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Speech-Language Pathologist Career Overview

Amanda Lundberg, RN, BSN
March 7, 2023
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Speech-language pathologists (SLP) are experts in communication. SLPs work with a broad range of physical and cognitive communication disorders. These can be a result of many different causes such as autism, stroke, hearing loss, brain injury, and a cleft palate.

Read all about SLPs, how they help their patients, what the average salary is, and decide if becoming an SLP is right for you!

What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists work with patients from babies to adults, treating many different speech-related and swallowing conditions including:

  • Speech sounds – Individuals who have trouble articulating sounds and putting together words to communicate effectively. Some of the common conditions are apraxia of speech and dysarthria
  • Language – Individuals that struggle with understanding what they’ve heard or read and also have trouble communicating their thoughts to others. 
  • Fluency - Individuals that have developed a stutter or stammer in their speech.
  • Feeding and swallowing – Individuals with difficulties sucking, swallowing, or chewing foods and liquids, this is also known as dysphagia

What Does a Speech-Language Pathologist Do?

SLPs work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, schools, rehabilitation clinics, and private practice. They often work alongside other therapists such as psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and audiologists. 

The job of an SLP can vary depending on the setting and the needs of the patient, but typically their day includes:

  • Performing patient screenings to detect any speech-related conditions
  • Designing individual treatment plans
  • Helping patients develop speech and communication skills through a variety of exercises
  • Educating family members on how to assist patients with their conditions

What Skills Does a Speech-Language Pathologist Need?

To be a successful SLP you will need many skills, below are just a few:

  • Evaluation skills
  • Good communicator 
  • Detail-oriented
  • Listening skills
  • Critical-thinking skills

Common Cases Speech-Language Pathologists Encounter

In 2016 the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reported that 7.7% of American children have been diagnosed with a speech or swallowing disorder. That is nearly one in 12 children. Some of the most common speech disorders and impediments SLPs help with are:

Education Requirements & Helpful Certifications

SLPs have a master's degree, are state-licensed, and are often nationally certified through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Below are the necessary steps to become an SLP:

  • Complete an undergraduate program in communication sciences and disorders (CSD)
  • Complete a CAA-accredited graduate degree 
  • Complete a post-graduate fellowship
  • Take the national exam in speech-language pathology
  • Apply for state licensure as an SLP

How to Advance Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist

Upon the successful completion of the national exam, many SLPs go on to complete AHSA’s Speech-Language Pathology Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP) professional certification. Although this certification is voluntary, those who have completed the program often are presented with more opportunities for career advancement, job mobility, and higher salaries.

Average Salary For Speech-Language Pathologists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for SLPs is $85,820.  California has the highest annual wages at $102,650.The highest-paid settings for SLPs are found in home health care and nursing care facilities. 

The Pros and Cons of Being a Speech-Language Pathologist

SLP is continually ranked in the top 100 best jobs, however, there are always pros and cons to every career choice. Below are a few to consider before deciding if becoming an SLP is right for you.


  • SLPs make a difference in their patients' everyday lives and it is very rewarding work.
  • Working directly with patients over relatively long periods of time.
  • Variety in the type of settings to work in.
  • Continued growth, the BLS estimates an 18% growth from now until 2026.


  • The cost of becoming an SLP can be very expensive. 
  • Large caseloads.
  • Depending on the setting you choose to work in, you may have to work weekends and holidays.

Ideal Personality Traits

Having a strong desire to help others is vital to the success of any SLP. Patience, empathy, and a positive outlook will not only help you stand out as an SLP but foster more trust and connection between you and your patients. 

Communication is a fundamental part of everyone’s life and when there is a barrier to communicating with those around you, it can create insecurities and a lack of confidence. SLPs positively impact the lives of their patients by giving them the confidence to communicate effectively and efficiently. If this sounds like the right career for you, check out Trusted Health's Allied Jobs to search for SLP opportunities all over the country and get started today!

Amanda Lundberg, RN, BSN

Amanda is a nurse with over ten years of experience in clinical settings. She is an expert in family medicine as well as various specialties. Her holistic approach to health focuses on wellness and preventative care. She now writes content for health and wellness brands under her company name, Locksley Content.

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