Speech-language pathologists are health care professionals who identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems as well as swallowing disorders. They provide services to clients with disorders in the following areas:
Speech-language pathologists work with people all throughout the lifespan. Most people already know that speech-language pathologists help children pronounce sounds correctly. But speech-language pathologists do a lot more than that! Speech-language pathologists may also do any of the following jobs:
More than half of speech-language pathologists are employed in educational settings. Speech-language pathologists employed in educational settings may work in infant and toddler programs, preschools, and elementary and secondary schools.
Speech-language pathologists working in early intervention may do any of the following jobs:
Speech-language pathologists working in K–12 schools may do any of the following jobs:
More than a third of speech-language pathologists are employed in health care settings, including nonresidential health care facilities, hospitals, and residential health care facilities. Hospitals may provide services for patients of all ages, whereas some—such as children’s hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, and VA or military hospitals—may treat specific populations.
Speech-language pathologists working in health care facilities may do any of the following jobs:
Nearly one third of SLPs are employed full or part time in private practice. They may be owners, full-time employees, or contractors in a private practice, and they may provide direct clinical services, consultation, or administrative services.
Speech-language pathologists have opportunities for teaching, research, and clinical supervisory positions at colleges and universities. They may work with clients in the university clinical facility or its affiliated health care facility.
Specifically, speech-language pathologists with research doctoral degrees may do any of the following jobs:
Speech-language pathologists with a master’s degree may work as clinical supervisors for graduate students in university clinics.
Speech-language pathologists have consistently been in demand, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook predicting much faster than average growth in the projected percent change in employment. Jobs for speech-language pathologists abound across the United States, with positions available in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for speech-language pathologists consistently tops the median annual wage for all workers. In May 2019, the median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $79,120, almost twice as much as the median annual wage for all workers.
According to ASHA Member surveys, the salaries of speech-language pathologists vary depending on education, experience, work setting, and geographical location, with median salaries ranging from $66,000 to $80,000 in school settings and a median salary of $78,000 for health care settings, with a median salary of $100,000 for administrators or supervisors. For more information about salaries from ASHA Member surveys, visit Salary and Wage Data.
A master’s degree (e.g., MA/MS) is required to work independently as a speech-language pathologist.
A bachelor’s degree is required for admission to graduate school. Some master’s degree programs require that applicants have an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders (CSD), whereas other programs require applicants to take prerequisite coursework as part of the graduate program. Students can use EdFind, ASHA’s online search tool, to identify master’s programs in speech-language pathology and their requirements.
A speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA) is a person who, after appropriate training and demonstration of competency, performs delegated tasks that are prescribed, directed, and supervised by a certified and/or licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP). SLPAs may provide the following types of services (if permitted by state law and when the SLPA has demonstrated competence):
Read more about this exciting career option through ASHA’s Practice Portal page on speech-language pathology assistants.
Each state has different requirements regarding the regulation of SLPAs. Assistants may be required to be licensed, certified, or registered in order to work in various states. For information about regulations in your specific state, see the ASHA State-by-State information and select the "Support Personnel" subheading after choosing the individual state.
ASHA established the Assistants Certification Program and examination for SLPAs in 2020. This is a voluntary credential that establishes nationwide standards for assistants that will show employers that these standards have been met. To learn more about the Speech-Language Pathology Assistants Certification Program, visit the Assistants Certification site.