Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) perform a range of duties to improve their patients’ lives and wellbeing. From evaluating patients to diagnosing speech, language, and swallowing disorders to creating and implementing treatment plans and more, SLPs play a critical role in the mental health and healthcare industries.
To become an SLP, an individual must complete a graduate-level degree (such as a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology), pass a national examination, and apply for licensure in the state they wish to practice. Together, these steps serve to demonstrate their future effectiveness in the role.
Clearly, becoming an SLP is no small feat. It takes dedication and an investment of time, effort, and money to earn the degree alone. It is for this reason that speech-language pathologists are well-rewarded for their work. In addition to the satisfaction that comes from working to improve the lives of their patients every day, speech-language pathologists also enjoy competitive salaries and significant job security.
Below, we examine the average salary that speech-language pathologists can expect to earn and discuss some of the factors that can influence this salary.
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Speech-Language Pathologist Salary
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of all speech-language pathologists is approximately $80,500 per year. The highest 10 percent of professionals earn more than $122,750 per year. This figure typically correlates with those who have the most experience in the field.
However, several factors will influence your compensation as a speech-language pathologist. These factors include:
- The specific environment you work in
- How long you have worked in the field
- Where in the country you are employed
Speech-Language Pathologist Salary by Work Environment
The specific facility or work environment you are employed in will significantly impact your salary. Per the BLS, those who work in nursing and residential care facilities earn the highest average wages, while those working in educational facilities, such as schools, earn the lowest average wages:
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $95,010 per year
- Hospitals: $87,110 per year
- Private practice: $83,250 per year
- Educational services: $71,410 per year
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) compiled a similar report in 2019 that breaks these facilities down in more granular detail. That study reported salary by facility and work environment as follows:
- Skilled nursing facility (SNF): $95,000 per year
- General medical: $85,798 per year
- Home health: $76,000 per year
- Outpatient clinic or office: $73,500 per year
- Pediatric hospital: $78,000 per year
- Rehab hospital: $79,000 per year
Speech-Language Pathologist Salary by Experience
ASHA also found that SLPs with greater levels of experience will typically earn more than those with fewer years of experience:
- 1 to 3 years of experience: $66,000 per year
- 4 to 6 years of experience: $72,000 per year
- 7 to 9 years of experience: $78,000 per year
- 10 to 12 years of experience: $78,000 per year
- 13 to 15 years of experience: $87,500 per year
- 16 to 18 years of experience: $82,000 per year
- 19 to 21 years of experience: $100,000 per year
- 22 to 24 years of experience: $83,000 per year
- 25 to 27 years of experience: $90,000 per year
- 28 to 30 years of experience: No data
- 31 or more years of experience: $95,000 per year
Speech-Language Pathologist Salary by Location
Finally, the specific location in which you work can impact your salary as well. According to ASHA, the region with the highest median salary for SLPs is the Western United States, while the region with the lowest average salary is the Midwest:
- West: $85,000 per year
- South: $79,000 per year
- Northeast: $78,000 per year
- Midwest: $73,520 per year
Speech-Language Pathology Job Outlook
Between 2019 and 2029, the number of speech-language pathologists is expected to grow by approximately 25 percent— a much faster growth rate than the 4 percent growth expected across all occupations in the U.S. This growth translates into an additional 40,500 open positions in the coming decade.
There are a number of trends driving this increased demand. One of the most consequential developments is the aging of the Baby Boomer population. As this significant population ages, they are increasingly experiencing medical problems such as dementia and stroke that lead to speech and swallowing conditions addressed by SLPs. Additionally, medical advances have increased the likelihood of survival for those who experience serious medical episodes (such as stroke), increasing the number of older patients in need of the services offered by speech-language pathologists.
Another critical consideration is the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the field of speech-language pathology. For example, more SLPs are needed to help treat speech and swallowing complications that have resulted from the disease in some patients. Additionally, the rapid shift toward telehealth sparked by the pandemic has made getting treatment by SLPs much more accessible for many populations (while also notably limiting access for other populations).
The First Step Into a Promising SLP Career
Speech-language pathologists enjoy high salaries, robust job growth, and numerous avenues for career growth. If you believe that becoming an SLP is the right move for you, the first step toward breaking into the field is to complete a related master’s degree, such as a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology.
When selecting a program to enroll in, there are several factors to consider, including the quality of the facilities, whether or not the faculty consists of individuals with experience in the field, and clinical placement opportunities.
Students enrolled in the MS in Speech-Language Pathology program at Northeastern complete their initial clinical training in the on-campus Speech-Language and Hearing Center to develop competence in the foundation skills they will use throughout their careers. Faculty members are active in the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology, in addition to being world-renowned researchers contributing to the progression of the discipline.
Students must complete a total of four clinical courses, gaining the hands-on experience that they will need to be successful in the field. Once the first semester of clinical training is completed at the on-campus Speech-Language and Hearing Center, the following semesters include Advanced Clinical Programming at the Center along with off-campus work in community-based hospitals, clinics, educational facilities, etc.
Interested in becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist? Learn more about the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northeastern University.