Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in patients. Their patients may be unable to speak at all or they may speak with difficulty or have rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering. They may work with those who are unable to understand language or with people who have voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or a harsh voice. Some speech-language pathologists specialize in working with specific age groups, such as children or the elderly. Others focus on treatment programs for specific communication or swallowing problems, such as those resulting from strokes or cleft palate.
The standard level of education for speech-language pathologists is a master’s degree. Although master’s programs do not specify a particular undergraduate degree for admission, certain courses must be taken before entering the program. Graduate programs often include courses in age-specific speech disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical practice in addition to coursework.
The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $74,680 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $116,810.
Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.As the large baby-boom population grows older, there will be more instances of health conditions, such as strokes and hearing loss that cause speech or language impairments. Speech-language pathologists will be needed to treat the increased number of speech and language disorders in the older population.
UI students preparing for health-related careers should consult Health Professions Advising at the Career Center for help in identifying appropriate prerequisite courses, preparing for professional school exams, and learning how to construct an effective professional school application.