Professional Fluency: How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

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How humans communicate sets them apart from all lifeforms on earth. Humans have developed thousands of complex languages, in addition to the ability to communicate through body language, tone, and expression. Human communication is capable of portraying deep, complex thoughts and emotions, ranging from feelings to innovative ideas and mathematical formulations.

We rely on human connection forged through communication. It’s how we express ourselves, build relationships, and lead enriching lives. Unfortunately, some people face communication challenges that make this difficult. Their struggles could be the result of physical, mental, or developmental challenges, injuries, or some combination. For example, patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may struggle to swallow and speak, which makes it difficult to eat and communicate and can result in feeling isolated and unsafe.

Regardless of the cause, communication struggles impact how people interact with society. Speech-language pathologists exist to support those who suffer from speech and communication difficulties. These healthcare professionals serve a vital role in the medical landscape, helping people manage their communication disorders.

Read on to learn more about how to become a speech-language pathologist, what they do on a daily basis, and their employment outlook.

What Does a Speech-Language Pathologist Do?

Speech-language pathologists have been specifically trained to assess, diagnose, and treat disorders that affect speech, language, and different types of communication. They work with people of all ages and ability levels to help them find their voice. For example, they may work with high-performing elementary school students with a stutter, adults on the autism spectrum who struggle with communication, or stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients who need to relearn how to speak.

Because their patients include different ages and ability levels, speech-language pathologists find work in schools, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and more. The core of their work involves guiding patients through exercises designed to help them swallow, speak, and eat more effectively. Through these efforts, they help patients lead healthier, more fulfilling lives, even after a potentially life-altering injury or diagnosis.

Steps to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

If you’re considering a career as a speech-language pathologist, prepare for ample postsecondary education, training, and certification. It’s a long process, but with a strong academic foundation and plenty of practical experience, it can lead to a rewarding career where you can have a long-lasting positive impact on the lives of those you serve.

Get the Right Education

Aspiring speech-language pathologists must earn a master’s or doctoral degree before they can sit for licensing examinations and acquire certification. But even before that, these future professionals can set themselves up for their career path with the right undergraduate degree. A program such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders, with courses in speech and hearing science, speech development and disorders, and language development and disorders, provides the foundation students need to succeed in advanced degree programs and in their careers.

Earn Your Certification

Once aspiring speech-language pathologists have received a master’s degree or doctorate, they still need to earn an industry certification and licensure to practice in all 50 states. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) is the industry standard, and it requires a clinical practicum along with a graduate degree.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for speech-language pathologists was $77,510 as of May 2018. The bottom 10% earned below $48,690, and the top 10% earned over $120,060 annually. Nursing and residential care facilities offered the highest median annual salary ($94,680), followed by the offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists ($84,390); hospitals ($83,970); and educational services ($68,270).

Employment Outlook for Speech-Language Pathologists

According to the BLS, 153,700 speech-language pathologists worked in the U.S. as of May 2018. Of that group, 40% (61,500) worked in educational services; 23% (35,300) worked in the offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists; and another 14% (21,500) worked in hospitals.

The BLS projects the job market for speech-language pathologists to grow 27% between 2018 and 2028, adding 41,900 jobs to the market. That growth rate is more than five times the projected national job market growth over that span (5%). Educational services will add 8,500 jobs; the offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists will add 19,400 jobs; and hospitals will add 4,500 speech-language pathologist jobs.

Learn More About Becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist

No matter where they work, speech-language pathologists help people of all ages overcome and adapt to language and communication difficulties, increasing their quality of life and helping them be more confident out in the world. Come explore how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders can help put you on the path toward this rewarding and in-demand career.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Speech-Language Pathologists

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Apply for Certification in Speech-Language Pathology

Houston Chronicle, “Speech Pathologist vs. Speech Therapist

Maryville University, Online Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders, “What Is the Difference Between a Speech Therapist and a Speech Pathologist?

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Speech-Language Pathologists