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Master's in Speech Pathology: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a speech pathologist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is A Speech Pathologist?

Speech pathologists work with patients who have speech, language and swallowing disorders. They evaluate clients, develop treatment plans, and teach techniques to improve communication skills. These professionals also teach clients how to make certain sounds and develop the muscles that are used for speech and swallowing. Speech pathologists also counsel clients and families and keep them informed about progress or treatment changes.

The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Speech-language pathology
Key Responsibilities Evaluate extent and nature of speech or language problems; devise and implement treatment plan; teach exercises and techniques to develop and strengthen speech and swallowing muscles; teach alternative communication methods
Licensure and/or Certification Most states require licensure; professional certification may be required for licensure and may be preferred by employers
Job Growth (2018-2028) 27% growth*
Median Salary (2018) $77,510*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Speech Pathology?

With a master's degree in speech pathology, you are eligible to practice in a range of health care settings. Many speech pathologists work with students in schools, including preschools, elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools. You may also work in hospitals, clinics, health practitioners' offices, daycare centers, nursing care facilities, speech and language centers and patients' homes. Alternatively, you could work independently in private practice as a consultant or on a contract basis providing services in various health care facilities.

Depending on your interests and career goals, you might pursue a specialty within the speech pathology profession, such as working with a specific age group or disorder. With experience, you may become a mentor, supervisor or manager to other speech pathologists within a health care facility. Some speech pathology professionals use their training to pursue careers in related industries, such as audiology, counseling, special education, disability law or hospital administration.

Will I Need To Be Licensed?

To work as a professional speech pathologist, most states require that you obtain licensure. Most states require a master's degree from an accredited program in order to qualify for licensure. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) Council on Academic Accreditation accredits degree programs in speech-language pathology that meet many of these state requirements (www.asha.org). In addition to a master's degree from an accredited program, state licensure requirements may also include passing a national exam, gaining supervised clinical experience and having professional postgraduate work experience.

Will I Need Certification?

Some states require that you obtain ASHA's Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) certificate as part of the licensing process. Certification requirements include a graduate degree in speech pathology and clinical experience. To maintain certification, you'll need to complete some form of professional development or continuing education every few years.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

Your job responsibilities will involve assessing, diagnosing and treating individuals with speech-related disorders. To do this, you may use special instruments, technology, physical examinations and language tests. You'll work directly with individuals who have various problems, such as trouble swallowing, an inability to produce sounds correctly or stuttering impediments. You'll keep records of patients' progress to determine individual needs. You may also provide counseling to family members and recommend effective ways of communicating at home.

If you work in a school, you will consult with teachers, special education teachers, interpreters and parents to develop programs and assist students in classroom settings. In a medical facility, you may work closely with physicians, social workers, psychologists and other therapists in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Some speech pathologists work in laboratories to conduct research and develop new tools for treating speech disorders.

How Much Can I Expect to Earn?

Your salary can vary according to your place of employment, level of experience and credentials. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of speech-language pathologists was $77,510 in May of 2018 (www.bls.gov). Speech-language pathologists working in management of companies and enterprises had the highest mean salary at $104,450 a year. Speech pathologists working in primary and elementary schools earned $72,480, while those working in home health care earned an average of $84,740 annually.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Audiology, physical therapy, and recreational therapy are a few alternative career fields. Audiologists work with patients dealing with hearing impairments, while physical therapists provide therapy that aids patients recovering from injuries or illnesses. Recreational therapists may work in community centers or healthcare facilities to provide recreation-focused therapy plans to those dealing with injuries or other health conditions. Recreational therapists need a bachelor's degree to work in the field, and a doctorate is necessary to be an audiologist or physical therapist.