Speech language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, often make a lasting impression in their clients’ lives. This job is multidisciplinary. The pathologist must assume the roles of educator, therapist, counselor, and administrator. S/he might work in diverse environments including:
- nursing home facilities
- healthcare centers
- public schools
- private schools
- nonprofit organizations
- clients’ homes
S/he has multiple options regarding whether to work full time, part time, as an employee or as a self-employed entrepreneur. Most speech language pathologists are full-time employees working for schools or educational services.
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Typical Starting Salary Range — The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains detailed records on the salary ranges for all major occupations in the United States. According to their data, the lowest-paid speech language pathologists were earning less than $48,830 per year as of 2017. This statistic is most likely representative of the lowest starting salaries for this occupation. It could also be indicative of realistic mid-career salaries in some areas where the cost of living is lower than average. Payscale reports that the average entry-level yearly salary for a speech language pathologist is $54,931.
Median Salary — BLS experts report that speech language pathologists were earning median annual salaries of $76,610 as of May, 2017.
Maximum Salary — The highest-paid speech language pathologists were earning salaries of $118,910 in 2017. Fairbanks, Alaska is the metropolitan area where speech language pathologists earn the highest salaries, according to the BLS. As of 2017, the mean salary in Fairbanks was $109,470 for this occupation. As of 2017, the highest paying industry for SLPs was the group the BLS designates as “management of companies and enterprises”. SLPs working in this industry enjoyed mean annual earnings of $99,160.
Key Responsibilities of a Speech Language Pathologist
An SLP must typically handle all the following duties:
- Assess a client’s or student’s way of speaking to determine which aspects of speaking or swallowing are causing difficulty
- Recommend suitable options for treatment
- Work with the student or client to implement a uniquely customized treatment plan
- Clerical work is usually a significant part of a speech pathologist’s job description. This can include filling out, processing and filing significant amounts of paperwork.
Necessary Skills for Becoming a Speech Language Pathologist
- Teaching and communication skills are essential for success as a speech language pathologist.
- Generosity is helpful, particularly in the role of a public school SLP. SLPs often commit their own time and resources to their jobs. Those who are unwilling to do this are likely to lose out to colleagues who are willing.
- Time management skills are also crucial for success in this role. Many SLPs find that scheduling challenges are a constant source of frustration. The ability to manage time effectively can help to meet these challenges.
- Analytical capabilities are important for the proper diagnosis of speech impediments and recognition of the issues that can contribute to them.
Degree and Education Requirements
To become a speech language pathologist, you must earn a master’s degree. In some states, an SLP who is employed in the public school system must also earn teaching certification. State licensure and registration are also likely to be employment requirements, although this varies by state.
Certifications are also available from some academic institutions that are accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA). The CAA is associated with ASHA, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Certifications are beneficial because some employers prefer them. Also, in some states, they help to satisfy licensure requirements..
Pros and Cons of Being a Speech Language Pathologist
It feels wonderful to empower students and clients with the knowledge they need to improve their communication skills. Speech language pathologists are sometimes able to help their students transform from completely speechless to being able to communicate effectively. Successes like this are tremendously rewarding.
Burnout is one of the most frequent challenges common in the profession. Other than that, speech language pathologists are likely to face different challenges, depending on whether they work in hospital, healthcare or school facilities. For school SLPs, Katie Yeh at the Friendship Circle reports that one of the most frequent challenges is under-funding. It’s not uncommon for pathologists to spend their own money on learning materials because their schools do not prioritize purchases of the materials they need. They are also likely to spend their weekends, evenings and free time doing paperwork so they can spend adequate time on each of the children they work with. They are frequently overworked and tasked with treating more children than they realistically have time to work with.
Getting Started in a Career as a Speech Language Pathologist
After a candidate’s academic credentials have been obtained, the next step is to satisfy any state requirements for licensure, registration and / or certification that may exist. Many states require SLPs to pass an examination and to complete a fellowship consisting of supervised clinical work.
Analysts at the BLS are forecasting an 18 percent growth rate in the numbers of new jobs that will become available for speech language pathologists. They foresee rising demand for these professionals as growing numbers of autistic children seek help with their social and communication skills. Another contributing factor is the aging of the sizable “Baby Boom” generation. With each passing year, this group is becoming more vulnerable to dementia and strokes, conditions which can cause speech problems that require treatment.
These days, people who are entering college and considering career changes are wise to be concerned about how automation technology might affect the career path they are considering. Many vocations are at risk of becoming obsolete because of automation technology; but, at this time, speech therapy does not appear to be at risk. This is a job that requires a high level of emotional intelligence. This IS Money UK ranked speech language pathology as one of the top 100 vocations that’s least likely to be replaced by robots.
The future looks bright for those who choose careers in speech language pathology. Despite its many challenges, the work is fulfilling, and many positions are becoming available. It’s a fantastic time to seek training for a career as a speech language pathologist.