Speech Language Pathology
If you are looking for a career in the healthcare field that is expected to grow a significant amount in the coming decade, then you should definitely consider speech language pathology. Speech pathologists essentially help people who have speaking or communication disorders. This might include difficulties with pronouncing sounds, speech rhythm, harsh voices or fluency problems.
The nature of the work for speech language pathologists then is to assess, diagnose and treat patients with speech disorders and to use any equipment at their disposal to help them with their job. Other tasks include:
- Developing an individualized treatment plan for the patient
- Using cutting edge technology to assist with treatments
- Managing discussions with clinics or school settings
- Engaging in research to further improve knowledge in this area
- Working with social workers, counselors or even teachers
- Training employees to improve communication skills
Employment facts for speech language pathology
Surprisingly, this field was really small only a few years ago. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics only 119,000 jobs were hold in 2008. Nearly half of those were held in school settings. Other jobs were held in other environments including:
- Nursing care facilities
- Health care clinics
- Private and public schools
- Rehabilitation centers
- Private practices
- State and local health departments
- State and federal government agencies
- Day care centers
In addition to these settings as described above, you also have the option to work in a research setting if you are qualified to do so.
Requirements to being a speech pathologist
One thing to note right off the bat with this health care field is that you genuinely need to be sincere about helping people. If you are the type of person who shuns being around others, then this might not be the career for you as being a speech pathologist demands that you work with patients all the day.
The average workweek can include well over 40 hours so it also helps to have plenty of patience, persistence and even tolerance when working with this field. All of these qualities are absolutely important as your patients will ultimately depend on you for your experience in speech pathology to help them communicate more effectively.
In most states, a Master’s degree from an accredited program in speech language pathology is a must. Depending on where you plan to find employment, you may even be required to graduate from a program that is certified by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
In addition to graduating from one of these programs, you will also need to put in over 300 hours of supervised hours in a clinical setting and getting a passing score on the national examination. Currently, there are over 265 programs that are accredited by the CAA organization, although this number is expected to increase as demand rises as well.
Throughout the education process, you will be educated in areas like anatomy, communication skills, acoustics, psychology, human development and even biology. All of these areas are absolutely important which is why the process is so intensive.
Speech language pathology employment outlook
Before investing all the time and energy that it takes to being a speech therapist, it helps to get a better idea of what to expect in the future. Employment outlook for speech language pathology is rated as positive according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, it might surprise to learn that just from 2008 to 2018 this field is expected to grow 19%.
The reason for this huge growth is simple. The baby boomer generation is now entering their elderly years which unfortunately bring about complications in communication and hearing. As such, demand for speech pathologists in health care settings is expected to significantly increase.
Another reason for the huge growth too is that there are now laws that require screening for newborns of any potential hearing problems and for them to receive the appropriate services. Educational environments like elementary and secondary schools will require these professionals as well.
Hospitals, schools and health care facilities are also expected to contract speech language pathologists so private practices will also be in demand as well. And then do not forget about the need to replace those speech therapists who are leaving the field.
The American Speech Language Association (ASHA) did a survey in 2009 to provide information about speech pathologist salary based on health care settings such as hospitals, nursing facilities, clinics and offices.
Here are the average salary numbers for those in health care settings:
- $70,000 average annual salary
- $66,000 for those in health agencies and clients’ homes
- $80,000 for those in skilled nursing facilities
- $67,000 for clinical service providers
- $70,000 for private practices
- $70,000 for those in urban and suburban areas
- $60,000 with 4 to 6 years of experience
- $80,000 with 22 or more years of experience
And then here are the average numbers for those in school settings:
- $57,000 average salary for preschool and elementary schools
- $64,000 average salary for day and residential schools
- $71,000 for those working in middle and high schools
- California reported the highest salary at over $76,000
- South Dakota reported the lowest salary at $39,000
- $79,000 for administrators, supervisors and directors
These figures, of course, are not definitive as salary is often based on experience, geographic location and actual work setting. The good news though is that this field is in higher demand than ever before.