- About half work in educational services, and most others were
employed by health care and social assistance facilities.
- A masterís degree in speech-language pathology is the standard
credential required for licensing in most States.
- Employment is expected to grow because the expanding population
in older age groups is prone to medical conditions that result
in speech, language, and swallowing problems.
- Excellent job opportunities are expected.
Speech-language pathologists, sometimes called speech therapists,
assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent speech, language,
cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other
Speech-language pathologists work with people who cannot produce
speech sounds, or cannot produce them clearly; those with speech
rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering; people with voice
disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice; those with
problems understanding and producing language; those who wish
to improve their communication skills by modifying an accent;
and those with cognitive communication impairments, such as attention,
memory, and problem solving disorders. They also work with people
who have swallowing difficulties.
Speech, language, and swallowing difficulties can result from
a variety of causes including stroke, brain injury or deterioration,
developmental delays or disorders, learning disabilities, cerebral
palsy, cleft palate, voice pathology, mental retardation, hearing
loss, or emotional problems. Problems can be congenital, developmental,
or acquired. Speech-language pathologists use qualitative and
quantitative assessment methods, including standardized tests,
as well as special instruments, to analyze and diagnose the nature
and extent of speech, language, and swallowing impairments. Speech-language
pathologists develop an individualized plan of care, tailored
to each patientís needs. For individuals with little or no speech
capability, speech-language pathologists may select augmentative
or alternative communication methods, including automated devices
and sign language, and teach their use. They teach these individuals
how to make sounds, improve their voices, or increase their oral
or written language skills to communicate more effectively. They
also teach individuals how to strengthen muscles or use compensatory
strategies to swallow without choking or inhaling food or liquid.
Speech-language pathologists help patients develop, or recover,
reliable communication and swallowing skills so patients can fulfill
their educational, vocational, and social roles.
Speech-language pathologists keep records on the initial evaluation,
progress, and discharge of clients. This helps pinpoint problems,
tracks client progress, and justifies the cost of treatment when
applying for reimbursement. They counsel individuals and their
families concerning communication disorders and how to cope with
the stress and misunderstanding that often accompany them. They
also work with family members to recognize and change behavior
patterns that impede communication and treatment and show them
communication-enhancing techniques to use at home.
Most speech-language pathologists provide direct clinical services
to individuals with communication or swallowing disorders. In
medical facilities, they may perform their job in conjunction
with physicians, social workers, psychologists, and other therapists.
Speech-language pathologists in schools collaborate with teachers,
special educators, interpreters, other school personnel, and parents
to develop and implement individual or group programs, provide
counseling, and support classroom activities. Some speech-language
pathologists conduct research on how people communicate. Others
design and develop equipment or techniques for diagnosing and
treating speech problems.
Speech-language pathologists usually work at a desk or table
in clean comfortable surroundings. In medical settings, they may
work at the patientís bedside and assist in positioning the patient.
In school settings they may work with students in an office or
classroom. Some deliver services in the clientís home. While the
job is not physically demanding, it requires attention to detail
and intense concentration. The emotional needs of clients and
their families may be demanding. Most full-time speech-language
pathologists work 40 hours per week; about 1 in 5 work part time.
Those who work on a contract basis may spend a substantial amount
of time traveling between facilities.
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
In 2005, 47 States required speech-language pathologists to be
licensed if they worked in a health care setting, and all States
required a masterís degree or equivalent. A passing score on the
national examination on speech-language pathology, offered through
the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service, is needed
as well. Other requirements typically are 300 to 375 hours of
supervised clinical experience and 9 months of postgraduate professional
clinical experience. Forty-one States have continuing education
requirements for licensure renewal. Medicaid, Medicare, and private
health insurers generally require a practitioner to be licensed
to qualify for reimbursement.
Only 11 States require this same license to practice in the public
schools. The other States issue a teaching license or certificate
that typically requires a masterís degree from an approved college
or university. Some States will grant a temporary teaching license
or certificate to bachelorís degree applicants, but a masterís
degree must be earned in 3 to 5 years. A few States grant a full
teacherís certificate or license to bachelorís degree applicants.
In 2004, 239 colleges and universities offered graduate programs
in speech-language pathology that are accredited by the Council
on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
While graduation from an accredited program is not always required
to become a speech-language pathologist, it may be helpful in
obtaining a license or may be required to obtain a license in
some States. Courses cover the anatomy, physiology, and the development
of the areas of the body involved in speech, language, and swallowing;
the nature of disorders; acoustics; and psychological aspects
of communication. Graduate students also learn to evaluate and
treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders and receive supervised
clinical training in communication disorders.
Speech-language pathologists can acquire the Certificate of Clinical
Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. To earn a CCC, a
person must have a graduate degree and 400 hours of supervised
clinical experience, complete a 36-week postgraduate clinical
fellowship, and pass the Praxis Series examination in speech-language
pathology administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
Speech-language pathologists should be able to effectively communicate
diagnostic test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatment in
a manner easily understood by their patients and their families.
They must be able to approach problems objectively and be supportive.
Because a patientís progress may be slow, patience, compassion,
and good listening skills are necessary.
As speech-language pathologists gain clinical experience and
engage in continuing professional education, many develop expertise
with certain populations, such as preschoolers and adolescents,
or disorders, such as aphasia and learning disabilities. Some
may obtain board recognition in a specialty area, such as child
language, fluency, or feeding and swallowing. Experienced clinicians
may become mentors or supervisors of other therapists or be promoted
to administrative positions.
Speech-language pathologists held about 96,000 jobs in 2004.
About half were employed in educational services, primarily in
preschools and elementary and secondary schools. Others were employed
in hospitals; offices of other health practitioners, including
speech-language pathologists; nursing care facilities; home health
care services; individual and family services; outpatient care
centers; and child day care centers.
A few speech-language pathologists are self-employed in private
practice. They contract to provide services in schools, offices
of physicians, hospitals, or nursing care facilities, or work
as consultants to industry.
Employment of speech-language pathologists is expected to grow
about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year
2014. As the members of the baby boom generation continue to age,
the possibility of neurological disorders and associated speech,
language, and swallowing impairments increases. Medical advances
are also improving the survival rate of premature infants and
trauma and stroke victims, who then need assessment and possible
treatment. An increased emphasis also has been placed on early
identification of speech and language problems in young children.
The combination of growth in the occupation and an expected increase
in retirements over the coming years should create excellent job
opportunities for speech-language pathologists. Opportunities
should be particularly favorable for those with the ability to
speak a second language, such as Spanish.
In health care facilities, restrictions on reimbursement for
therapy services may limit the growth of speech-language pathologists
in the near term. However, over the long run, the demand for therapists
should continue to rise as growth in the number of individuals
with disabilities or limited function spurs demand for therapy
Employment in educational services will increase along with growth
in elementary and secondary school enrollments, including enrollment
of special education students. Federal law guarantees special
education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities.
Greater awareness of the importance of early identification and
diagnosis of speech and language disorders will also increase
The number of speech-language pathologists in private practice
will rise due to the increasing use of contract services by hospitals,
schools, and nursing care facilities.
Median annual earnings of speech-language pathologists were $52,410
in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,090 and
$65,750. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,720, and the
highest 10 percent earned more than $82,420. Median annual earnings
in the industries employing the largest numbers of speech-language
pathologists in May 2004 were:
|Offices of other health practitioners
|General medical and surgical hospitals
|Elementary and secondary schools
According to a 2003 survey by the American Speech-Language-Hearing
Association, the median annual salary for full-time certified
speech-language pathologists who worked on a calendar-year basis,
generally 11 or 12 months annually, was $48,000. Certified speech-language
pathologists who worked 25 or fewer hours per week had a median
hourly salary of $40.00. Starting salaries for certified speech-language
pathologists with one to three years of experience were $42,000
for those who worked on a calendar-year. According to a 2004 survey
by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the median
annual salary for speech-language pathologists in schools was
$50,000 for those employed on an academic year basis (usually
9 or 10 months).
Speech-language pathologists specialize in the prevention, diagnosis,
and treatment of speech and language problems. Workers in related
occupations include audiologists, occupational therapists, optometrists, physical therapists, psychologists,
and recreational therapists.
Speech-language pathologists in school systems often work closely
with special education teachers
in assisting students with disabilities.
|Sources of Additional Information
State licensing boards can provide information on licensure requirements.
State departments of education can supply information on certification
requirements for those who wish to work in public schools.
For information on careers in speech-language pathology, a description
of the CCC-SLP credential, and a listing of accredited graduate
programs in speech-language pathology, contact:
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 10801 Rockville
Pike, Rockville, MD 20852. Internet: http://www.asha.org/
of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,