Speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, work with clients who have speech, language, cognitive, communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other related disorders. These types of problems may range from speech rhythm an fluency or voice quality problems, to cognitive impairment or hearing loss. They also work with people who have difficulty swallowing. These problems result from many different causes, such as stroke, brain injury, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, cleft palate, voice pathology, mental retardation, hearing impairment, or emotional problems. Speech-language pathologists work to prevent, diagnose, and treat these types of problems.
Speech-language pathologists usually work in schools, speech and language clinics, or medical facilities. In speech and language clinics, they design and implement treatment programs on an independent basis. In medical facilities, they often work closely with physicians, social workers, psychologists, and other therapists to develop treatments. In schools, they create group or individual programs, consult with parents, and help teachers with daily activities. Speech-language pathologists maintain detailed records of the client’s progress, which helps them identify progress and justify reimbursement. They often work with families of clients, counseling them concerning ways they can support the client in daily life.
Speech-language pathologists should have the ability to solve problems in an objective manner and provide appropriate levels of support to clients and their families. They need to be able to effectively communicate test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments in a way their clients can fully comprehend. Patience, compassion, and good listening skills are also very important.
In 2002, speech-language pathologists earned a median annual salary of $49,450. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $32,580, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $74,010. The following shows earnings for the industries employing the highest numbers of speech-language pathologists:
- Offices of other health practitioners — $53,090
- General medical and surgical hospitals — $52,940
- Elementary and secondary schools — $46,060
Training and Education
46 States require speech-language pathologists to be licensed, and most of those require a master’s degree and a passing score on the Praxis Series speech-language pathology examination to obtain a license. Other requirements include 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and 9 months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. 38 States require continuing education in order to renew licenses. Graduate programs in speech-language pathology are offered at about 233 colleges and universities. A typical program covers anatomy and physiology of the areas of the body involved in speech, language, swallowing, and hearing; the development of normal speech, language, swallowing, and hearing; the nature of disorders; acoustics; and psychological aspects of communication; and evaluation and treatment of disorders. Speech-language pathologists can earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
In 2002, speech-language pathologists held about 94,000 jobs. More than 50% worked in educational services.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of speech-language pathologists is expected to increase faster than the average because the baby boom generation will be entering middle-age, a time when the chances of developing speech-language disorders go up. More trauma and stroke victims, as well as premature infants, are surviving, and many will need the services of speech-language pathologists.
For more information on becoming a speech language pathologist, please see our directory of schools offering Medical Training.