What is a Speech and Language Pathologist?

A speech and language pathologist is a medically trained pathologist who performs examinations, diagnoses and treats children and adults who suffer from communication and swallowing disorders. Speech and language pathologists are also referred to as speech therapists because they help many patients with speech problems. Speech and language pathologists are highly educated and board-certified medical professionals. Here is information on speech and language pathologists, including what they do, what it takes to become one and career outlook/wage potential.

What is a Speech and Language Pathologist?

A speech and language pathologist is a trained medical professional who works with and helps patients suffering from swallowing and communication programs resulting from stroke, autism, hearing loss, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and delayed development. They see and evaluate patients, corroborate on treatment plans and also perform treatments.

They also help patients to strengthen their swallowing muscles and learn to make specific sounds that can improve their overall speech. The pathologist also works with the patient’s family members to offer suggestions on how to help the patient and better deal with the disorder. Speech and language pathologists may find employment in hospitals, nursing homes or with schools.

Becoming a Speech and Language Pathologist

Becoming a speech and language pathologist requires lots of education, training, experience and certification. Speech and language pathologists are required to have a master’s degree from an accredited program. Graduating from a school accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation is necessary for certification.

Although the applicant is not required to hold a bachelor’s degree prior to entering the graduate program, he or she may be required to complete specific courses as prerequisites to the program. Course topics in the graduate degree program include swallowing disorders; speech and language development; age-specific speech disorders; and alternative communication methods. The student must also complete clinical education as part of the program requirements.

Certification Requirements

Although their actual licensure requirements may vary, all the states require speech and language pathologists be registered or licensed. Requirements can be obtained through the state’s medical licensing board. To become licensed, the candidate is typically required to complete the training program and pass a certification exam. There are various types of certification available to speech and language pathologist. Some may require just passing a certification exam, and others may require completing a supervised fellowship.

Certifications in specialized areas of speech and language pathology can be obtained from the American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders, the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders and the American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders.

Career Outlook for Speech and Language Pathologist

U.S. News & World Report ranks speech and language pathologists number 28 among 100 best jobs and number 20 among the best healthcare jobs, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Speech therapists are predicted to experience a job growth of 18 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

According to a BLS wage report, speech and language pathologists earn wages that range from $48,830 to $118,910 with the average yearly wage at $79,770. Below are the top-paying states for speech and language pathologists along with their annual wages.

  • Connecticut – $93,340
  • California – $92,280
  • Alaska – $91,710
  • Colorado – $88,500
  • New York – $87,420

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Colleges for a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Informatics

Speech and language pathologists are special individuals because they strive to help others with speed and communication issues, which can greatly improve a patient’s wellbeing and self-confidence. Speech and language pathologists are constantly in demand, and the career is one that can be extremely rewarding.