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Speech-Language Pathologists

Summary

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Quick Facts: Speech-Language Pathologists
2020 Median Pay $80,480 per year
$38.69 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2020 158,100
Job Outlook, 2020-30 29% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 45,400

What Speech-Language Pathologists Do

Speech-language pathologists assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

Work Environment

Some speech-language pathologists work in schools. 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. Most states require that speech-language pathologists be licensed. Requirements vary by state.

Pay

The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $80,480 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 29 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 15,200 openings for speech-language pathologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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 About this section

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 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 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 About this section

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

Speech-language pathologists held about 158,100 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of speech-language pathologists were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 38%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 22
Hospitals; state, local, and private 14
Self-employed workers 6
Nursing and residential care facilities 4

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.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist About this section

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. 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 degree programs do not require a particular bachelor's degree for admission, they may require applicants to have taken certain courses in healthcare and related fields. Requirements vary by program.

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.

Pay About this section

Speech-Language Pathologists

Median annual wages, May 2020

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

$84,430

Speech-language pathologists

$80,480

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $80,480 in May 2020. 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 $50,370, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $122,790.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for speech-language pathologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nursing and residential care facilities $95,010
Hospitals; state, local, and private 87,110
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 83,250
Educational services; state, local, and private 71,410

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 About this section

Speech-Language Pathologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Speech-language pathologists

29%

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

12%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 29 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 15,200 openings for speech-language pathologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

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.

Employment projections data for speech-language pathologists, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Speech-language pathologists

29-1127 158,100 203,500 29 45,400 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 About this section

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 Help on Entry-Level Education 2020 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Audiologists Audiologists

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

Doctoral or professional degree $81,030
Occupational therapists Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

Master's degree $86,280
Physical therapists Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $91,010
Physician assistants Physician Assistants

Physician assistants practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers.

Master's degree $115,390
Psychologists Psychologists

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

See How to Become One $82,180
nurse anesthetists nurse midwives and nurse practitioners image Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare.

Master's degree $117,670
Recreational therapists Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses.

Bachelor's degree $47,710
Respiratory therapists Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema.

Associate's degree $62,810

Contacts for More Information About this section

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

For more information about specialty certifications, visit

American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders

American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders

American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders

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, Speech-Language Pathologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm (visited October 20, 2021).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

What They Do

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Work Environment

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How to Become One

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

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Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2020 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2020

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2020, which is the base year of the 2020-30 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2020-30

The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030. The average growth rate for all occupations is 8 percent.

Employment Change, 2020-30

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2020-30

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2020 to 2030.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

2020 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2020, the median annual wage for all workers was $41,950.