Sometimes referred to as speech therapists, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work to help a variety of people with communication challenges by identifying, assessing and treating their condition.

Interested in a career as a speech-language pathologist? In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about SLPs, such as the job responsibilities, salaries, education requirements and more!

What is a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)? 

Speech-language pathologists work with people who experience speech and language-related problems and assess, monitor, and provide treatment for speech, language and voice disorders. The expertise of an SLP is used to help a wide range of people including those who have developmental disabilities, speak too quietly, speak too loudly, struggle to manage rhythm when speaking or cannot swallow correctly.

While all SLPs help people with speech and language issues, there are many areas of focus to specialize in, such as oral motor and feeding therapy, social skills training and non-verbal communication. SLPs can also specialize in providing treatment to specific age groups, like children.

What is a School-Based Speech-Language Pathologist?

School-based SLPs provide services to children with speech and language disorders in the school setting. SLPs who are employed by schools work with teachers, special educators, interpreters and parents to develop and implement programs for students who need speech therapy and treatment.

School-based speech-language pathologists play a very important role in students’ lives, helping them build the courage, confidence and skills needed to participate and be successful—both inside and outside of the classroom.

What is the Difference Between a Speech Therapist and a Speech-Language Pathologist? 

There’s no difference between a speech therapist and a speech-language pathologist. They perform the same role and require the same certifications, qualifications and education. Speech-language pathology is the field practiced by speech-language pathologists, and this job title is used interchangeably with “speech therapist.”

What Education Do You Need to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist? 

To become a speech-language pathologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area of study and a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. Once graduated, it is also required to complete a clinical fellowship year (CFY) where prospective SLPs can work under a mentor and gain practical experience before becoming a certified, independent SLP.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist? 

The path to becoming a speech-language pathologist looks different for everyone, but it generally takes six to nine years to become a certified SLP.

It will typically take four years to acquire a bachelor’s degree and an additional two years of postbaccalaureate study to obtain a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. SLPs must also take an examination to qualify for state licensure. This is usually done while obtaining a master’s degree. Next, prospective SLPs must complete roughly a year of clinical practice through the CFY.

Once the SLP has acquired their bachelor’s and master’s degree, passed a speech-language pathology examination and finished the clinical fellowship, they can apply for an ASHA certification and the state licensure required for the state they want to practice in.

Job Requirements in Speech-Language Pathology

In addition to the technical requirements, practicing speech-language pathology requires several soft skills. Here are some qualities and skills that are required to be an SLP:

  • Great communicator – While great communication skills are needed to help others communicate better, it’s also needed to help describe things like tests, diagnoses and treatments in a clear and appropriate way.  
  • Empathic – Speech-language pathologists need to express compassion and empathy in this field. They will need to listen closely to the challenges patients are facing and express understanding, ensuring that the patient feels that their voice is heard and that they are on track to find the right treatment with someone who holds their best interests at heart.
  • Attention to detail – From listening to a patient’s pronunciation to taking comprehensive notes, SLPs must be detail-orientated in every element of their role. This is important to ensure the patient is receiving the appropriate diagnosis and ongoing care.
  • Passionate – The best SLPs are truly passionate about the deeply rewarding work that they do. They should enjoy empowering people—whether elders or young children—to use their voices confidently and courageously.

What Does a Speech-Language Pathologist Do?

The day-to-day responsibilities of an SLP vary, with each day bringing new and exciting challenges, individuals and opportunities. The general responsibilities of an SLP include identifying conditions or speech problems, evaluating these conditions, formulating treatment plans and providing ongoing care and solutions.

SLPs that work with children may also administer early detection, prevention and intervention services for children with articulation, fluency, voice, language, communication, swallowing and related disabilities.

What Conditions Do Speech-Language Pathologists Treat?

There is a vast number of disorders and conditions that SLPs help to treat—ranging from impaired speech as a result of a stroke to helping young children with pronunciation. Below are some of the conditions that may be accompanied by language or speech issues that SLPs can help treat:

  • Deaf or hard of hearing
  • Apraxia
  • Neurological disorders and diseases
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dysphagia
  • Dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Autism spectrum disorder

How Much Do Speech-Language Pathologists Make?

The mean annual wage that speech-language pathologists make is $89,460, and the mean hourly wage is $43.01, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the exact salary of an SLP ranges greatly based on their location, the industry they work in, the type of facility they work in, their experience and if they are employed full-time or part-time.

Nationally, this is the mean annual wage for SLPs that work in different facilities:

  • Offices of other health practitioners – $ 94,060
  • General medical and surgical hospitals – $94,290
  • Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly – $104,150
  • Nursing care facilities – $103,160
  • Specialty hospitals – $99,960
  • Elementary and secondary schools – $80,240
  • Educational support services – $86,320
  • Outpatient care centers – $118,520
  • Home health care services – $117,440

The top-paying states for speech-language pathologists are Hawaii, California, New York and New Jersey. The mean annual wage for SLPs who practice in these states ranges from $102,200 to $110,470.

What is the Starting Salary for an SLP?

The starting salary for an SLP also depends on their location, industry, facility and prior experience or qualifications. Nationally, it is estimated that new SLPs can expect to make somewhere between $56,370 and $84,140 with limited prior work experience—90% of all SLPs make over $56,370 a year.

What SLPs Can Earn at Different Stages of Their Career

As speech-language pathologists develop and advance in their career paths, there is a great opportunity for salary growth.

With the median annual wage for SLPs being $84,140—75% of SLPs earn over $66,770 a year; 25% earn over 104,500 a year; and 10% make over $126,680 a year.

Careers in Speech-Language Pathology | FAQs

Below, explore some FAQs about where SLPs work, where they’re needed the most, the job outlook and more.

Where Can Speech-Language Pathologists Work?

Most SLPs work in health practitioner offices, but SLPs are also employed in medical and surgical hospitals, retirement communities, assisted living facilities for the elderly, skilled nursing care facilities, specialty hospitals, public and private schools, outpatient care centers, home health services and more.

What is the Job Outlook for SLPs?

The national job outlook for SLPs is very promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 28.7% between 2020 and 2030, with an estimated 15,200 job openings each year.

Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, New York, Arkansas, Nevada, Utah and Texas are predicted to have the greatest employment growth between 2020 and 2030. Employment of SLPs in each of these states is projected to increase by over 35%.

What are the Top States in Need of SLPs?

The states that will have the largest growth in job openings between now and 2024 are Tennessee, Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas. Each of these states will see over a 6.5% increase in job openings by 2024.

Where to Find SLP Jobs

Here at ProCare Therapy, we greatly appreciate the work you do as an SLP. To show our appreciation, we’d be honored to help you take the next step in your SLP career path.

If you are a graduate looking for fellowship opportunities, the ProCare Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship Program is a perfect way to find the right role for you, and you’ll receive the support and guidance you need throughout the process. If you’re an SLP looking for new opportunities, we invite you to explore our various job openings for talented SLPs nationwide!