Career Outlook for Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are responsible for more than the evaluation and treatment of speech and language disorders. Individuals in this field also work with clients on swallowing rehabilitation, auditory and reading comprehension, communication and social skills, and alternative methods of communication.

Communication is central to human interaction and the field of speech-language pathology, which is projected to grow faster than the national average for all occupations in the next decade. 1

With regards to the SLP job outlook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 25,900 new SLPs will be needed by 2026 — 18 percent more than the 145,100 SLPs in the United States in 2016. With this growing job market, many people may consider SLP careers where they’ll find meaningful work that is flexible to their needs and interests.

Salary Expectations of a Speech-Language Pathologist

The median SLP salary in 2017 was $76,610, up by more than 14 percent since 2010. Salaries vary by setting and geography and are commensurate with experience.

Median SLP Salaries by Setting2

  • Nursing and residential care facilities: $93,110
  • Offices of physical and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists: $83,800
  • State, local, or private hospitals: $82,830
  • State, local, or private educational services: $66,960

SLP Salaries by Geography

Salaries vary by geographic region and depend on the local average cost of living. The highest demand for SLPs tends to be in major metropolitan areas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, states with some of the highest average SLP salaries include Alaska, California, Connecticut, and New York.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salaries by State

State Median Salary (2017)
Alabama $65,370
Alaska $89,060
Arizona $71,930
Arkansas $67,150
California $92,810
Colorado $85,600
Connecticut $92,800
Delaware $75,490
District of Columbia $85,710
Florida $81,780
Georgia $74,510
Hawaii $72,010
Idaho $71,880
Illinois $75,490
Indiana $73,950
Iowa $71,330
Kansas $67,990
Kentucky $68,690
Louisiana $61,400
Maine $62,930
Maryland $83,420
Massachusetts $83,610
Michigan $75,260
Minnesota $71,620
Mississippi $59,000
Missouri $74,640
Montana $68,500
Nebraska $66,040
Nevada $64,140
New Hampshire $73,610
New Jersey $82,020
New Mexico $74,860
New York $79,530
North Carolina $70,320
North Dakota $62,050
Ohio $74,140
Oklahoma $62,460
Oregon $85,210
Pennsylvania $72,200
Puerto Rico $38,910
Rhode Island $77,070
South Carolina $73,880
South Dakota $72,200
Pennsylvania $57,690
Tennessee $74,780
Texas $75,270
Utah $71,840
Vermont $71,840
Virginia $84,360
Washington $74,790
West Virginia $58,180
Wisconsin $69,140
Wyoming $70,140

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Careers in Speech-Language Pathology

SLPs have the opportunity to work with diverse populations of clients across the lifespan and in a variety of environments. Settings for SLPs include public and private schools, health agencies, nursing facilities, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and private practices.

More than half of SLPs work in educational settings3 such as Pre-K–12 public and private schools, colleges, and universities. SLPs who work in schools play an important role in helping children and families utilize special education services. They help students with social communication skills, language challenges such as stuttering and voice disorders, and swallowing disorders. There is an increased demand for SLPs who work with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder.

Other SLPs find that their interests are more suited to working in hospitals or in nursing or residential care facilities. As the US baby boomer population ages, more SLPs will be needed to help with conditions that cause speech, language, and swallowing issues. Many baby boomers who work as SLPs will also be retiring, thus creating job demand, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

Some SLPs choose to work in the offices of physical or occupational therapists, or fellow SLPs, whereas others may choose to start their own private practice, take short-term assignments, or travel for their work.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

If you’re interested in a career in speech-language pathology, it’s important to plan for the right education, clinical training, and licensure. You’ll need a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and should choose an ASHA-accredited program. Your master’s program will include academic and experiential coursework, and you’ll have to complete the required hours of supervised clinical experience, which includes clinical observation and direct contact with clients. 

After you graduate from an accredited master’s program in speech-language pathology, you’ll often need to complete a supervised clinical fellowship and pass the Praxis exam in speech-language pathology before you complete your state’s requirements for licensure. If you want to work in a school setting, your state may also require a teaching certification. ASHA has more information about SLP licensure requirements in your state.   

1 US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook   

2 US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook

3 Employment Settings for SLPs, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

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Citation for this content: Speech@NYU, NYU Steinhardt's online SLP degree