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What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

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What is a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)?

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) evaluates, diagnoses and treats speech, language and swallowing disorders in individuals of all ages — from infants to the elderly in a variety of job settings.

Job Settings

  • Early Intervention Centers/EI Home Treatment
  • Preschools
  • Elementary/Middle/High Schools
  • Special Education Co-ops
  • Private Rehabilitation Clinics
  • Private Reading Clinics
  • Home Health Care Agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Long Term Care Facilities/Nursing Homes
  • Corporations (Accent Reduction/English as a second language)
  • “Traveling” Rehab Companies
  • International Opportunities

Examples of Clients Served

  • Premature babies with eating/swallowing problems.
  • Two-year olds who not yet talking.
  • Preschoolers or other school-age children with speech sound errors or limited vocabulary.
  • Children with Autism or other syndromes.
  • Children with language processing, language learning difficulties or reading delays.
  • People who stutter.
  • People with voice disorders.
  • People with swallowing difficulties.
  • Hearing impaired individuals.
  • People who have difficulty communicating due to a stroke or head injury.
  • Non-native speakers.

Job Outlook/Salary

  • Current shortage of SLPs and employment opportunities are expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012 (due to greater awareness of early diagnosis and treatment of speech-language disorders and an aging population).
  • Salaries can vary according to geographic region, job setting, and years of experience:
    • 2009 median calendar year salary for SLPs in a health care setting was $70,000.  SLPs with 4-6 years of experience averaged salaries of $60,000 while SLPs with 28+ years of experience averaged almost $80,000.  
    • 2010 overall median salary for SLPs in schools was $58,000 for a 9-10 month academic year. SLPs with 1-3 years experience averaged $46,000 for the academic year while SLPs with 28+ years of experience averaged $70,000 for the academic year.
    • Hourly rates for part-time work typically range from $35-$50 per hour.
  • Job sharing, part-time and hourly opportunities are numerous in medical, school, early intervention and private practice settings.
  • Administrative opportunities later in career (e.g., head of hospital rehab unit, special ed. coordinator for a school district, director of a clinic, manager for a rehabilitation company). Median administrative salary in 2003 was $78,000.
  • Ph.D. shortage — get a doctoral degree after your master’s and work at a university teaching students to be future SLPs. Median university professor salary in speech pathology was $70,000 in 2003.

Educational Requirements

  • Bachelor’s (four-year degree) and master’s (two-year degree) from an accredited university.
  • Undergraduate bachelor’s degree programs have a variety of names (e.g., communication sciences and disorders, speech and hearing science, communication disorders, speech pathology and audiology) and are in different colleges within universities (e.g., college of education, college of sciences, college of applied life studies, college of liberal arts and science). Online resource to search for accredited program: www.asha.org/gradguide (universities that offer masters’ degrees in speech pathology almost always offer bachelor’s programs as well). Eastern Illinois University, Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences, experienced caring faculty, good academic and clinical preparation, economical university 217-581-2712 (www.eiu.edu/commdis).
    • Example of undergraduate coursework: language acquisition, phonetics and phonological development, language disorders in children, anatomy and speech science, assessment and remediation of articulation disorders, augmentative communication, language and literacy, and voice disorders.
    • In some universities, you treat a client during your junior or senior year. Some universities offer no clinical experiences for undergraduates.
    • It is a challenging major; you want to have at least a 3.3 grade point average so that you can continue your education in a master’s degree program
  • Master’s degree programs (two years). Most prepare SLPs to work in medical and school settings. At EIU, 12 months of coursework and clinical experiences on campus, then a full-time internship in a school setting for one semester and a full-time medical internship for one semester. Example of graduate coursework includes aphasia, stuttering, evaluation and treatment of swallowing disorders, advanced child language and syndromes.

Top 10 Reasons to be an SLP

  1. To help others and make a positive difference in people’s lives.
  2. To be an independent and responsible professional.
  3. To never be “burned out.” If you’re tired of working in one setting or with an age group — switch!
  4. To have people calling you to work for them – jobs are always available in rural and metropolitan settings.
  5. Flexibility — work full-time, part-time, or hourly; work nine months in schools or 12 months in medical settings.
  6. To be a part of a stimulating profession with many opportunities for life-long learning.
  7. To work as part of a team or independently.
  8. To earn a good living with additional opportunities to supplement income with hourly work.
  9. To have your days go by quickly as you’re challenged to provide the best treatment possible for a variety of unique clients.
  10. Most SLPs love their jobs, the people they work with, and go home at the end of the day with a feeling of satisfaction because of helping someone communicate better that day.

For additional resources, visit the American Speech Language Hearing AssociationNational Student Speech Language Hearing Association and www.communicationdisorders.com