When you think of something that would be almost impossible to live without, the ability to communicate with others probably ranks pretty high on the list. Sadly, communicative abilities are also some of the skills we take the most for granted on a daily basis.

Speech-Language-PathologistJust imagine being unable to join in on the conversations comprised of an individual’s 16,000+ spoken words per day (on average, based on word count estimates of approximately 20,000 for females and 13,000 for males) and you begin to understand just how isolated and lonely someone with a speech disorder must feel.

And this doesn’t even take into consideration how difficult simply existing in this communication-driven world is for someone who can’t verbalize what she wants, needs, feels, thinks, etc.

Fortunately, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can help those with communicative disabilities to not only survive in this world but also thrive! If you are someone with a heart for helping others learn the skills and tools they need to function on a daily basis, a career in speech-language pathology may be the perfect fit. Here’s a bit more on the ins and outs of becoming a professional SLP.


Are you naturally equipped for this type of career?

It takes a certain type of person to become a successful SLP and a sincere desire to help others must be first and foremost. Additionally, tenacity and patience are required because each case is different and your patients will advance at different rates. The superb progress of one patient is not necessarily going to be seen across the board and a willingness to persevere with positivity while you continue to encourage those in your charge is key.


The Big Picture

Once you’ve determined you do have what it takes, here’s what it’s going to take to get there.


Career Overview

Speech-language pathologists work in a variety of environments to diagnose and treat communication, cognitive and swallowing disorders in patients ranging from infants to geriatric. Speech disabilities present at birth and induced later in life as a result of accidents, brain injuries, or health conditions such as a stroke are a focal point of a speech-language pathologist’s practice. Additionally, the natural degradation of a person’s hearing abilities brought on by age is addressed.

Many SLPs treat numerous patients because they work in school systems and healthcare facilities and some are more individually-minded and treat patients in their own homes.

As a speech-language pathologist, you will improve communication skills through vocal exercises and cognitive therapies in treating patients who have disorders which prevent them from either being understood or understanding others.


Educational & Certification Requirements

At a minimum, a speech-language pathologist has a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in an accredited speech and language program and has received certification from the CCC (Council for Clinical Certification) – which involves a clinical fellowship training period and passing an exam – as well as appropriate state licensure, which varies by state.

With the changing landscape of language-speakers in the United States, those who are bi-lingual and even tri-lingual will likely have greater success in the job market as they will be able to service a larger, more diverse pool of patients. Moreover, SLPs who are fluent in American Sign Language and lip reading may have an advantage.


Career Opportunities & Outlook

The future is bright for SLPs with a projected job growth of 23% from 2010-2020. This rate is faster than average for other careers and is due, in large part, to the aging population of baby boomers who will encounter speech and hearing impairments as a natural consequence of growing older and age-related conditions.

In 2010, the median annual wage of SLPs was $66,920. This can fluctuate due to individual experience, certification and specialization and some SLPs can earn upwards of $80,000 annually.

Place of employment also plays a part in determining an SLP’s job security and salary. As federal law guarantees special education and related services to disabled children, school placement remains viable looking forward.

Additionally, private practice numbers are on the rise due to hospitals and nursing care facilities employing contract services of SLPs. Those who are flexible and persistent with exploring alternative avenues (like locum tenens and other traveling pathology options) will be able to cast a wider net, as well.

For more information on career projections, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website.


With hard work and dedication, a rewarding career in speech-language pathology can be right around the corner. Not only can you earn an excellent salary from stable employment, but you can also impart the skills and confidence to patients in need to help them live fulfilling lives, too!

Career Advice On Becoming A Speech and Language Therapist by Helen Walker:

Are you currently training to become an SLP or do you know someone who works as a speech-language pathologist? Pls Share your experiences in comments below.


About the Guest Post Author:

Kiersten Ferreira is the Director of Rehab Therapy for CompHealth’s permanent placement division. Her team provides placement services for occupational therapists, physical therapists, rehab managers and directors of rehab, in a variety of settings throughout the United States.