
- Educational services, including state, local, and private
- Offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and audiologists
- Hospitals, including state, local, and private
- Nursing and residential care facilities
- Self-employed workers
Regardless of the practice setting or patient population an SLP may routinely work with, a career in speech-language pathology would virtually always involve some degree of:
- Clinical service
Speech-language pathologists provide an array of clinical services that range from counseling and consultation to screening, diagnosis, and treatment.
Some speech-language pathology job duties include:
- Collaborating with other professionals, including audiologists, palliative care teams, social workers, occupational therapists, and physicians.
- Conducting initial and ongoing assessments and evaluations
- Determining the appropriate delivery method for services (e.g., home, school, community, etc.)
- Making decisions regarding admission, eligibility, duration, and discharge
- Providing intervention and support services for patients with speech and language disorders
- Selecting and fitting adaptive devices for communication and swallowing
- Serving as case managers and service delivery coordinators and providing referrals to other professionals, agencies, or consumer organizations
Prevention and Advocacy
Advocacy and prevention activities are an important aspect of speech-language pathology jobs. Some ways in which SLPs contribute as advocates include:
- Promoting communication wellness and healthy lifestyle practices that can help prevent communication and swallowing disorders
- Presenting prevention information to individuals and groups at risk for communication disorders
- Providing early identification and early intervention services for at-risk individuals and groups
- Providing community awareness, health literacy, and education and training programs
- Advising regulatory and legislative agencies on emergency treatment for individuals with communication and swallowing disorders
- Advocating at the local, state, and national levels for improved policies regarding access to speech-language services
- Advocating at the local, state, and national levels for better funding of research activities related to speech-language pathology
- Actively participating in professional organizations as to contribute to best practices in the profession
Education, Research, and Administration
Even as clinicians, speech-language pathologists often serve in a multi-faceted role as educators, administrators, and researchers:
- Administering and managing clinical and academic programs
- Conducting research related to communication sciences and disorders and swallowing disorders
- Developing policies, operational procedures, and professional standards
- Educating and providing in-service training to families, caregivers, and other professionals
- Educating the public about communication and swallowing disorders
- Educating, supervising, and managing speech-language pathology assistants and other support personnel
- Educating, supervising, and mentoring current and future speech-language pathologists
Is Speech-Language Pathology a Good Career?
With its combination of increasing demand, generous and steady pay, and personally rewarding outcomes, speech pathology careers are excellent for those willing to dedicate time and patience to the job. When asked, “Do you enjoy the job as a speech-language pathologist?” current SLPs point to cherishing the opportunity to witness another person gain self-confidence and overcome serious challenges to finally grow into their own voice. Speech pathology careersalso offer a variety of specialties and practice settings, making it a perfect way to customize your career path to the aspects of the job that interest you the most.
Another benefit of careers for speech pathologists is the option of opening your own private practice. Speech-language pathology in private practice allows you to work with a client base of your own choosing and set your own hours. By focusing on cases that challenge your skill set and ignite your passion for helping others, you may find yourself even more enamored with your chosen profession.
How Much Does a Speech-Language Pathologist Make?
As the demand for speech-language pathology jobs has increased, so too has the compensation for these specialized skills. According to the BLS, the average speech-language pathology salary in 2020 was $80,480 with top earners bringing in more than $122,790 per year.
Of course, the pay for speech pathology careers is commensurate with your experience and any specialties you hold. It also varies based on the practice setting you work in, with the highest earners working in pediatric hospitals, skilled nursing centers, home health, and long-term acute care.
Your potential earnings also depend on your location—and you may be surprised at what state has the highest salary for a speech pathologist. The highest average salaries for speech pathologists were found in the Washington, DC, where they earned just over $101,900 per year in 2020. Connecticut and New Jersey round out the top three states, reporting an average of $100,590 and $100,330 respectively.
2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics job market and salary trends for Speech-Language Pathologists represent national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2021.
Alternative Career Options for Speech-Language Pathologists
With such an in-demand set of skills, there are a variety of options for working as a speech-language pathologist that don’t necessarily involve working as a therapist. Some of these speech pathology careers require extra skills or education, like knowing multiple languages or having a musical ear. A few examples include:
- Interpreter or translator: You’ll help facilitate communication between two parties by translating messages into different languages. This may involve spoken or written translation, or even body language interpretation.
- Linguist: As a linguist, you’ll study not only the workings of various spoken languages, but also written languages, as well. You’ll also dive into the history of the spoken and written word to bring understanding to various cultures, past, and present. A career as a linguist is a wonderful combination of a speech-language pathology job and a historian.
- Voice coach: A voice coach has a wide variety of fields in which to use their speech pathology skills. You can work with actors on accents and dialects, or with singers on using their vocal instruments without causing injury. You may also find opportunity to work with business leaders on reducing their natural accents to aid in clearer communication.
- Professor or academic researcher: In this role, you’ll help train and teach other speech pathologists entering the field, and/or study the industry to achieve advancements in treatment and diagnoses.
How Do You Become a Speech-Language Pathologist?
Before jumping headfirst into a speech pathology career, you’ll first need to have earned a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders. An undergraduate degree is a prerequisite for the SLP-specific master’s program you’ll need to complete to earn your state license.
Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s, you’ll then complete a graduate program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). This lets you apply for a temporary state license and complete a clinical fellowship. You’ll then take the national exam and apply for full state licensure. Jump over to our complete guide for additional details on how to embark upon your path to becoming an SLP.
Job Resources for Speech-Language Pathologists
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (AHSA) offers several resources for aspiring and current SLPs looking to explore job opportunities:
- The ASHA Online Career Center features both job and externship postings, as well as clinical fellow positions. Those new the field or otherwise looking for new opportunities can post their resume and apply to fill vacancies through the Career Center.
- The ASHA Leader features national job listings, arranged by state.
- ASHA’s Career Fair gives job seekers an opportunity to talk with prospective employers and even interview on the spot.
The federal government is a large employer of speech-language pathologists, particularly in administrative and clinical capacities. The U.S. military employs speech-language pathologists in both military and civilian positions. Other federal government employers of these professionals include:
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- Administration for Children and Families
- U.S. Department of Education
- Department of Health and Human Services
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Find a Speech Pathology Career Program
The first step toward embarking upon a career as a speech-language pathologist is finding the right accredited graduate program in your state. Your course will provide the education and qualifications you need to qualify for licensure, as well as opportunities to earn additional credentials like the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP).
Finding a CAA-accredited graduate program is simple through our state-by-state directory. Choose your state to see programs in your area, including whether you can earn your SLP credential online.