Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) are professionals who work with people who have various communications and speaking problems. They diagnose, treat, and prevent speech disorders resulting from genetic or non-genetic causes. This article will go in depth about what is SLP, as well as career opportunities, job growth, and the income that these professionals have.
What Is A Speech Language Pathologist?
There are basically five types of disorders with which SLPs work:
- Cognitive Communication Disorders – happen when there is an internal problem due to, for example brain injury, which means that the person cannot properly plan, remember, organize thoughts etc.
- Language Disorders – occur when people cannot express themselves properly or have problems understanding what others are saying. These can be either in speaking or writing form.
- Speech Disorders – are present when the person has difficulty producing speech sounds, articulating, or is not fluent enough.
- Social Communication Disorders – mean that the person is encountering problems with using language in social settings, either in the form of speaking or non-verbal communication.
- Swallowing Disorders – might be present when a person has trouble swallowing or eating.
SLPs treat all of these disorders, more specifically, problems related to:
- Apraxia – when it is difficult to attain the coordination and movements to speak
- Articulation – how we say the words we speak
- Expressive Language – when someone has problems expressing themselves
- Fluency – how our speech flows
- Hearing problems – which can be treated by learning sign language, lip reading etc.
- Oral-Motor Disorders – problems related to the muscles and parts of the mouth
- Phonology – the patterns of speech
- Pragmatic Language – issues with communicating socially
- Receptive Language – when it is difficult for someone to understand language
- Swallowing or Feeding problems
- Voice Problems
Speech Pathologist vs Speech Therapist
Many people wonder what the difference between a speech pathologist and a speech therapist is. In essence, there is no difference. Speech pathologist or speech language pathologist is the correct word for this occupation since it encompasses the duties and responsibilities that they do.
People use the title of speech therapist only because it is easy, but in fact this title only refers to one part of the SLP job description, since they do so much more than just deal with speech problems as seen above.
However, it is not wrong to refer to a Speech Language Pathologist as a Speech Therapist, as long as you understand that there is much more to an SLP than just treating speech disorders.
How To Become A Speech Pathologist?
There is a specific educational path that people go through to become Speech Language Pathologists. We have written a more detailed article here, but in general, these are the steps you need to follow to be qualified as a practicing SLP:
- Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Science Disorders (CSD) or other field
- Graduate with a Master’s Degree in CSD
- Complete a 36 week clinical fellowship
- Get good scores on the Praxis standardized exam
- Become certified and licensed by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA)
- Take Continuing Education Units (CEU) to remain certified
What you have to keep in mind before you enroll in a university to become a Speech Language Pathologist is the following:
- Check whether the institution is accredited by ASHA
- Research graduation rates and Praxis exam average scores
- Look at what alumni are doing with the degree
What Do Speech Pathologists Do?
According to ASHA there are 191,500 professionals that they represent. 82% of them are certified SLPs, a small percentage hold dual degrees in audiology and SLP, and the rest are in the process of being certified.
The Speech Language Pathology profession is continually growing with the Burau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasting a 21% growth between 2014 and 2024.
ASHA has analyzed the reasons as to why SLPs will experience so much job growth and these are the main influences:
- There are more students enrolling in school, which will increase the demand for SLPs
- There is an increased rate of people retiring
- The population is growing older and needing more medical attention from SLPs due to speech and other disorders
- Medical advances have made it possible to diagnose problems easier
This occupation also has a high job satisfaction and is ranked as number 20 on the Best Health Care Jobs in the United States by US News. Speech Language Pathologists work in a variety of settings. They work in medical clinics, could have private practices, work in educational institutions, and with individual clients. In addition, they are also involved in diagnosing and treating different types of people such as children or adults, or support the families of those who need therapy.
The US BLS has gathered data on employment numbers in different industries where SLPs work, and based on it, most Speech Language Pathologists (around 56%) work in Elementary and Secondary Schools, then in Offices of Health Practitioners (approximately 26%) and then other medical facilities.
In addition, there are some states which hire more Speech Language Pathologists than others. In the United States, the states where SLPs have a higher employment rate are:
- New York
So if you want to become a Speech Language Pathologist, you will most likely work in educational or medical settings and in any of the states above. But what are the job responsibilities of an SLP in these different industries?
Jobs in education are the most popular placements for SLPs, where 53% work in schools and 3% in higher education. Those who work in schools of lower levels, such as preschools or elementary schools have these responsibilities:
- Diagnose patients
- Treat speech and other disorders
- Train students in reading, writing, and speaking
- Work with teachers to better equip them to deal with problems that students have
- Offer counseling and support to families whose children have speech and other disorders
- Supervise and evaluate those who are completing their clinical fellowships to become SLPs
In higher education, SLPs could be involved in teaching classes, supervising students who are on their way to becoming SLPs, and conducting research. In addition, they could also work in the university clinic to treat and diagnose students who have speech and other disorders.
Around 39% of SLPs work in health care jobs, such as nonresidential facilities (16%), hospitals (13%), and residential facilities (10%). In nonresidential facilities, SLPs visit homes of clients to work with them, and they might be employed in home health agencies or have their own practices. Their patients could include the elderly or even toddlers who have been born with swallowing or feeding disorders.
In hospitals, Speech Language Pathologists work with all patients who go to the clinics with various speech and other disorders. SLPs diagnose and treat those disorders, or even prevent them before they become severe. In hospitals, SLPs might be specialized to work with toddlers, children, adults, or the elderly.
As for residential facilities, SLPs may work in places such as assisted living facilities where they will provide the same services as in hospitals and nonresidential places, but have more independence.
In the private sector, Speech Language Pathologists have the chance to work with companies or corporations, or have their own practices. In private companies, SLPs work with managers, customer representatives, or other employees to provide training services and enable them to have better articulation, rhythm, and linguistic flow.
As for private practices, SLPs open their own offices and have clients who go specifically to see them. They could hire additional staff or certified SLPs and run their own medical practices.
In the public sector, SLPs might find jobs in government agencies in clinical or administrative positions, public health departments as consultants or SLP strategy developers, or even in agencies such as the Army, Navy, or the Air Force, where they work with military staff or with veterans.
Research and Development
Finally, Speech Language Pathologists might also be working full time in Research and Development Laboratories, hospitals, or universities as full time researchers. They engage in experiments and try to find causes, treatments, and methods for working with patients who have speech and other disorders.
How Much Do Speech Pathologists Make?
With the forecasted growth in job opportunities for Speech Language Pathologists, there is naturally an increase in salary too.The median annual salary for SLPs went from $66,920 to $74,680 in 2016 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This indicates that the Speech Language Pathologist salary is expected to increase even further in the future.
The median annual salary for SLPs is $74,680
However, based on their workplace, the SLP salary can vary. Below is a table which shows the top paying industries where SLPs are employed and their average annual salary.
|Industry||Average Annual Salary|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||$109,140|
|Offices of Physicians||$100,380|
|Home Health Care Services||$97,930|
|Nursing Care Facilities||$92,640|
|Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly||$92,020|
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
As for the Speech Language Pathologist salary for the majority who work in Educational settings, it is much lower, with an average annual wage of $69,890 for Elementary and Secondary Schools.
In addition, the top paying states in the United States, where most SLPs work are the following:
- District of Columbia
- New York
All in all, the Speech Language Pathologist occupation allows people to work in various settings depending on their preferences and is a highly sought out profession which will grow and pay an even higher salary in the future.