Bureau of Labor Statistics

Speech-Language Pathologists

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
2016 Median Pay $74,680 per year
$35.90 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, 2016 145,100
Job Outlook, 2016-26 18% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 25,400

Summary

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.

Work Environment

About 2 out of 5 speech-language pathologists worked in schools in 2016. 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 $74,680 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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.

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 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

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

Speech-language pathologists held about 145,100 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of speech-language pathologists were 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

Work Schedules

Most speech-language pathologists work full time. About 1 out of 4 worked part time in 2016. 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. 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.

Pay

Speech-Language Pathologists

Median annual wages, May 2016

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$77,980

Speech-language pathologists

$74,680

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $74,680 in May 2016. 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.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for speech-language pathologists in the top industries in which they worked were 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 worked part time in 2016. 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 2016.

Job Outlook

Speech-Language Pathologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Speech-language pathologists

18%

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

16%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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

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

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

Occupational Title

Speech-language pathologists

SOC Code29-1127
Employment, 2016145,100
Projected Employment, 2026170,500
Percent Change, 2016-2618
Numeric Change, 2016-2625,400
Employment by Industryemployment projections excel document 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.

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

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 2016 MEDIAN PAY
Audiologists

Audiologists

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

Doctoral or professional degree $75,980
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, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

Master's degree $81,910
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 $85,400
Physician assistants

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose, and treat patients.

Master's degree $101,480
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. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.

See How to Become One $75,230
nurse anesthetists nurse midwives and nurse practitioners image

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare. The scope of practice varies from state to state.

Master's degree $107,460
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 $46,410
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. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.

Associate's degree $58,670

Contacts for More Info

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

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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 November 01, 2017).

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