Speech Pathologist Job Duties and Employment Options

Speech pathologists require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Start a career as a speech pathologist with a master's degree in speech-language pathology and completion of state licensing requirements. Speech pathologists typically work in schools and healthcare facilities and assist individuals with communication and swallowing disorders.

Essential Information

Speech pathologists, also known as speech therapists or speech-language pathologists, help individuals with a range of disorders related to speech, language and swallowing. These professionals can work in schools, hospitals and specialty clinics. A master's degree in speech-language pathology is usually the minimum educational requirement, and such programs require supervised clinical experiences. Both the degree and clinical experience are needed for licensure, which is required in most states. There are also some certification options that exist to help satisfy licensure requirements.

Required Education Master's degree in speech-language pathology
Other Requirements State licensure and/or certification
Projected Job Growth 21% from 2014-2024*
Median Salary (2015) $73,410 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Job Duties of a Speech Pathologist

Speech pathologists diagnose and treat individuals who suffer from stutters, as well as vocal and cognitive communication impairments. They also help those whose speech is affected by emotional issues, various learning disabilities and physical impairments, such as a cleft palate. To accomplish these tasks, speech pathologists conduct specialized testing and provide therapy designed for individual clients' needs. They often work closely with physicians, psychologists and teachers to carefully monitor patients' progress. Speech pathologists also keep long-term records on their clients in order to assist them with difficulties that arise throughout their lives.

In addition to providing voice and speech therapy, speech pathologists may assist patients who've been in accidents or other traumatic incidents in learning or relearning proper swallowing techniques. Stroke victims, paraplegics and the recently deaf sometimes retain the services of a speech pathologist to help normalize their speech patterns. Speech pathologists may also provide therapy and support to patients' families to facilitate social integration and recovery.

Employment Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 44% of speech pathologists were employed in elementary and secondary schools in 2014 (www.bls.gov). Speech pathologists also worked in nursing homes, home health care services, outpatient facilities, general medical hospitals and surgical hospitals. In May 2015, the highest average annual salary ($105,680) was earned by speech pathologists employed in medical and diagnostic laboratories, according to the BLS.

In May 2015, speech pathologists earned a median annual salary of $73,410 according to BLS figures. Salaries were typically closely related to local education policy. The states paying speech pathologists the highest average salaries in May 2015 were California, Connecticut and Alaska. However, the states with the highest concentration of speech pathologists include Arkansas, New Mexico, and North Dakota.

With a projected 21% job growth rate through 2024, the prospects for those planning to pursue a career as a speech pathologists are excellent. Completion of a master's degree in speech-language pathology and state licensing requirements is necessary before entering this field.

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