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Speech-language pathologists salary & career outlook

If you have an empathetic soul and a knack for helping people, then you might make a good candidate for becoming a speech-language pathologist.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, speech-language pathologists "assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in patients." These issues can have a variety of causes, ranging from a stroke to emotional problems. In addition to communicating with patients and identifying treatment options, speech-language pathologists teach patients how to make sounds, help them and their families learn to manage communication disorders, and much more.

Becoming a speech-language pathologist typically requires a master's degree in speech-language pathology and, in most states, a license (which varies by state in regards to its requirements), according to the BLS. Important qualities for speech-language pathologists include communication skills, compassion, critical-thinking skills, attention to detail, listening skills and patience.

It can be a rewarding and sustainable career path to follow if you start off at one of the many speech-language pathologist schools.

Speech-language pathologist salary

According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for speech-language pathologists as of May 2012 was $72,730 nationally, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $44,380 or less and the highest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $107,650 or more.

Industry can make a difference in pay. According to the BLS, the top-paying industries in America for speech-language pathologists as of May 2012 were:

  • Other ambulatory health care services ($105,800 annual mean wage)
  • Home health care services ($91,220 annual mean wage)
  • Child day care services ($87,370 annual mean wage)

Location can also affect how much you earn as a speech-language pathologist. According to the BLS, the top-paying U.S. states for speech-language pathologists as of May 2012 were:

  • District of Columbia ($86,220 annual mean wage)
  • New Jersey ($84,660 annual mean wage)
  • Colorado ($83,780 annual mean wage)

The top-paying metropolitan areas in America for speech-language pathologists as of May 2012 were:

  • Sherman-Denison, Texas ($101,530 annual mean wage)
  • New Bedford, Mass. ($94,850 annual mean wage)
  • Bowling Green, Ky. ($93,200 annual mean wage)

Job outlook for speech-language pathologists

Great news: If you decide to become a speech-language pathologist, you're likely to be joining a growing field. According to the BLS, employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 19 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than average for all occupations. That comes out to roughly 26,000 new jobs.

One major explanation for this growth: the aging population. The BLS states, "As the large baby-boom population grows older, there will be more instances of health conditions that cause speech or language impairments, such as strokes and hearing loss."

Other explanations of the projected growth, according to the BLS, include increased awareness of speech and language disorders in younger children and medical advances improving the "survival rate of premature infants and victims of trauma and strokes, many of whom need help from speech-language pathologists."

While no one can say for sure where the projected growth of speech-language pathologists will happen the most, geographically, we can look at past data to make an educated guess. One piece of data that can be useful is employment levels, which track the areas with the highest number of available jobs, regardless of population.

According to the BLS, the states with the highest employment level for speech-language pathologist as of May 2012 were:

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York

The states with the highest expected job growth through 2020, according to state data aggregated by Projections Central are:

  • Wyoming: 31.5% growth
  • Texas: 31.5% growth
  • Utah: 30.9% growth

The metropolitan areas in America with the highest employment level of speech-language pathologists as of May 2012 were:

  • Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL Metropolitan Division
  • New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division

Regardless where you go, becoming a speech-language pathologist has the potential to be a great career path. So head off to school and study up!

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Speech-Language Pathologists
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291127.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Speech-Language Pathologists
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm#tab-1

Projections Central, Aggregated State Data for Speech-Language Pathologists
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm