For millions of Americans, everyday tasks of communication can be challenging. However, speech-language pathologists work with many of these individuals to develop the skills and ability to communicate effectively. The path to becoming an SLP is not necessarily short. It requires years of school, clinical training, and board certification. Yet, speech-language pathologists often report a sense of profound fulfillment from their work. This is likely because a day on the job involves making a profound impact on the lives of others. Although all SLPs work to help develop communication skills, there are countless settings in which they can do this. For those considering speech-language pathology, consider some of your speech-language pathology career options!
What is Speech-Language Pathology?
Before diving into speech-language pathology career options, it is worth exploring what speech-language pathology is. As mentioned above, SLPs work with people to develop communication skills. However, the scope of this work is actually quite broad. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLHA),
SLPs work with people of any age group to, “prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders”.
Although there are many settings in which you can work as a speech-language pathologist, the requirements are similar everywhere in the United States. While your undergraduate degree does not necessarily need to be in speech-language pathology, you will need to earn a master’s degree in the field. It is best to choose a program that is accredited by the ASLHA’s Council on Academic Accreditation because some state boards require this. After earning your degree, you will need to become licensed in the state that you plan to practice.
Speech-Language Pathology Career Options
Now that you know what speech-language pathology is, you can consider various speech-language pathology career options. It is important to remember that many of your responsibilities will be similar between options. However, the demographic and facility differences can drastically change your experience. Additionally, different options will likely come with different salaries, though the median annual wage for all SLPs was $74,680 in 2016.
Schools are by far the most common of all speech-language pathology career options. Schools and other educational institutions allow SLPs to work directly with students. This is an excellent option for those who want to work with younger children who are still developing. Although 43 percent of all speech-language pathologists work in schools, the salary is typically lower than in other settings. The median annual salary for a school speech-language pathologist is $65,540. However, helping a child develop skills that will have a profound impact on their life is rewarding in and of itself.
The next most common career option for speech-language pathologists is working in a private practice. Although SLPs certainly can set up their own clinic, it is common to see speech-language pathologists share a practice with physical therapists, occupational therapists, or audiologists. An estimated 20 percent of all licensed speech-language pathologists work in a private practice like this. In these clinics, SLPs can work with patients of any age group with a variety of different communication challenges. The variety of cases that you can see is one reason that this option is highly desirable. Additionally, SLPs can earn a significantly higher annual salary here than in schools. The median annual salary for a speech-language pathologist in this setting is $80,580.
Hospitals are similar to private practice in that you will see a wide variety of cases. Patients will come from a variety of age groups with many different communication challenges. However, in a hospital, you are more likely to be working with patients who need acute care. This usually requires technical advances in speech, language, voice, and swallowing diagnostics. Hospital speech-language pathologists make up 14 percent of all SLPs and earn a median annual salary of $81,090.
Working as an SLP in residential care presents a unique set of challenges and rewards. While your job responsibilities will certainly resemble those of SLPs in other settings, you will likely be working primarily with older patients. These positions are available in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Residential care speech-language pathologists work largely with patients who have trouble swallowing. In fact, roughly 72 percent of the cases they see involve patients who have trouble swallowing. Despite these challenges, the 5 percent of SLPs who work in residential care earn the highest median annual salary of any career option: $92,220.
Ultimately, being a speech-language pathologist in any capacity is a highly rewarding (and lucrative) career choice. That said, there is a lot to consider when making the decision about where you should work. Fortunately, SLPs can explore many different options working as a travel speech language pathologist! Interested in exploring your speech-language pathology career options? Start by checking out some of the current openings for travel SLP jobs across the country right here on AlliedTravelCareers.com.