Speech-Language Pathologist Job Description

Speech-Language Pathologist: Job Description, Salary, & More

Speech is one of our most valuable abilities. Whether spoken or written, most of us rely on our ability to use words to communicate our thoughts and feelings, ask questions, and get essential information every day.

However, for many people, expressing themselves through speech can be challenging. Whether it’s due to a thinking difference such as autism spectrum disorder, a physical injury or disability involving the mouth and throat, or a life change such as learning a new language or undergoing gender confirmation treatment, many people can benefit from working with a speech-language pathologist (SLP).

Learn more about the role of speech-language pathologists below, including the SLP job description, salary, various roles, and more.

What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

A speech-language pathologist, sometimes referred to as a speech therapist, is a professional who specializes in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of speech, language, voice, fluency, and swallowing disorders. These professionals work with individuals of all ages, from infants to the elderly, who have difficulty with communication or swallowing due to various conditions such as developmental delays, brain injuries, stroke, hearing loss, or other neurological disorders.

Speech-Language Pathologist Job Description

Speech-language pathology is a diverse job field; therefore, the speech-language pathologist job description varies from role to role. For example, SLPs may work with people of all ages, ranging from small children to the elderly, or they may specialize in a specific demographic. They may work with people with cognitive disorders and disabilities or with patients who have had strokes or oral surgeries, and their job settings can range from schools and private practices to hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or research labs.

Regardless of the specific role, all SLPs develop personalized treatment plans to help clients improve their communication, thereby enhancing their overall quality of life. All speech-language pathologists have one shared goal: to help people express themselves, whether that means better control of the muscles of the mouth and throat or developing skills to put their feelings into words.

What is the Role of a Speech Pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists may work anywhere there are people who have difficulty speaking and communicating. Their role is simply to give their patients and students the best support they can in learning to express themselves, ask and answer questions, and be perceived the way they want to be perceived.

Some speech-language pathologists may even work with people who are learning a new language or undergoing gender confirmation treatments to help their students and patients learn to communicate clearly and present the image they want to present to the world.

This can mean clinics and healthcare settings that see people with brain injuries or mouth and throat injuries, schools that see children with thinking differences and disabilities, private clinics, and research labs that study the best ways to help people communicate better.

What are the Duties of a Speech and Language Therapist?

A speech-language pathologist’s job description may incorporate a wide range of duties and responsibilities aimed at diagnosing, treating, and preventing communication and swallowing disorders. These duties include:

  • Evaluating students or patients. To come up with a plan to help their student or patient, a speech-language pathologist must first determine their speech capabilities and difficulties. Does the patient have trouble forming words? Do they have trouble finding words to express their feelings? Do they have difficulty noticing and understanding when people speak to them?
  • Creating a plan of action. Once the speech-language pathologist knows where the patient’s strengths and weaknesses are, they will come up with a plan of action to achieve the patient’s goals. Like any lesson plan or treatment plan, this may involve planning out specific lessons, goals, and timelines.
  • Use a variety of techniques and exercises. From strengthening the muscles of the mouth and throat to helping patients find the right words to express their feelings, speech-language pathologists must be familiar with a wide variety of techniques to help people learn to speak the way they want to speak.
  • Keep records and report results. Many parties, from schools and parents to insurance companies, may need to be updated on the patient’s progress and their ongoing needs. Speech-language pathologists will have to be organized and have a good ability to meet deadlines to report the information these parties need to know.

How Much Do Speech-Language Pathologists Make?

As with all jobs, the salary of speech-language pathologists is influenced by the amount of experience the individual practitioner has as well as the geographic area.

Areas with higher costs of living may have higher salaries – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to put more into savings. It’s a good idea to consult an online cost-of-living calculator when deciding whether to move to accept a job with a higher salary. Speech-language pathologist salaries may also vary by the setting in which the practitioner works.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $84,140. Most speech-language pathologists make between $56,370 and $127,680 a year.

To help you get the highest salary possible in your speech-language pathologist job, take a look at these tips for salary negotiation.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists need a variety of skills and experience, including people skills, a degree in speech-language pathology, and hands-on training for those who want to work in schools. Read on to learn what skills and experience are necessary and how to get them!

SLP Skills

Like all jobs working with patients or students, a speech-language pathologist needs both knowledge of their subject area and people skills. In addition to their educational requirements, speech-language pathologists must have:

  • Warmth. People who are struggling to speak may need reassurance and a safe, friendly presence to help them open up.
  • Patience. People who struggle with speech or expression may become frustrated or discouraged, so it’s important for a speech-language pathologist to have a patient and reassuring presence.
  • Educational and work experience. Becoming a speech-language pathologist who can be employed in any job title requires a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and some professional experience gained under the supervision of a more senior speech-language pathologist.
  • Professional accreditations. Organizations like the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) make sure that schools and programs are teaching people the skills they need to excel in this job. Make sure that any school you consider attending for speech-language pathology is CAA-accredited and prepare yourself to pass the ASHA certification exam.

SLP Educational Requirements

Many schools, both online and in-person, offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech-language pathology. Remember to balance quality with affordability – you may not need a degree from one of the nation’s top 20 schools to get a job as a speech-language pathologist. However, you will want to make sure that your school is accredited by the CAA, as it may be possible for some colleges and universities to offer programs that are not accredited by this important organization.

The education requirements to become an SLP include:

  1. A bachelor’s degree in a communication-related field such as Linguistics or Psychology, AND
  2. A master’s degree in audiology or speech-language pathology from a CAA-accredited school.
  3. Completion of 400 hours of supervised clinical experience, followed by one year of a clinical fellowship. This requires 36 weeks of full-time clinical practice and hands-on experience.
  4. To work in schools, a speech-language pathologist must pass the Praxis exam to obtain the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology.
  5. Finally, a speech-language pathologist who wants to work in a school must have a teaching certificate, which qualifies them to teach in a school setting.

Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

In summary, speech-language pathologists are superheroes to people who struggle to communicate. Whether it’s because of an illness, injury, disability, or major life change, many people need the skills of a speech-language pathologist at some point in their life.

The bar is high for professional excellence in this field, with people skills being required, as well as a master’s degree and professional certifications. But the rewards are rich.

Seeing a patient or student successfully communicate in a way that serves them best is priceless.

Looking for your next speech-language pathology job? Soliant can help you find opportunities in your area. Start your search here.

The right connection can make all the difference.