How to Become a Speech Pathologist

Speech Pathologist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $70,160
Avg. Pay / hour $33.73
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 27%

If you’re interested in health, psychology, and language then you might like to become a speech pathologist.

These professionals help their patients with a wide range of skills involving communication, and also help patients who have problems with tasks like swallowing or forming sounds.

If you enjoy working closely with patients and seeing positive results, then you might enjoy this career.

These specialists enjoy working business hours in comfortable settings.

To become a speech pathologist, you’ll need to be prepared to complete some postgraduate training.

In most states you’ll need a masters degree to work in the field.

Good job opportunities are expected in this sector.

Education Requirements for a Speech Pathologist

To become a speech pathologist you’ll need to complete between six and seven years of college.

While at high school, science subjects like biology, as well as psychology and English are good to include in your curriculum.

You’ll need to complete a four year bachelors degree at college.

A good specialization is psychology, or a science like biology is also acceptable.

After you complete your bachelors degree you’ll need to apply to graduate school where you will major in speech or language pathology.

This generally takes between 2 and 3 years to complete, and many courses will require you to complete supervised professional practice as a requirement of your education.

Any work experience you can gain during this time will be helpful for when you are seeking a job.

You may also need to complete some supervised practice before you can work independently.

You should confirm your states exact requirements.

To find out about accredited college programs and licensing requirements, refer to the American Speech Language Hearing Association website.

Speech Pathologist Job Description

A speech pathologist works with a wide range of clients to help them with speech, language, and other problems.

They also help people with difficulty swallowing.

They often work with children who have speech impediments or learning disabilities, or could help a person who has been in an accident regain communication skills.

A speech pathologist will also help a person who can no longer speak find alternative ways of communication.

When you become a speech therapist, you normally work in a consulting office, but many work within hospital settings.

The offices are usually comfortable and accommodating to make clients feel at ease.

The speech pathologist will start by interviewing a patient and taking down their history, and performing a range of tests.

A speech pathologist may form a diagnosis, or a treatment plan.

This could involve more clinical sessions, or simply activities for a patient to complete at home.

In a session, a speech pathologist often administers speech therapy, and will complete activities that can help a patient to improve their speech and communication.
Some speech pathologists may work within specialist areas.

For instance, they may help people with speech impediments, or those of a particular age group.

Speech Pathologist Salary and Career Path

Although the requirements differ from state to state, almost all speech pathologists start their career in supervised practice.

An experienced speech pathologist attends with them to learn on the job.

After a short while they are left to practice independently.

When you become a speech pathologist you will most likely work forty hours a week.

The median annual wage of a speech pathologist is $62,000 a year, while the top ten percent of earners made over $79,000 a year.

Many speech pathologists go on to work in specialized roles in the field.

Some design equipment to help people with speech disorders, or become speech and language researchers.

Some become self-employed and open their own practices.

Some similar roles to that of speech pathologist that you might be interested in include:

  • Psychologist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Physical therapist
  • Registered nurse
  • Audiologist
  • Recreational therapist

If you’re passionate about language, speech, and are looking for a career in health where you get to work closely with people, then you might like to become a speech pathologist.

Good growth is expected in the health industry, meaning secure employment and prospects for those who work in this field.

Seeing your patients achieve positive results can be very rewarding and is among the best benefits of pursuing this career.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$98,240
New Hampshire$80,260
New Jersey$98,270
New Mexico$83,860
New York$98,850
North Carolina$72,690
North Dakota$68,420
Rhode Island$88,170
South Carolina$75,680
South Dakota$63,300
West Virginia$74,240
Puerto Rico$43,630

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $102,650.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $102,650
Hawaii - $100,120
New York - $98,850
New Jersey - $98,270
District of Columbia - $98,240
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Speech-Language Pathologists, OCC Code 29-1127, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a speech pathologist do?

Speech pathologists, sometimes also called speech therapists, assess, diagnose and treat communication disorders in children and adults.

They work with people who have speech, language, and related cognitive problems.

Usually, speech therapists specialize in working with specific age groups, some work exclusively with children while others work with adults.

Speech pathologists also have to keep accurate records of their patients.

As a speech pathologist, you can find employment in a variety of medical facilities, as well as schools.

In order to be able to perform the tasks mentioned above, speech therapists need a variety of skills, including communication skills, analytical skills, listening skills, but also compassion and critical-thinking.

How much does a speech pathologist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $77,510 as of May 2018.

Salaries vary based on a wide range of factors, including the therapist’s level of experience, the employer and the region where they practice.

Some earn less than $50,000 a year, while others make more than $120,000.

How much does it cost to become a speech pathologist?

Speech pathologists usually need a master’s degree in speech and language development.

In order to make sure that you receive the best possible education, you should choose a master’s program that is accredited by the Council of Academic Accreditation.

Master’s programs in speech pathology can cost anywhere between $10,000 and more than $20,000 a year, depending on the school you choose.

Before applying for a graduate program you will have to complete an undergraduate program, which can cost you anywhere between less than $10,000 and more than $30,000 a year, depending on the college and the program you choose.

In some situations, you may need a special type of certification in order to be able to practice as a speech pathologist.

These certifications are offered by three institutions: American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders, American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders and the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders.

What is the demand for speech pathologists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of speech-language pathologists is expected to grow 27 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is explained, in part, by an increased awareness of speech and language disorders.

How long does it take to become a speech pathologist?

Most states require speech pathologists to be licensed; licensure usually requires at least a master’s degree from an accredited program, some supervised clinical experience (the exact number of hours vary by state), and passing an exam.

Before applying for a graduate program you will typically need to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree program.

A master’s degree program can be completed in around 2 years.

In some situations you may also need certification; in order to apply for certification, you will need clinical experience in the field (the exact number of hours depends on the type of certification you are seeking).

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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