Speech Language Pathologist: Career, Outlook and Education Info

Research what it takes to become a speech language pathologist. Learn about job duties, education requirements, job outlook and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Bilingual and Multicultural Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Speech Language Pathologist?

Speech language pathologists, also referred to as speech therapists, help individuals with speech impediments. This includes assessing, diagnosing, treating and helping to prevent various issues with speech that may have resulted from disease, injury, autism and more. They will look at a person's ability to swallow and their levels of speech and language. They develop treatment plans and then carry out the plan that best fits an individual's needs.

These professionals may also work with the families of their patients to advise them how to cope with these disorders. Speech language pathologists often need to work with other healthcare workers and/or school staff to provide the best overall care for their patients. The following chart gives you an overview about a career as a speech language pathologist.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Speech therapy, speech language pathology
Key Responsibilities Assess level of patient's speech or swallowing disorder and make diagnosis; develop treatment plan; teach patient exercises and skills to strengthen speech and swallowing muscles and correct speech disorders; maintain record of patient progress
Licensure and/or Certification Almost all states require licensure; professional certification may be required by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 21%*
Median Salary (2015) $73,410*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Tasks Be as a Speech Language Pathologist?

Typically, you'll work in healthcare, education, rehabilitation or private practice settings. You'll work with patients to make sounds, use and strengthen facial muscles and compensate for developmental, congenital and medical issues. Other duties may include helping patients with stuttering and accents. You may also help patients who have conditions that cause them to have problems swallowing.

Tasks include compiling treatment plans and tracking progress, while working with family members or a team of teachers, doctors, audiologists or counselors to maximize communication skills. You may use things like computer devices or sign language to help you work with patients. Patients may be of all ages and seeking minor to comprehensive intervention.

What Is the Employment Outlook for this Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted employment growth of 21% in this profession for the period from 2014-2024. This outlook for employment is above average for all occupations due to medical advancements that have increased premature infant survival rates and increased the ability for individuals to recover from strokes, both of which may require speech therapy for the patient. Additionally, the growth of the older population adds to the need for more assistance in the area of speech and language. The increase in children enrolled in special education programs will add to the need for pathologists in school settings.

The BLS also reported that elementary and secondary schools employed the most speech-language pathologists as of May 2015; however, medical and diagnostic laboratories were the highest paying sector. The median salary for speech pathologists as of May 2015 was $73,410. The highest-paying states for this field were Connecticut, California and Alaska.

What Requirements Must I Meet?

The BLS stated that most states require a master's degree, typically in speech-language pathology, to become a licensed speech pathologist. You'll want to consider a degree that is heavy in anatomy, speech disorders, physiology and acoustics. Nearly all states required speech pathologists to have state licensure. States typically require the completion of an accredited master's degree program and passing the Praxis exam. Requirements for working within a school may vary from the general licensing requirements in some states.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) Council for Clinical Certification (CFCC) oversees a multi-step voluntary credentialing process for speech language pathologists that may be used in some states for licensing. Certification hinges on completion of an accredited master's degree, which should include 350-400 hours of clinical observation and patient contact. In addition, applicants must complete a 36-week Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship (SLPCF) and must pass the national Praxis exam. Some states impose additional regulations, tests or continuing education requirements.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Occupational therapy is a similar career that also requires a master's degree. Occupational therapists work with injured, ill or disabled patients to improve their skills used for everyday living, through therapy. Audiologists and physical therapists also are related alternatives, but require a doctoral or professional degree. Audiologists perform similar tasks as speech therapists, but with a patient's ears and hearing issues. Physical therapists are more similar to occupational therapists in that they work with injured, ill or disabled patients to improve their movement and manage pain.

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