Speech-language pathologists are professionals capable of assessing and treating people with trouble communicating. They can leverage their understanding of how speech and social communication work to help individuals make corrections that allow them to share their thoughts and feelings more effectively.
The following guide contains crucial information about speech-language pathology, including a broad overview of what the profession entails, the work environment, specific duties and responsibilities, and, of course, the salary ranges and career projections.
We have also included a brief overview of how to become a speech-language pathologist to help future professionals in the field prepare for the journey.
What Do Speech-Language Pathologists Do?
Speech-language pathologists work with people who have communication disorders. Their primary duties involve assessing and diagnosing such conditions while also being able to prevent them from happening or treat those who already have them.
A Speech-Language pathologist is capable of helping individuals with either speech or language disorders. Now, while both may seem similar, there are a few subtle differences to note.
While speech disorder involves having difficulty producing speech sounds, language disorder involves having difficulty understanding and sharing ideas. The latter may also include having difficulty writing and using language appropriately.
Other forms of disorders that Speech-Language pathologists work on include social communication disorders, cognitive-communication disorders, and swallowing disorders or dysphagia.
Typically, speech-language pathologists work in various institutions and establishments, including schools and hospitals. Those who work in academia usually do so to teach and educate the public on crucial aspects of the field, while those who work in hospitals or private practice deal directly with patients.
Usually, speech-language pathologists work full-time, although it is possible to work part-time as well. Along with educational Services and hospitals, it is also possible for a Speech-Language pathologist to be self-employed. The job may also require working as part of a team and traveling occasionally.
As of 2022, there were around 171,400 Speech-Language pathologists in the country.
Duties & Responsibilities
The following are some of the most common tasks and responsibilities that Speech-Language pathologists have to carry out during a day’s work.
- Evaluating and diagnosing disorders involving speech, communication, swallowing, and language,
- Treating such disorders,
- Providing education and awareness to the family as well as to other professionals,
- Working as part of a team and collaborating with other professionals from several medical disciplines,
- Engaging in research to improve our understanding of human communication,
- Engaging in research to formulate novel treatment methods for more effective results
- Training and supervising a team of support personnel,
- Providing services as consultants and counselors.
How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist
The following are the steps involved in becoming a Speech-Language pathologist.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The most crucial part of becoming a Speech-Language pathologist is to earn a graduate degree and complete the clinical experience requirements. However, to gain admission into a graduate program, candidates must first acquire a bachelor’s degree.
Typically, programs ask for a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. However, it is possible for those who studied in other areas to secure admission into a postgraduate program by taking prerequisite courses.
Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree
There are several master’s programs in speech-language pathology nationwide, each with varying requirements. Candidates are advised to take as much time as possible to understand these requirements before they proceed with their application.
Additionally, when choosing a program, it is essential to go for those accredited by the CAA (Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.) This makes certification easier by guaranteeing standard academic and clinical education.
Step 3: Earn Certification
Candidates applying for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) need to fulfill a handful of requirements, including having a graduate degree. Additionally, they must also complete the clinical experience requirements and pass a standardized examination.
Step 4: Earn a PhD (Optional)
A PhD is not compulsory to become a Speech-Language pathologist. However, those who wish to work in academia and research, along with those who want to seek employment in private practice, are well advised to work towards having their Ph.D.
Step 5: Secure Employment
After all of the above steps have been completed, candidates may seek employment in their preferred healthcare settings. The available options include private practice, colleges and universities, non-residential healthcare facilities, children’s hospitals, and k12 schools, among others.
Salaries and Career Outlook
According to the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2022, the median salary for speech-language pathologists in the entire country is $84,140. Speech-language pathologists who earned the most earned an average annual wage of $56,370. At the same time, those who fell into the bottom ten percent of earners still managed an average yearly salary of $56,370.
According to the BLS, the top destination to earn a higher salary as a speech-language pathologist is to work in a nursing and residential care facility. Professionals here take home an average annual wage of $101,320. This is followed by hospitals with an average yearly salary of $96,830 and private offices with an average annual wage of $93,600.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also predicts that demand for Speech-Language pathologists in the country will increase by 19% between 2022 and 2032. This figure is much higher than the average projection for other occupations.
At this rate, there will be around 13,200 job openings for Speech-Language pathologists every year. Of course, a few of these will be as a result of replacing old workers who have retired or moved on to different fields. But a lot of it will also be as a result of the baby boom population growing older, causing speech impairment.
Increasing awareness of the condition will also lead to people seeking treatment at a higher frequency, thereby increasing the need for qualified professionals in the field.