How To Become A Speech-Language Pathologist

A speech pathologist is also known as a speech-language pathologist or a speech therapist. They work with people who have a variety of speech and language disorders. They meet with patients, assess and diagnose, and work together to help treat patients.

They most often work with either young children or the elderly. This is a great career for people who enjoy teaching, have a passion for helping others, and want to work with either children or older adults. There are many steps involved to become a speech-language pathologist, including a master’s degree, examinations, and licensure.

Why Become A Speech-Language Pathologist

There are many reasons why people seek out speech-language pathologists. Parents may discover that their child has developmental delays and their speech and language is not appropriate for their age level. Some common issues include articulation, cognitive impairment, stuttering, swallowing problems, auditory processing disorder, voice disorders, oral feeding issues, and more. Almost half of all speech pathologists work with children, usually in a school setting.

Many older adults go to see speech-language pathologists. Stroke, dementia, concussion, trauma, and more can cause people to lose their normal ability to use language. A speech pathologist can help older adults get back on track with their speech.

Speech pathologists will meet with patients and diagnose their particular issues. They come up with an individualized treatment plan. They work with patients, usually in a one-on-one setting, teaching them how to improve their language and speech. This usually involves playing games or doing other activities related to speech, especially with young children.

Speech-Language Pathologists should possess the following qualities and skills:

Speech-Language Pathologist Work Environment

Almost half of all speech pathologists work an educational environment, such as an elementary or high school. In this setting, they work with young children or adolescents that have speech and language disorders. They spend time working directly with patients, usually in a one-on-one setting. They will play games or do activities to help the child work on their speech and language. They will meet with teachers and parents to let them know how the child is doing.

Other speech pathologists work in private offices, nursing homes, and hospitals. Many speech pathologists work with an elderly population. This is a full time position. They may need to travel between various schools or facilities to conduct their work.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salary

The median annual salary for speech pathologists was $74,680 in 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salary for speech language pathologists can vary greatly, depending on many factors, for example what kind of industry they are employed in. Those who work in residential care facilities and nursing homes earned on average $92,000 a year in 2016. On the other end of the spectrum, speech language pathologists who worked in schools earned $65,000. It is important to consider what kind of population you would like to serve when thinking about becoming a speech language pathologist.

Average Speech-Language Pathologist Annual Salary


The average annual salary for speech-language pathologists is $79,770 a year. Salaries start at $48,830 a year and go up to $118,910 a year.

Average Speech-Language Pathologist Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a speech-language pathologist is $38.35. Hourly wages are between $23.48 and $57.17 an hour.

Stats were based out of 142,360 employed speech-language pathologists in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Speech-Language Pathologists

Top Paying Cities For Speech-Language Pathologists

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Speech-Language Pathologist Career Outlook

Employment for speech pathologists is expected to increase by 18 percent from 2016 to 2026. This will lead to the creation of about 25,000 jobs in this profession. If you are interested in becoming a speech pathologist, there are good chances you will find a job in this field.

Today therapists are more aware of speech and language disorders, what causes them, and the effect that they have on our lives. Left untreated, speech pathologists know that these disorders can also interfere with other parts of our lives. Speech pathologists help children who have any number of speech and language disorders.

Speech-language pathologists can greatly help elderly patients who have had stroke or dementia. Speech pathologists can work with many different populations and this increases their career opportunities.

Speech-Language Pathologist Degree

While speech pathology is a rewarding career, there are a number of steps a person must follow before they can be hired. Read more below to learn how to become a speech-language pathologist.

Step 1: Undergraduate education. A bachelor’s degree is required in order to become a speech pathologist. A program in speech pathology or a related field is a great choice. Students will learn about speech and learning disorders, communication, speech anatomy, audiology, and human language development. It takes four years to receive a bachelor’s degree.

Step 2: Graduate education. A master’s degree in speech pathology is required for this profession. There are many schools that offer a master’s degree in this field. During a graduate program, students will take more advanced coursework. They will also have the opportunity to do clinical fieldwork. It takes an additional two years to earn a master’s degree.

Step 3: Supervised Clinical Experience. Clinical work is an essential part of the education requirements. During the master’s program, students must complete at least 400 hours of supervised clinical experience. This consists of 375 hours working directly with patients, and 25 hours of observations in a clinic. Once the clinical work is complete, students move into their final clinical fellowship year. This is one full year, consisting of 36 weeks of full-time clinical practice.

Step 4: Examinations. Speech pathologists should consider taking the Praxis examination. This is not a requirement for being hired as a speech pathologist. However, it is a requirement for being certified and receiving the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, as described below.

Step 5: Certifications. Some employers may require speech pathologists to be certified. The most well known certification is the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, also known as CCC-SLP. In order to earn this, students must have received their master’s degree, passed the Praxis exam, and completed their clinical experience. They must also take continuing education classes to keep their certification.

Most speech pathologists are employed by school districts. Speech pathologists who want a job within a school will need a state teaching certificate in order to work with this population.

Step 6: Licensure. All states require speech pathologists to be licensed. This involves receiving a master’s degree, passing an examination, and supervised clinical experience. Receiving the CCC-SLP is enough to qualify somebody for licensure.

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