American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Speech-Language Pathologists

About Speech-Language Pathology

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults.

  • Speech disorders occur when a person has difficulty producing speech sounds correctly or fluently (e.g., stuttering is a form of disfluency) or has problems with his or her voice or resonance.
  • Language disorders occur when a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings (expressive language). Language disorders may be spoken or written and may involve the form (phonology, morphology, syntax), content (semantics), and/or use (pragmatics) of language in functional and socially appropriate ways.
  • Social communication disorders occur when a person has trouble with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication. These disorders may include problems (a) communicating for social purposes (e.g., greeting, commenting, asking questions), (b) talking in different ways to suit the listener and setting, and (c) following rules for conversation and story-telling. All individuals with autism spectrum disorder have social communication problems. Social communication disorders are also found individuals with other conditions, such as traumatic brain injury.
  • Cognitive-communication disorders include problems organizing thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning, and/or problem-solving. These disorders usually happen as a result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or dementia, although they can be congenital.
  • Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) are feeding and swallowing difficulties, which may follow an illness, surgery, stroke, or injury.

Additionally, SLPs:

  • Provide aural rehabilitation for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Provide augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems for individuals with severe expressive and/or language comprehension disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder or progressive neurological disorders.
  • Work with people who don't have speech, language, or swallowing disorders, but want to learn how to communicate more effectively (e.g., work on accent modification or other forms of communication enhancement).

Careers in Speech-Language Pathology

SLPs work with the full range of human communication and swallowing disorders in individuals of all ages. SLPs:

  • Evaluate and diagnose speech, language, communication, and swallowing disorders.
  • Treat speech, language, communication, and swallowing disorders.
  • Provide training and education to family/caregivers and other professionals.
  • Work collaboratively with professionals from many other disciplines.

Additionally, SLPs may:

  • Prepare future professionals in colleges and universities.
  • Own or run clinics or private practices.
  • Work for national, state, or local associations or agencies.
  • Supervise and direct public school or clinical programs.
  • Engage in research to enhance knowledge about human communication processes and develop new assessment and treatment methods that may lead to more effective outcomes.
  • Provide counseling and consultative services.
  • Train and supervise support personnel.

Employment Settings

SLPs work in many different research, education, and health care settings with varying roles, levels of responsibility, and client populations. Because of the high demand for speech-language pathology services, part-time, full-time, and PRN (literally, pro re nata—in medicine, on an "as needed" basis) opportunities may be available depending on location, desired facility, employment flexibility, and other factors. In many settings, SLPs often work as part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team, which may include teachers, physicians, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, and rehabilitation counselors.

Salary Information

Salaries of SLPs depend on educational background, experience, work setting, and geographical location.

According to the 2013 ASHA Health Care Survey, annual salaries ranged from $70,000 to $90,000 for SLPs in health care settings. Those in administration may earn up to $90,000. The salaries for those who are paid an hourly wage range from $36 to $80.

According to the 2012 ASHA Schools Survey, salaries for those who worked an academic year were $59,000 to $65,000. Administrators/supervisors/directors who worked for a calendar year reported a median salary of $83,000.

Market Trends in SLP

Of the 160,000+ professionals whom ASHA represents, 141,847 are certified SLPs and 957 hold dual certification as both audiologists and SLPs. The profession continues to grow for a variety of reasons, including the rapid increase in aging populations, medical advances that improve the survival rate of preterm infants as well as trauma and stroke patients, growth in elementary- and secondary-school enrollments, and increasing demand in health care and private practice settings.

For more information about the job outlook for speech-language pathologists, visit the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Education Requirements

Applicants for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) must earn a graduate degree, successfully complete the required clinical experiences, and pass a national examination. In some areas, such as college teaching, research, and private practice, a PhD is desirable.

To earn the CCC-SLP, individuals must complete graduate course work and a clinical practicum at a college or university whose program is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). This assures graduates that their academic and clinical experience meets nationally established standards. Visit EdFind for more information.

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