What is a Speech Language Pathologist

Speech language pathologist (also known as Speech TherapistSpeech Pathologist or SLP) are health professionals who specialize in treating people who have trouble talking due to voice and language disorders. These individuals help patients cope with their conditions, and provide instruction in other communication methods (like sign language). They also deal with swallowing difficulties and other disorders in patients ranging from babies to seniors.

Work Environment

Speech language pathologists work in a wide array of settings, including medical facilities and schools. The environment is generally safe and clean, with the appropriate equipment, materials, and lighting.

These professionals often serve on teams that include doctors, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and others. They spend much of their time in one-on-one sessions with patients. This requires good people skills and effective communication.

Work Schedule

Speech language pathologists usually have full-time jobs. Because of the demand for their services, many work more than 40 hours per week. Most positions involve weekday shifts, though some practitioners are needed in the evenings and on weekends. Part-time positions also are available.

Mean Annual SLP Salary

The average annual speech language pathologist salary is $72,730. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $44,380 and the top 10% makes over $107,650.

Speech Language Pathologist Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$72,730 per year
$34.97 per hour
Top 10% Salary$107,650 per year
$51.75 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$44,380 per year
$21.34 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2012121,690

Speech Language Pathologist Job Outlook and Prospects

With continued education and realization of the need for speech language pathologists, demand is expected to grow by approximately 19% between 2012 and 2022. They will be needed throughout the nation, in both rural and urban areas, though hospital work will tend more toward the urban side.

Speech Language Pathologist Salary: Factors of Influence

Salary of a speech language pathologist is highly dependent primarily on industry-specific aspects of the position, as well as experience. The metropolitan location in which they work has a significant influence as well, offering differences of more than $50,000. The average speech language pathologist’s salary is $72,730.

As most speech-language pathologists have a similar education, this is not a defining factor in salary, nor is specialization; most speech-language pathologists tend to work with a wide variety of speech problems, and the field does not have specific specializations beyond age-related comfort of the pathologist themselves. Some pathologists prefer to work with children, and will find schools a better fit than a hospital.

Education and Specialization

Beginning in high school, a student interested in a career as a speech language pathologist should take multiple science and math classes. Biology, physics, advanced math, psychology, English, social sciences, language, and public-speaking courses are recommended.

The next step is to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) from an accredited college or university. Courses include anatomy, biology, human development, linguistics, math, phonetics, physical science, physiology, psychology, semantics, and social and behavioral sciences.

Finally, a student must obtain a master’s degree in CSD, from a university accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Clinical training and passage of a nationally administered exam are required, as well. The ASHA also offers a “certificate of clinical competence in speech-language pathology,” which entails taking another exam. Some states mandate that speech language pathologists obtain a license.


The ASHA reported that 57 percent of speech language pathologists are employed in schools, 38 percent in health-care settings, and 17.6 percent in private practice.

According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the three industries employing the most speech language pathologists were elementary and secondary schools, offices of health practitioners, and general medical and surgical hospitals. Next on the list were nursing-care facilities and home health-care services.

The top-paying industry that year, ambulatory health-care services, provided an average salary of $105,800 but employed only 70 professionals nationwide. Home health-care services offered 4,660 jobs at a mean rate of $91,220. The 1,290 speech language pathologists working at child day-care centers earned an average of $87,370. Retirement homes and assisted-living facilities for the elderly had 630 positions at a rate of $86,490.

(In the two years following the release of these 2012 statistics, average salaries for speech language pathologists nationwide increased more than 10 percent.)

Other employers include rehabilitation centers, colleges and universities, governmnent health departments and other agencies, adult day-care centers, facilities for patients with developmental disabilities, research laboratories, and private corporations.


The states providing the most jobs (11,100 each) for speech language pathologists, according to a recent government report, were California (with an average salary of $83,710) and Texas ($71,010). New York had 9,200 positions with mean pay of $78,360. In fourth and fifth place were Illinois, 8,070 jobs at $73,230; and Florida, 6,310 at $70,610.

Metropolitan areas reporting the most speech language pathologist jobs were those encompassing Chicago, 54,050 at an average salary of $76,830; New York City, 4,300 positions at $87,090; and Los Angeles, 2,550 at $83,450. Placing fourth and fifth were the Dallas and Houston areas, which together provided 4,780 jobs averaging about $70,000.

The place with the highest average salary ($86,220), the District of Columbia, had only 210 positions for speech language pathologists. New Jersey’s 4,680 practitioners earned $84,660. Colorado, with 2,710 positions, paid $83,780. Next was California’s $83,710. That was followed by an average of $81,180 in Maryland, where 2,630 positions were available.

Speech Language Pathologist Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying States Top Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Sherman-Denison, TX; $101,530District of Columbia: $86,220Other Ambulatory Health Care Services: $105,800California: (11,100 jobs) $83,710
New Bedford, MA: $94,850New Jersey: $84,660Home Health Care Services: $91,220Texas: (11,100 jobs) $71,010
Bowling Green, KY: $93,200Colorado: $83,780Child Day Care Services: $87,370New York: (9,220 jobs) $78,360
Ocala, FL: $92,980California: $83,710Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities: $86,490Illinois: (8,070 jobs) $73,230
Chico, CA: $92,880Maryland: $81,180Social Advocacy Organizations: $86,240Florida: (6,310 jobs) $70,610

Speech Language Pathologist Salary State by State