Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

Speech and language are our bridges to the world. For many of us, it’s taken for granted, but more than three million Americans stutter. Nearly one in 12 children in the US have a disorder related to voice, speech, or language, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Over 55 percent of those children received intervention services in the past year. Speech-language pathologists help give people their voices back.

The need for speech-language pathologists has been rising for years. Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) forecasts openings in the profession will grow 21 percent between 2021 and 2031, a rate that’s more than four times the national average (5 percent).

A major factor in this growth is the Baby Boomer generation’s retirement. There are more people over 65 in the US than there ever have been. With that aging population comes an increased number of strokes, brain injuries, dementia cases, and other medical conditions that impact speech and language. At the same time, improvements in healthcare have upped the survival rate of premature infants. Speech-language pathologists are needed at both ends of the age spectrum.

Speech-language pathologists work in schools, clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals. They work with physicians, teachers, and psychologists. They are needed in big cities and rural areas. SLPs give people their voices back and build bridges into the world. 

If you are interested in a fast-growing profession that makes a real difference, read on to learn more about speech-language pathologists.

Featured SLP & Communication Disorders Programs
Arizona State University Speech and Hearing Science (BS)Program Website
×

THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN Southern New Hampshire University Online MS - Construction Management

Speech-Language Pathologist Specializations & Degree Types

Speech-language pathologists typically have both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. At the bachelor’s level, many choose to major in speech-language pathology, communication disorders, or speech and hearing science. However, it’s also possible to major in a different field and complete some foundational prerequisite coursework later.

Master’s programs focus purely on speech-language pathology and include clinical practicums and working internships. Students in these master’s programs may tailor their education and clinical experience to an area of interest, such as working with autism or other specific developmental disorders.

Admissions Requirements for Speech-Language Pathologist Programs

Admissions requirements for speech-language pathologist programs will vary from school to school, but some commonalities exist.

For bachelor’s programs, applicants will generally have to submit a competitive high school GPA (3.0 or greater); SAT and/or ACT scores; letter(s) of recommendation, and a personal statement.

For master’s programs, admissions requirements typically include an undergraduate degree with a  competitive GPA (3.0 or greater); GRE scores; letter(s) of recommendation; and a personal statement. Some prerequisite coursework may also be required for graduate-level programs.

Speech-Language Pathologist Program Accreditation

Aspiring speech-language pathologists should check the accreditation status of any educational programs they are applying to. Accreditation ensures that a program’s curriculum is meeting peer-reviewed standards of excellence.

For undergraduate programs, regional accreditation is sufficient. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintains a full list of regional accreditation entities on its website. Graduate programs, however, should be accredited programmatically through the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). This ensures not only that they are meeting academic standards, but also that they are adequately preparing graduates for state licensure and certification.

On-Campus Speech-Language Pathologist Degree Programs

Boston University (Bachelor’s Degree)

Boston University offers a bachelor of science degree in speech, language, and hearing sciences. The curriculum is designed to facilitate entry into graduate programs, and an accelerated version that combines bachelor’s and master’s degrees is available for highly motivated students.

Classes include an introduction to linguistics; language acquisition; introduction to speech science; introduction to speech sound disorders; and aural rehabilitation. The baseline bachelor’s program consists of 128 credits.

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $61,050

University of Northern Colorado

The master of arts in speech pathology program at the University of Northern Colorado is designed to prepare students for entry-level work as speech-language pathologists. Built within the clinician-researcher model framework, the program emphasizes evidence-based practice (EBP) and lifelong learning.

Courses cover the following topics: phonology; early child language; speech and hearing science; language and cognition; and language and literacy. In addition to two internships and on-campus clinical practicums, students will have the chance to participate in various community-engaged learning opportunities. The program consists of 61 to 75 credits.

  • Location: Greeley, CO
  • Accreditation: Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($646 per credit); out-of-state ($1,209 per credit)

Vanderbilt University – School of Medicine

Students can earn a master’s of science in speech-language pathology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. With a strong emphasis on clinical experiences, students in this program will be exposed to various clinical rotations. In fact, the clinicals start the second week of the program. There are even specialty training tracks and internships for students who wish to work with special populations. Research-focused students have the option of completing a thesis.

This program is only offered on-campus and for full-time students. It takes 20 to 24 months to complete. The required courses vary based on a student’s educational background. Students without a background in speech and communication disorders must take additional classes. Some of the courses in the curriculum include speech sound disorders; language science; phonetic science; dysphagia; aphasia; physiological bases of communication; motor speech disorders; craniofacial anomalies; and augmentative & alternative communication.

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Accreditation:  Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,862 per semester

University of Wisconsin-Madison – Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

There are two master’s degree options through the University of Wisconsin-Madison Speech and Hearing Clinic’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. They are a clinical master’s of science in speech-language pathology for professionals wanting to work directly with clients and a non-clinical master’s of science in Normal Aspects of Speech, Language, and Hearing for students who want to pursue a career in research or continue their studies with a PhD.

This competitive degree has rigorous prerequisite coursework requirements. Students must have completed statistics, biology, social sciences, and speech disorders courses. A post-bac program is offered for applicants with no background in speech disorders. Other admission requirements include already holding a bachelor’s degree, letters of recommendation, a current CV or resume, a letter stating reasons for pursuing graduate studies, and a completed application.

  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Accreditation:  Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: Wisconsin resident ($12,176); non-resident ($25,504); Minnesota resident ($19,292)

University of Pittsburgh – School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

The goal of the master’s in communication science and disorders at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences is to prepare students with a solid foundation, so they are prepared for entry-level work as speech-language pathologists. Ranked number three in the nation by US News & World Report, there is a master’s of arts and a master’s of science track.

The required 60 semester-credits for this program are completed in two years of full-time study. Students complete a total of six semesters as summer classes are required. Ten of the credits earned are in clinical practice giving students ample hands-on experience. Admission to this program is competitive and requires prerequisite coursework, a high GPA, and three letters of recommendation.

Sample some courses in the curriculum: clinical service delivery; motor speech disorders; autism; pediatric audiology rehabilitation; articulation and phonological disorders; stuttering; voice disorders; augmentative communication; and dysphagia.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: Pennsylvania resident ($1,190 per credit); out-of-state ($1,426 per credit)

Online Speech-Language Pathologist Degree Programs

Arizona State University (Bachelor’s Degree)

ASU has an online bachelor of science (BS) in speech and hearing science program that gives students a foundational understanding of speech-language pathology and prepares them for graduate programs and state licensure. The curriculum is sequenced so that students learn about normal speech and language processes, then proceed to communication disorders. 

Courses include developmental speech and language disorders; an introduction to phonetics; clinical methods and treatment of communication disorders; acquired speech and language disorders; and audiology principles. The program consists of 120 credits.

Graduates will be ready to take up roles such as advocates, audiologists, community health workers, hearing aid specialists, human behavior researchers, speech-language pathology assistants, and speech pathologists.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $700 per credit

University of Akron

In collaboration with the University of Cincinnati, the University of Akron offers a collaborative distance learning master’s program in speech-language pathology. Students may mix and match classes from either school to complete their degree.

Courses cover topics such as neuroscience for communicative disorders; language and literacy development; language disorders in later childhood; and augmentative communication. Multiple practicums and externships are included as part of the curriculum. Do note that while the University of Cincinnati requires its students to live within a two- to three-hour distance from the institution, the University of Akron accepts students from anywhere in the country.

  • Location: Akron and Cincinnati, OH
  • Accreditation: Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 32 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Akron (Ohio resident: $442.10 per credit and non-resident: $305.88 per credit); Cincinnati ($662 per credit)

New York University – Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

The master of science in communicative sciences and disorders at New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development is offered entirely online. The online modality is the same curriculum and professors as the on-campus degree. Offered in both a full and part-time format, this flexible program allows students to complete their studies while still working or caring for family.

Many online classes are taught live, providing students with a more traditional learning format. This encourages direct communication with faculty and peers and creates space for everyone to interact. Required courses are in four categories: foundation courses, instrumentation and research, disorder courses, and electives. To graduate, students must complete a total of 48 semester-credits and in-person clinical experiences.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Accreditation: Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,020 per credit

University of St. Augustine – College of Rehabilitative Sciences

The flexible online master’s of science in speech-language pathology at the University of St. Augustine College of Rehabilitative Sciences can be completed in just one year and eight months. Because of the trimester format instead of semesters, and including summer courses, this program can be completed faster than others. Students are required to complete 55 to 58 credits, of which 40 are core courses, and 15 or more are clinical credits. The program is offered in an immersive online hybrid format.

Even though this program is offered remotely, students can develop a strong connection to the program and school. Students must travel to campus for four to five days each trimester for hands-on coursework. All students also have an assigned dedicated faculty mentor who will help them navigate choosing coursework, clinical placements, and job searching.

The curriculum includes courses such as early language disorders; speech sound disorders; clinical neuroscience for speech-language pathology; adult neurogenic disorders; motor speech and cognitive-communication disorders; autism and social communication disorders; and integrated knowledge and skills in speech-language pathology.

  • Location: Austin, TX; Dallas, TX
  • Accreditation: Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year and eight months
  • Estimated Tuition: $13,580 per trimester

Tennessee State University – College of Health Sciences

Students can choose to complete the master’s of science in speech and hearing science at Tennessee State University’s College of Health Sciences either online or on campus. Both programs include the same curriculum and are taught by the same faculty. The online program is only part-time enrollment and takes eight semesters to complete. Students complete clinical rotations every summer at clinical sites approved by the school.

If students are near TSU, they can complete some clinical experiences at the in-house speech and language clinic. Over the summer, this clinic provides free intervention services to children five to 12 years old.

Some courses in the curriculum include anatomy and physiology of speech; studies in articulation; neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of speech and hearing; studies in language disorders; adult aphasia; voice disorders; methods of speech and hearing services in the school setting; and speech science & instrumentation.

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Accreditation: Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($533 per credit); out-of-state ($1,115 per credit)

How Long Does It Take to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Becoming a speech-language pathologist requires a four-year bachelor’s degree and a two- to three-year master’s degree. Combined bachelor-to-master programs can reduce this timeline slightly, while attending part-time can extend it.

Generally speaking, it takes between six and seven years to become a speech-language pathologist after high school.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist – Step-by-Step Guide

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

After graduating from high school, aspiring speech-language pathologists need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Major choices are not as liberal as they are with other careers: look for a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing sciences; speech-language pathology; or communication disorders.

Step Two: Earn a Master’s Degree (Two to Three Years)

A master’s degree in speech-language pathology is a requirement for work in this profession. These master’s programs are intense and can take up to three years to complete. During this stage, students will learn about the nuances of speech-language pathology and put them into practice through clinical experiences.

All CAA-accredited master’s programs tailor their curriculum toward meeting the requirements for state licensure (see step three below).

Step Three: Obtain State Licensure (Timeline Varies)

All speech-language pathologists will need to be licensed by the state where they wish to practice. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) facilitates the licensure process, but specific eligibility requirements can vary from state to state.

Furthermore, if speech-language pathologists wish to work in a school setting, they will need to earn a state teaching certification through their state’s board of education.

What Do Speech-Language Pathologists Do?

A speech-language pathologist’s daily tasks are largely informed by the place and role in which they work. However, some typical responsibilities of speech-language pathologists include:

  • Evaluating levels of speech or language difficulty
  • Identifying various treatment options
  • Carrying out individualized treatment plans
  • Teaching children and adults how to improve their voice and make sounds
  • Helping individuals improve their vocabulary and sentence structure
  • Counseling individuals and families on how to cope with communication disorders
  • Monitoring and evaluating an individual’s progress in speech or language

Speech-Language Pathologist Certifications & Licensure

Speech-language pathologists need to be certified and licensed at the state level to practice. This process is administered through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Specific eligibility requirements can vary from state to state, but generally include 400 hours of supervised clinical experience; 36 weeks of clinical practice; and a passing score on the Praxis exam.

Speech-language pathologists may also pursue a certificate of clinical competence in speech-language pathology (CCC-SLP). While not required for licensure in all states, it may be required by some employers. Certifications and licenses need to be renewed through the completion of continuing education units (CEUs), with the precise number of hours needed varying from state to state.

As mentioned above, do note that if a speech-language pathologist intends to work in a public school, they will need to obtain a state teaching certification. Details for this certification will vary based on location and are available on each state’s board of education website.

How Much Do Speech-Language Pathologists Make?

Speech-language pathologists enjoy a better-than-average earnings potential. According to the BLS (May 2021), 147,470 speech-language pathologists currently work in the US, making an average wage of $85,820 annually. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $51,310
  • 25th percentile: $61,970
  • 50th percentile (median): $79,060
  • 75th percentile: $100,200
  • 90th percentile: $125,560

Speech-Language Pathologist Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a speech-language pathologist.

Become a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists help clients regain mobility. The loss of mobility can be due to injury, illness, stroke, accidents, or a job. They typically work one-on-one with patients providing hands-on therapy, utilizing equipment to increase flexibility and strength, and assigning at-home exercises. Care can be short-term for acute injuries or long-term for chronic conditions.

  • Typical Education: Doctor of physical therapy
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Board of Physical Therapist Specialties

Become an Exercise Physiologist 

Clients who need customized exercise plans will rely on exercise physiologists to prepare one for them. Exercise physiologists use specialized medical equipment to measure a client’s fitness and discuss long-term goals. They will then utilize their training to write a plan. Follow-up appointments are conducted to ensure clients are on track to meet their goals or to adjust plans as necessary.

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP)

Become an Occupational Therapist

Musculoskeletal issues in patients are addressed and treated by occupational therapists. The end goal is to help patients be able to perform daily tasks with independence and proficiency. Often clients may suffer from a chronic condition such as Alzheimer’s, spina bifida, or a stroke. They can work closely with other professionals, such as physical therapists or SLPs to provide well-rounded support to clients with multiple needs.

  • Typical Education: Master’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc. (NBCOT)
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog

Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about trends within the healthcare workforce, with a particular focus on the power of interdisciplinary teams. He’s also covered the crises faced by healthcare professionals working at assisted living and long-term care facilities, both in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the demographic shift brought on by the aging of the Baby Boomers. His work has included detailed interviews and consultations with leaders and subject matter experts from the American Nurses Association (ASCA), the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA), and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

Related Articles

  • 13 April 2023

    Artificial Intelligence in Speech-Language Pathology – Expert Interview

    Combining crowdsourced data, machine learning algorithms, biofeedback, and gamification, AI applications have exciting potential in assisting speech-language pathologists (SLPs).

  • 22 April 2022

    Education Guide for Treating Speech and Hearing Disorders

    While audiologists, audiology assistants, speech-language pathologists, and speech-language pathology assistants may work together in a professional sense, their educational pathways differ in significant ways.

  • 16 April 2021

    SLPs Fight for Universal Licensure & Better Hearing & Speech Month

    The salaries among New York-based SPLs are attractive, ranking the fifth highest in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For students in speech pathology looking to begin their careers in New York, this is welcome news, but for the medical community and citizens of the state, the sharp projected increase in demand for SLPs presents a forthcoming challenge to fill new positions that needs to be addressed.

  • 22 December 2023

    Healthcare Career Scholarship Guide for 2024

    High-quality education comes at a price. Fortunately for students in health-related careers, there are ample opportunities available for mitigating these financial burdens.

  • 17 November 2023

    Guide to Physician Assistant (PA) Specialties

    PAs can also specialize in various fields of medicine. Specialization allows PAs to focus on a specific demographic, condition, or type of care, allowing them to develop a refined skill set and extensive knowledge.

  • 22 September 2023

    Do Physician Assistants (PAs) Have Autonomous Practice Authority?

    Currently, PAs in the US practice in collaborative or supervisory relationships with a physician. This is intrinsic to this profession. Many states have been moving towards more autonomous and collaborative practice models.

  • 22 August 2023

    How Telehealth is Used in Physical Therapy

    Many times in life, a person might find themselves needing physical therapy (PT). PTs play a vital role in the treatment of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, and injuries, as well as in preventative care and general wellness.