What is a Speech Pathologist

A speech pathologist (also known as a Speech Language Pathologist, Speech Therapist or SLP) is someone who specializes in communicative disorders. This can include pronunciation/phonology, syntax, and grammar and semantic rules. They also work with swallowing disorders. For information on becoming a speech pathologist and what they do, please visit our speech pathologist job description page.

Work Environment

While public health incorporation of speech pathology varies by state, the demand means a need for pathologists throughout the country. This can often mean operating from a private practice or in outpatient clinics.

Most positions are in hospitals or the public school systems, with some others in rehabilitation centers. In a hospital, often the speech pathologist will work with adults who have suffered a stroke or a severe head injury, or some other neurological disease.

Work Schedule

The work schedule for speech pathologists tends to be one following regular business hours. As speech-language pathology does not tend to have a need in emergency situations, on call time is rare, as is scheduling outside of regular hours; in this manner, it holds more stable expectations than most other aspects of the health care industry.

Mean Annual Speech Pathologist Salary

The average annual speech pathologist salary is $72,730. The average salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $44,380 and the top 10% makes over $107,650.

Speech 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 Pathologist Job Outlook and Prospects

The United States Labor Statistics project that 26,000 (19%) additional positions for speech pathologists will be created between 2012 and 2022. Some of the factors contributing to this increase include:

  1. As members of the Baby Boom generation continue to retire, many of them are experiencing neurological disorders that cause speech, language, and swallowing problems. Also fueling job growth are improving survival rates for premature babies and stroke victims, who often need the services of speech pathologists.
  2. Some state laws mandate screening newborns to detect hearing loss, which can lead to language disorders.
  3. Employment of speech pathologists is expected to rise significantly in elementary schools and high schools, particularly in special-education departments. Schools, hospitals, and nursing homes are increasingly hiring speech pathologists and other privately employed medical professionals on a contract basis.

Factors Affecting a Speech Pathologist’s Salary

Salary of a speech 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 pathologist salary is $72,730.

As most speech pathologists have a similar education, this is not a defining factor in salary, nor is specialization; most speech 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 

A speech pathologist requires a master’s degree in speech pathology, followed by certification and licensing as a speech pathologist. This is true in almost every jurisdiction, so educational differences have little bearing on their income.

While there is little specialization in the education of a speech pathologist, the area in which he or she works does have a strong influence on how much they make. A speech pathologist working in the public school system will earn an average of $66,440, somewhat below the average, whereas a speech pathologist’s salary in a general hospital is $75,700, just above the average. While this isn’t attributable to a specific specialization, the choice of people with whom the pathologist wishes to work is a particular factor.

Experience and Position 

Like all fields, experience is a factor in influencing annual wage. However, with the differences made in geographic location and industry specifics, it is not a primary factor. General experience, and time in a particular position, will offer similar wage increases as other positions.

There are some managerial positions for speech pathologists, however improvements in position are a minor factor for salary considerations.


With a large number of potential industries in which a speech pathologist can work, this is one of the factors more strongly influencing salary. As mentioned, schools will come in under the average, while general hospitals slightly improve on it. Child day care positions show a great increase, offering an average salary of $87,370. Home health care services improve upon this, showing an average salary of $91,220. However, the highest paying side of the industry is in other ambulatory health care services, with a mean wage of $105,800, or around $30,000 above the average.


The geographic location also has a significant impact on salary figures, with the highest paying states offering approximately $10,000 more than the average. District of Columbia wage offerings are the highest, at $86,220, followed by New Jersey at $84,660, and Colorado at $83,780. A more focused look at metropolitan areas, however, reveals even greater gains to be had, with Sherman-Denison, Texas, topping the salary averages at approximately $101,530.

Speech 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