What is a speech pathologist?
This is a medical professional who helps patients who have communication, language and speech problems. They help patients that are suffering from problems like fluency disorders, vocal irregularities, swallowing, and speech defects. They assist their patients in understanding language and putting words together along with practicing alternative methods of communication. A speech pathologist treats speech problems that developmental, acquired because of a health disorder or problem, or congenital. A speech pathologist is also known as a speech therapist or speech-language pathologists.
Job description of a speech pathologist
A speech pathologist is one who is in charge of diagnosing and treating patients who have communication disorders. They provide services that are aimed at helping them with cognitive-linguistic, fluency, swallowing, and speech, literacy that can happen because of cancer, having a stroke, neurological disease, seizures, or any other underlying medical conditions. Being a speech pathologist you will be dealing with children and adults.
Although their place of employment would play a big factor in their job duties some of the things that are part of a speech pathologists job can include:
- Helping the patient overcome their stammering or stuttering problem
- Patients who are having difficulties in swallowing and chewing a speech pathologist will evaluate them to see what is causing these difficulties and provide a treatment plan.
- Treating adults who have voice or speech problems because of surgery, diseases of the nervous system, or brain damage.
- Treating children who are having such problems as cerebral palsy, delayed language development, and hearing loss.
- Providing continuous counseling to patients and their families, especially if the speech pathologist is treating their child.
- Being employed by a hospital where you would work with adult patients who have suffered from a stroke, or patients of any age who have some neurological disease or severe head injury.
- Being employed by the school system you would work with children to help them with learning how to say certain letters, words, etc.
- Working with people who have recently lost their hearing, have had a stroke, or are paraplegics to help them normalize their patterns of speech.
One thing that a speech pathologist needs to have and that is patience as it can take several sessions before you even see any type of improvement. There may even be times that the patient will take steps backward and you will have to start all over with their treatment plan or revise the treatment plan you are using. You will need to also have good listening skills and have the compassion for teaching people of all ages with speech disorders. You should also love to work with children as some of your patients will be children.
How to become a speech pathologist?
Speech pathologist must have a master’s degree and obtain special certifications before they can officially diagnose and treat speech disorders. In order to get a job as a speech pathologist you will have to have some minimum qualifications such as having sufficient internship experience and clinical practice so they can apply for higher educational programs if they choose to do so. Becoming a speech-language pathologist is a very competitive field so you need to make sure that you complete all the training and educational requirements with a high GPA average.
To become a speech pathologist you will need to get a master’s degree in speech pathology. The first thing you need to do is get your bachelor’s degree. In order to get your bachelor’s degree you must have a high school diploma and good marks in your SAT or ACT exams. Before selecting which college you will attend to get your bachelor’s degree you need to make sure that they have accreditation from the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
While earning credits toward your bachelor’s degree you should take subjects that cover the basics of language development, speech disorders, and speech pathology. You will also need to master the fundamentals of speech therapy so that if you decide to go for a higher degree they will understand what the concepts are. Near the end of your bachelor’s degree program you will need to get work experience and do an internship. Once you graduate with your bachelor’s degree it is time to work on your master’s degree. While working on your master’s degree you will take classes in physiology and anatomy and other classes that are related to mechanics of swallowing and speech.
After receiving your master’s degree it is time to get your license so you can be a practicing speech pathologist. The specific eligibility requirements will vary from state to state. The typical requirements are to pass the national licensing exam, complete some postgraduate professional experience, and have a certain number of clinical practiced hours that have been supervised. The exam that you will take is called the Praxis Exam in Speech-Language Pathology that is given by the Educational Testing Service. Although it varies by state, the number of supervised clinical practiced hours can range from 300 – 375 hours. There are also several national level certifications that you can get through the American Speech Language-Hearing Association. One of these certifications is the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology. In order to renew your license you will have to take continuing education courses.
Work environment and schedule
A speech pathologist has a lot of flexibility when choosing where they want to work. They can work in hospitals, schools, nursing facilities, private practices, clinics, group practice and more. They can even become self employed and travel to that patient’s home to help them with any of their communication problems if they are bedridden or have no transportation to get to an office to see a speech pathologist. Being self employed they can work on a contractual basis and fix their own schedule hours. Most speech pathologists will work a normal Monday thru Friday work week working 40 hours a week. If you are self employed you could have a varied schedule where you could work some evenings if it is necessary. Working for a school you would have the same schedule as the teachers with weekends off and a 2 month summer vacation. A speech pathologist may also work in research laboratories designing and developing techniques and equipment for treating and diagnosing problems with a patient’s speech.
The job of a pathologist is nonrestrictive because they can construct creative therapy sessions to fit the needs of their patients. For example, if it is a child they could make the sessions fun so they will do what the speech pathologist would like them to do. Most of the patients that a speech pathologist will treat are referrals from primary care physicians. If they are self employed they may have patients who reside in nursing homes, who have just been released from the hospital, or who have just called the speech pathologist and set up an appointment.
When seeing the patient for the first time they will have them fill out paperwork so the speech pathologist will know what symptoms they are having, their problem, and any medications they are on. In order to know what the patient’s communication challenges are they will run tests. Once they know what problems the patient is having they will make a treatment plan that is based on their social environment, physical abilities, and age. They can also learn to create speech exercise programs.
A speech-language pathologist will also keep records of the patient’s progress, any problems they are having with the treatment plan, and what the treatment plan is. If you are self-employed or work with the school system, hospital, nursing home, or clinic this will be your responsibility but if you have a private practice or group practice you will usually have someone that does this for you. Most speech pathologists work closely with psychologists, teachers, and primary care physicians to monitor a patient’s progress.
Pros and cons of being a Speech Pathologist
The great feeling, when working with patients is that you’ll get to make their life a lot easier. The pro in being a Speech Pathologist mixes with the desire of being able to help a patient improve his reading, speaking and writing. You will also develop those skills despite a swallowing disorder or hearing loss and other emotional disorders that affected the communicational abilities.
The best rewarding is when you see improvements in the therapy that you’ve started with a patient, and you see him or her react properly to your methods and procedures. A major con will be having to deal with a lot of paperwork and with some taking time clerical duties such as having to document the treatment and the progress as well, and the lessons plans. With these issues that need to be completed, the volume of paperwork is remarkable.
One of the huge pros in this career is that you have a highly manageable schedule with many job opportunities and settings. A speech pathologist can be hired in various settings such as secondary schools, or even elementary schools, nursing facilities and hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. You’ll have a mobility in your time and your life since many speech pathologists work as contractors hired for a short term period, but they get the basic income for the living expenses offered by the employer.
Compared with other fields such as marriage and family therapist or even with a mental health counselor the job of a Speech Pathologist is very rewarded from the salary point of view. The payment of a speech pathologist reaches on an average of $66,925 per year, and the job opportunities gather up quickly since the number of demanding has not dropped over the years.
The educational path for this career will take some time from your life and the length the studies assume earning a Master’s Degree, and clinical experience in order to be able to fulfill the requirements for licensing. Once you’ve completed your studies, you might be required by your employer to pass an exam in order to gain certification through American Speech Language Hearing Association, an industry organization that grants certification to speech pathologists.
At the end of your educational path, you’ll probably be in financial debt that is a huge con, and you’ll be able to earn your first entire salary after paying all your debt.
Speech Pathologist job growth
The job opportunities for speech pathologists are various and plenty from research laboratories and up to medical facilities and schools and many other. Those who are bound by a contract basis will spend much of their time traveling between facilities to treat clients and patients. Some of these professionals work even as self-employed. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the employment of these professionals is meant to increase with 21% in the next five years or so.
The increase in the employment rate is due to the aging baby boomer population where in time the chances of speech, swallowing and language impairments rise. Many children and young adults will need the aid of these professionals not only to establish the impairments and the disorders but also to set the course of the right treatment plan.
In addition, to this, many of the medical advances are trying to improve the rate of survival for the victims of trauma or strokes and even in the cases of premature infants, needing a lot the help of speech pathologists.
The employment for speech pathologists is expected to grow a lot faster than the average for all occupations due to the number of demanding. The job satisfaction in this career reported by many speech pathologists is good and satisfactory. People are always in need for these professionals since these professionals are in high demand.
Speech Pathologist Salary
After becoming a speech pathologist you will not be on the high end of the salary scale as a physician would. Just starting out the average yearly speech pathologist salary is $68,000 but it can be lower. This not much higher than some business people and factory workers earn. There are also other factors that figure into the salary such as your employer, the geographical location, how many years of experience you have, how much education you have and what certificates, if any, that you have.
The different places of employment and average yearly salary are:
- $105,800 working in ambulatory care services
- $91,220 working in home health care services
- $87,370 working in child day care services
- $86,490 working in assisted living facilities
- $86,240 working in social advocacy organizations
- $85,610 working in skilled nursing care facilities
- $79,130 working in offices of other health practitioners
- $76,210 working in specialty hospitals that include substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals
- $75,700 working in general medical and surgical hospitals
- $66,440 working in secondary and elementary schools
- $65,380 working in educational support services
The top 5 highest average yearly speech pathologists salary states are:
- $35,319 – $86,000 in New York
- $47,971 – $85,696 in California
- $47,513 – $82,297 in Texas
- $40,036 – $74,497 in Ohio
- $30,410 – $98,633 in Pennsylvania
The lowest 5 average yearly speech pathologist salary states are:
- $47,830 in South Dakota
- $49,370 in West Virginia
- $51,240 in North Dakota
- $52,360 in Nebraska
- $52,610 in Montana
If you have one of these certifications you could earn an average yearly salary of:
- $42,072 – $80,906 with a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology
- $41,754 – $78,653 with a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
It is also found that the average yearly salary for speech pathologists depends on gender with men having the higher salary. The average yearly speech pathologist salary for men ranges from $65,000 – $80,497 and for women it is from $40,374 – $76,621.
Even though the average yearly speech pathologist salary is under $100,000 even with experience there is still the benefit package that many employers offer their employees. This benefit package can include paid vacation days, paid sick days, personal days, life and health insurance that is just for the employee or may include the family, vision and dental coverage, social security, retirement, 401K and more. There is one disadvantage when working for a school system and that is when the school is closed for the summer you have a couple of months off but it is without pay. When you are self-employed you would have to pay for your own health and life insurance and start to save for your retirement.
Salary of a Speech Pathologist in 2015
In the US, the speech pathologist salary is estimated at $68,355 per year more or less. The salary of this professional in 2015 is influenced by many factors that play an important role in one’s income. Mainly it will be determined by the years of practice in the field, and the working industry not to mention the city in which you are working. For instance, the speech pathologist, who have more than five years of experience or close to this period, will earn a salary that reaches $82,389 per year.
As a speech pathologist, you can also expect to earn a higher income due to your qualifications in the field and according to your work experience that can be considerable.
Speech Pathologist Salary in 2016
For the year 2016, in the United States, the average income for speech pathologist is estimated to be around $68,270 per year. The payment for this group has lower points- the salary starting from $46,100 per year and higher points- the income getting at around $99,100 per year and even higher.
The majority of speech pathologists that are practicing in the US are women, mainly is due to the nature of the job itself and the personality and inclination of each individual. When it comes to the compensations for these professionals, the most influential factor is the geographical location-residence, followed by the years of experience in the field – expertise and the employer-industry, company size.
The main disadvantage is that many of speech pathologists claim no health benefits at all, even though many of them have medical coverage and some dental coverage. Still the bonuses that are granted can reach up to $2,519 per year while the profit sharing is being comprised between $201.37 and $9,619 per year.
A higher income is also earned by the education level – the qualifications that one professional has obtained in this field all together mixed with the years of experience. There are plenty of job opportunities, the salaries also vary according to the state in which one has found work- some paying higher while other paying lower.
The factor that affects the salaries for speech pathologists are the costs of living in that particular area as well as the living expenses. When it comes to the jobs, the employment site in which a speech pathologist has found work in general lines the health care industry usually pays better than the schools.
Speech Pathologist salary in Canada, Australia and UK
- UK—the average yearly speech pathologist salary in the UK is based on their age. In their 20’s they can earn up to35,500, in their 30’s they can up to $46,387, and in their 40’s and 50’s they can earn up to 54,907
- Australia—the average yearly speech pathologist salary ranges from AU$43,077 – AU$66,896
- Canada—the average yearly salary a for speech pathologist ranges from C$75,000 – C$85,000
Conclusion on speech pathologist salary
Yes, it can take several years to become a speech pathologist and when looking at the beginning salary many wonder if it is worth it. If you love working with people, especially children, and helping them learn how to communicate with people then this would be the ideal job for you. It is also a great job if you want to be self-employed. When looking back at the salary figures for a speech pathologist you can see that in the highest 10% the average yearly salary can be over $107,650 and in the lowest 10% the average yearly salary is less than $44.380. According to the United States Labor Statistics the job outlook between 2012 and 2022 is expected to rise 19%, which averages 26,000 more speech pathologist jobs. You should also look at the benefit package your prospective employer is offering because adding up all the benefits can add several thousand more dollars to figure in the salary being offered.
- First Published Date: 26 June, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 17 August, 2016