Speech-language pathologists held about 153,700 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of speech-language pathologists were as follows:
|Educational services; state, local, and private||40%|
|Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists||23|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||14|
|Nursing and residential care facilities||5|
Most speech-language pathologists work full time. Some speech-language pathologists, such as those working for schools, may need to travel between different schools or facilities.
Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree. Most states require that speech-language pathologists be licensed. Requirements vary by state.
Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree. Although master’s programs do not require a particular undergraduate degree for admission, certain courses must be taken before entering a program. Required courses vary by institution.
Graduate programs often include courses in speech and language development, age-specific speech disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical experience.
The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, accredits education programs in speech-language pathology. Graduation from an accredited program is required for certification and, often, for state licensure.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states regulate speech-language pathologists. Most states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed; other states require registration. Licensure typically requires at least a master’s degree from an accredited program, supervised clinical experience, and passing an exam. For specific requirements, contact your state’s medical or health licensure board.
Speech-language pathologists can earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP), offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Certification typically satisfies some or all of the requirements for state licensure and may be required by some employers. To earn CCC-SLP certification, candidates must graduate from an accredited program, pass an exam, and complete a fellowship under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist. To maintain the CCC-SLP credential, speech-language pathologists must complete 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years.
Speech-language pathologists who work in schools may need a specific teaching certification. For specific requirements, contact your state’s department of education or the private institution in which you are interested.
Speech language pathologists may choose to earn specialty certifications in child language, fluency, or swallowing. Candidates who hold the CCC-SLP, meet work experience requirements, and pass a specialty certification exam may use the title Board Certified Specialist. Three organizations offer specialty certifications: American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders, American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders, and American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders.
Candidates can gain hands-on experience through supervised clinical work, which is typically referred to as a fellowship. This training is a type of internship in that prospective speech-language pathologists apply and refine the skills learned during their academic program under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist. The CCC-SLP certification requires candidates to complete a fellowship lasting at least 36 weeks.
Speech-language pathologists typically have an interest in the Thinking, Creating and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Creating or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a speech-language pathologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Speech-language pathologists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Communication skills. Speech-language pathologists need to communicate test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments in a way that patients and their families can understand.
Compassion. Speech-language pathologists work with people who are often frustrated by their difficulties. Speech-language pathologists must be able to support emotionally demanding patients and their families.
Critical-thinking skills. Speech-language pathologists must be able to adjust their treatment plans as needed, finding alternative ways to help their patients.
Detail oriented. The work of speech-language pathologists requires intense concentration because they must closely listen to what patients are able to say and then help them improve their speech.
Listening skills. Speech-language pathologists must listen to a patient’s symptoms and problems to decide on a course of treatment.
Patience. Speech-language pathologists may work with people who achieve goals slowly and need close attention.
The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $79,120 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,840, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,260.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for speech-language pathologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Nursing and residential care facilities||$95,250|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||85,420|
|Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists||83,550|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||70,290|
Most speech-language pathologists work full time. Some speech language pathologists, such as those working for schools, may need to travel between different schools or facilities.
Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 27 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.
As the large baby-boom population grows older, there will be more instances of health conditions such as strokes or dementia, which can cause speech or language impairments. Speech-language pathologists will be needed to treat the increased number of speech and language disorders in the older population.
Increased awareness of speech and language disorders, such as stuttering, in younger children should lead to a need for more speech-language pathologists who specialize in treating that age group. Also, an increasing number of speech-language pathologists will be needed to work with children with autism to improve their ability to communicate and socialize effectively.
In addition, medical advances are improving the survival rate of premature infants and victims of trauma and strokes, many of whom need help from speech-language pathologists.
Overall job opportunities for speech-language pathologists are expected to be good. Generally, speech-language pathologists who are willing to relocate will have the best job opportunities.
For more information about speech-language pathologists, a description of the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) credential, and a list of accredited graduate programs in speech-language pathology, visit
For more information about specialty certifications, visit
State licensing boards have information about licensure requirements. State departments of education can provide information about certification requirements for those who want to work in public schools.