Number of Jobs
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Social Services Jobs||#3|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#35|
Communicating effectively involves enunciating sounds correctly, using proper intonation and tone of voice and comprehending what’s heard. Speech-language pathologists, or speech therapists, evaluate and diagnose people with disorders and challenges in these areas, and help them improve their communication skills. They might work with children, stroke victims or people with dyslexia or brain injuries. As of 2012, more than 134,000 therapists worked in hospitals, schools, private offices and nursing homes throughout the country, devising treatment plans that might involve vocal lessons, muscle and swallowing exercises or coaching on how to communicate using alternative methods. This is often a collaborative profession that requires input from school teachers, counselors and physicians to determine the best treatment plan for a patient.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a hiring boom for speech-language pathologists to accommodate the aging population. Instances of speech and language impairments increase with age, and the BLS expects 26,000 new openings in this field before 2022.
Speech-language pathologists have seen a spike in pay the past few years. The average salary for therapists jumped from $66,920 in 2010 to $69,100 in 2011, then hit $72,730 in 2012, according to the BLS. The best-paid in the profession earned more than $107,650 in 2012, while the lowest-paid earned less than $44,380. Jobs within the health care industry generally pay more than schools do for speech therapists, and some of the top-paying metropolitan areas include Sherman, Texas, New Bedford, Mass., and Bowling Green, Ky.
To practice as a speech therapist, you need at least a master’s degree, preferably from one of the 253 programs accredited by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Curriculums include courses in age-specific speech disorders and alternative communication methods, plus about 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience. Passing the national board Praxis exam is mandatory, and most, if not all, employers require new hires to have licensure and certification. The ASHA also offers a Certificate of Clinical Competence in speech-language pathology, but licensing mandates vary state to state.
Janet Brown, ASHA director of health care services in speech-language pathology, says speech therapists hoping to work in education need as many field placements as possible during graduate school. And if you want to work in a health care setting, Brown suggests looking for a degree program that has health care placements readily available. Job prospects are good for speech-language pathologists, but this is a competitive field. For an inside edge, “ask in advance when looking for your master’s program about their available placements,” Brown advises.
|Upward Mobility||fair Average|
|Stress Level||poor Above Average|
Last updated by Katy Marquardt.