Speech-Language Pathologists

Summary

speech language pathologists image
Speech-language pathologists working in schools may meet regularly with individual students or groups of students.
Quick Facts: Speech-Language Pathologists
2014 Median Pay $71,550 per year
$34.40 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 135,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 21% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 28,900

What Speech-Language Pathologists Do

Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in patients. 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.

Work Environment

Speech-language pathologists held about 135,400 jobs in 2014. About 2 out of 5 speech-language pathologists worked in schools in 2014. Most others worked in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree. They must be licensed in most states; requirements vary by state.

Pay

The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $71,550 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024, 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 cause speech or language impairments, such as strokes and hearing loss.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for speech-language pathologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of speech-language pathologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about speech-language pathologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Speech-Language Pathologists Do

Speech-language pathologists
Speech-language pathologists must be able to listen to and communicate with their patient in order to determine the right course of treatment.

Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in patients. 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 patients’ levels of speech, language, or swallowing difficulty
  • Identify treatment options
  • Create and carry out an individualized treatment plan that addresses patients’ specific functional needs
  • Teach patients how to make sounds and improve their voices
  • Work with patients to develop and strengthen the muscles used to swallow
  • Counsel patients and families on how to cope with communication and swallowing disorders

Speech-language pathologists work with patients who have problems with speech and language, including related cognitive or social communication problems. Their patients 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. They record their initial patient evaluations and diagnoses, track treatment progress, and note any changes in a patient’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 or a cleft palate.

In medical facilities, speech-language pathologists work with physicians and surgeons, social workers, psychologists, and other healthcare workers. In schools, they 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

Speech-language pathologists
Most speech-language pathologists work in schools or healthcare facilities.

Speech-language pathologists held about 135,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most speech-language pathologists were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 44%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 19
Hospitals; state, local, and private 13
Nursing and residential care facilities 5
Social assistance 4

About 2 out of 5 speech-language pathologists worked in schools in 2014. Most others worked in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals.

Work Schedules

Most speech-language pathologists work full time. About 1 out of 4 worked part time in 2014. 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

Speech-language pathologists
Some speech-language pathologists specialize in working with specific age groups, such as children.

Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree. They must be licensed in most states; 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

Almost all states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed. A license requires at least a master’s degree and supervised clinical experience. Many states require graduation from an accredited master’s program to get a license. 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 satisfies some or all of the requirements for state licensure and may be required by some employers.

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.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Speech-language pathologists must select the most appropriate diagnostic tools and analyze the 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 patients and their families can understand.

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

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

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

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

Pay

Speech-Language Pathologists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$75,430

Speech-language pathologists

$71,550

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $71,550 in May 2014. 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 $44,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $111,000.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for speech-language pathologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nursing and residential care facilities $88,920
Hospitals; state, local, and private 77,660
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 77,500
Social assistance 67,240
Educational services; state, local, and private 63,440

Most speech-language pathologists work full time. About 1 out of 4 worked part time in 2014. Some speech language pathologists, such as those working for schools, may need to travel between different schools or facilities.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, speech-language pathologists had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2014.

Job Outlook

Speech-Language Pathologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Speech-language pathologists

21%

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

17%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024, 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 and hearing loss that 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 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

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, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Speech-language pathologists

29-1127 135,400 164,300 21 28,900 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of speech-language pathologists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

Master's degree $78,810
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of the rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Doctoral or professional degree $82,390
Recreational therapists

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. These therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts; drama, music, and dance; sports and games; aquatics; and community outings to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Bachelor's degree $44,000
Audiologists

Audiologists

Audiologists diagnose, manage, and treat a patient’s hearing, balance, or ear problems.

Doctoral or professional degree $73,060
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $70,700

Contacts for More Information

For more information about speech-language pathologists, a description of the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) credential, and a list of accredited graduate programs in speech-language pathology, visit

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

State licensing boards have information about licensure requirements. State departments of education can provide information about certification requirements for those who want to work in public schools.

O*NET

Speech-Language Pathologists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Speech-Language Pathologists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm (visited February 09, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015