Speech-language pathologists held about 134,100 jobs in 2012. Almost half of all speech-language pathologists work in schools. Most others work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals. Some work in patients’ homes.
The industries that employed the most speech-language pathologists in 2012 were as follows:
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||41%|
|Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists||17|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||13|
|Nursing and residential care facilities||5|
Most speech-language pathologists work full time. About 1 out of 4 worked part time in 2012. Those who work on a contract basis may spend a lot of time traveling between facilities.
Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree. They must be licensed in most states; requirements vary by state.
The standard level of education for speech-language pathologists is a master’s degree. Although master’s programs do not specify a particular undergraduate degree for admission, certain courses must be taken before entering the program. Required courses vary by institution. Graduate programs often include courses in age-specific speech disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical practice in addition to coursework.
The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, accredits education programs in speech-language pathology. In 2012, the CAA accredited 253 master’s degree programs in speech-language pathology.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Speech-language pathologists must be licensed in almost all states. A license requires at least a master’s degree and supervised clinical experience. Some states require graduation from an accredited master’s program to get a license. 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 satisfies some or all of the requirements for licensure and may be required by some employers.
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 $69,870 in May 2012. 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 $44,380, and the top 10 percent more than $107,650.
Most speech-language pathologists work full time. Those who work on a contract basis may spend considerable time traveling between facilities to treat patients.
Compared with workers in all occupations, speech-language pathologists had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.
Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.
As the large baby-boom population grows older, there will be more instances of health conditions that cause speech or language impairments, such as strokes and hearing loss. More 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 also lead to a need for more speech-language pathologists who specialize in treating that age group.
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.
For more information about speech-language pathologists, a description of the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) credential, and a listing of accredited graduate programs in speech-language pathology, 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.