Speech Pathologist Careers, Duties and Degrees

Learn about what you’ll do in a speech pathology career.

The Basics

What you’ll do: As a speech-language pathologist, often referred to as a speech therapist, you’ll evaluate and treat children and adults with speech, language and swallowing problems. You’ll help children and adolescents with language disorders, and improve language skills that lead to better academic performance. You’ll also evaluate and treat persons with swallowing disorders that may result from illness, surgery, stroke or injury.

Where you’ll work: Elementary and secondary schools, offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists, hospitals, nursing care facilities, home health care services.

Degree you’ll need to practice: Master’s degree

Median annual salary: $74,680*

Job Environment

There are a variety of places you can work, and populations you can work with, as a speech therapist. You may choose to work with a specific age group, such as children, the elderly or non-native English speakers. Or you may choose to focus on treatment programs for specific communication or swallowing problems.

In schools, you’ll work with teachers, special educators, staff and parents to develop and carry out individual and group programs, provide counseling and support classroom activities. In medical facilities, you’ll interact and work with doctors, social workers, psychologists and other therapists.

Speech Pathology Degree Programs

A master’s degree is required to work as a speech pathologist. Certain undergraduate coursework may be required, but each program will differ. You can expect a speech pathology program to take approximately two years to complete. While in school, some of the course topics you may cover include:

  • Cognition and neural bases
  • School-age language disorders
  • Hearing screenings
  • Speech pathology diagnoses

If you plan to apply for federal financial aid or earn a doctorate in the future, you’ll want to ensure your school is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation, part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Career Advancement

Speech-language pathologists can earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Certification shows potential employers your commitment to your field.

Related careers, which you’ll learn about from interacting with them during your work in speech pathology, include audiology, occupational therapy, physical and recreational therapy.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Speech-Language Pathologists.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and other factors.

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