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
2012 Median Pay $69,870 per year
$33.59 per hour
Entry-Level Education Master’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 134,100
Job Outlook, 2012-22 19% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 26,000

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, a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, or emotional problems.

Work Environment

Speech-language pathologists held about 134,100 jobs in 2012. Most speech-language pathologists work full time and almost half work in schools.

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 $69,870 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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.

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, a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, or emotional problems.               

Duties

When diagnosing patients, speech-language pathologists typically do the following:

  • Communicate with patients to evaluate their levels of speech or language difficulty
  • Determine the extent of communication problems by having a patient complete basic reading and vocalizing tasks or by giving standardized tests
  • Identify treatment options
  • Create and carry out an individualized treatment plan

When treating patients, speech-language pathologists typically do the following:

  • Teach patients how to make sounds and improve their voices
  • Teach alternative communication methods, such as sign language, to patients with little or no speech capability
  • Work with patients to improve their ability to read and write correctly
  • Work with patients to develop and strengthen the muscles used to swallow
  • Counsel patients and families on how to cope with communication disorders

Speech-language pathologists work with patients who have problems with speech. Their patients may be unable to speak at all or they may speak with difficulty or have rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering. They may work with those who are unable to understand language or with people who have voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or a harsh voice.

Speech-language pathologists must also complete administrative tasks, including keeping accurate records. They record their initial patient evaluations and diagnoses, treatment progress, any changes in a patient’s condition or treatment plan, and, eventually, they complete a final evaluation when the patient finishes the therapy.

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 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
Almost half of all speech-language pathologists work in schools.

Speech-language pathologists held about 134,100 jobs in 2012. Almost half of all speech-language pathologists work in schools. Most others work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals. Some work in patients’ homes.

The industries that employed the most speech-language pathologists in 2012 were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private41%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists17
Hospitals; state, local, and private13
Nursing and residential care facilities5

Work Schedules

Most speech-language pathologists work full time. About 1 out of 4 worked part time in 2012. Those who work on a contract basis may spend a lot of time traveling between facilities.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists
Speech-language pathologists might work with patients of any age.

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

Education

The standard level of education for speech-language pathologists is a master’s degree. Although master’s programs do not specify a particular undergraduate degree for admission, certain courses must be taken before entering the program. Required courses vary by institution. Graduate programs often include courses in age-specific speech disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical practice in addition to coursework.

The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, accredits education programs in speech-language pathology. In 2012, the CAA accredited 253 master’s degree programs in speech-language pathology.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Speech-language pathologists must be licensed in almost all states. A license requires at least a master’s degree and supervised clinical experience. Some 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 licensure and may be required by some employers.

Important Qualities

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. The work of speech-language pathologists requires intense concentration because they must closely listen to what patients are able to say and then help them improve their speech.

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

Patience. Speech-language pathologists may work with people who achieve goals slowly and need close attention.

Pay

Speech-Language Pathologists

Median annual wages, May 2012

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$73,410

Speech-language pathologists

$69,870

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $69,870 in May 2012. 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 $44,380, and the top 10 percent more than $107,650.

Most speech-language pathologists work full time. Those who work on a contract basis may spend considerable time traveling between facilities to treat patients.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, speech-language pathologists had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook

Speech-Language Pathologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

20%

Speech-language pathologists

19%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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. More 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 also lead to a need for more speech-language pathologists who specialize in treating that age group.

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, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Speech-language pathologists

29-1127 134,100 160,100 19 26,000 [XLS]

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 2012 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 $75,400
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 rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries.

Doctoral or professional degree $79,860
Recreational therapists

Recreational Therapists

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

Bachelor’s degree $42,280
Audiologists

Audiologists

Audiologists diagnose and treat a patient’s hearing and balance problems using advanced technology and procedures.

Doctoral or professional degree $69,720
Psychologists

Psychologists

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

See How to Become One $69,280

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 listing 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, 2014-15 Edition, Speech-Language Pathologists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm (visited August 20, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014