Speech Therapist Education

speech therapist works with young girl on her enunciation skills
speech therapist works with young girl on her enunciation skills

Speech therapists, also called speech-language pathologists, diagnose and treat students for speech, language and related disorders. To begin your practice, you’ll need to understand your job duties and earn your speech therapy degree-usually a bachelor’s credential.

If you become a speech therapist, you will provide services in elementary, secondary or post-secondary schools, helping students improve their language and communication skills, and leading them to stronger academic performance.

Speech Therapist Duties

Your duties as a speech therapist in a public school may include the following tasks:

  • Working with children one-on-one or in groups to treat voice disorders, stuttering problems or learning disabilities
  • Conducting school-wide hearing tests to identify and diagnose auditory problems among young children and promote early intervention
  • Teaching students with hearing or speech conditions to use sign language
  • Teaming with special education teachers to create comprehensive treatment plans for special needs children
  • Counseling parents on how to cope with speech and language disorders
  • Collaborating with teachers, administrators and parents to implement speech therapy programs

Work Environment

Depending on the school, speech therapists may work with students individually or in groups, providing treatment in a classroom or office. They assist students using audio-visual aids, physical strengthening exercises, instructive or repetitive practice, and other means.

A 40-hour work week is normal for speech therapy teachers, with additional hours worked as needed for lesson planning and related activities. Teachers in smaller districts may travel to different schools throughout the week to provide speech pathology services. Many schools hire speech therapists on a continuing 9- or 10-month contract basis to match the school year calendar.

Speech Therapy Degree Options

Students interested in a career in speech therapy should earn a speech therapist degree, bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders or a related major. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree plus your teaching certificate in order to practice speech therapy within the school system. In the United States, over 230 colleges and universities offer speech language pathology programs accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech Language Pathology.

Some states require you to hold a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and your Certificate in Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP). Depending on the state, you may need to graduate from an accredited program in order to obtain a license. Contact the Department of Education in your state to find out what your state requires. Your speech therapy degree plus certification will qualify you to help kids become more effective students in schools throughout your state.

Speech Therapy Professional Certification

The American Speech and Hearing Association offers the CCC-SLP to eligible speech language pathologists. To become eligible for this certification, speech therapists must possess a graduate degree from an accredited university and meet the following criteria:

  • Complete a specified number of hours of supervised clinical experience
  • Participate in a post-graduate clinical fellowship
  • Pass a national certification exam

Some require the CCC-SLP to practice in schools, the remaining mandate that speech therapists hold a teaching certificate, which typically requires a master’s degree from an approved college. Some states will issue a provisional teaching license to candidates with a bachelor’s degree, under the condition that they obtain a master’s within three to five years.

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics, the median national annual salary for speech-language pathologists is $79,060. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Speech-Language Pathologists

National data

Median Salary: $79,060

Projected job growth: 21.3%

10th Percentile: $51,310

25th Percentile: $61,970

75th Percentile: $100,200

90th Percentile: $125,560

Projected job growth: 21.3%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $61,590 $47,600 $99,780
Alaska $79,100 $60,900 $101,570
Arizona $78,670 $58,190 $120,750
Arkansas $74,410 $47,500 $124,580
California $100,410 $63,590 $129,460
Colorado $95,110 $62,060 $126,140
Connecticut $97,070 $61,000 $126,220
Delaware $79,120 $56,390 $121,060
District of Columbia $95,870 $64,140 $133,890
Florida $79,870 $57,400 $103,430
Georgia $77,480 $47,850 $101,870
Hawaii $95,950 $62,550 $162,770
Idaho $76,260 $37,550 $102,060
Illinois $78,670 $48,170 $118,810
Indiana $78,670 $47,580 $117,440
Iowa $75,220 $59,320 $99,340
Kansas $74,880 $47,450 $100,370
Kentucky $74,880 $48,590 $104,050
Louisiana $77,790 $47,580 $101,870
Maine $75,710 $59,130 $97,250
Maryland $79,560 $59,660 $123,530
Massachusetts $95,110 $60,270 $127,210
Michigan $77,370 $48,940 $100,870
Minnesota $77,830 $54,000 $100,920
Mississippi $61,790 $38,430 $100,730
Missouri $76,680 $47,580 $101,590
Montana $77,540 $47,580 $99,040
Nebraska $74,930 $48,350 $99,040
Nevada $78,700 $47,210 $126,080
New Hampshire $77,290 $58,140 $100,870
New Jersey $98,950 $61,530 $152,720
New Mexico $78,930 $48,520 $125,730
New York $98,990 $60,060 $131,000
North Carolina $73,890 $48,300 $99,780
North Dakota $61,340 $47,440 $95,620
Ohio $78,440 $48,940 $124,440
Oklahoma $76,730 $47,710 $100,670
Oregon $92,200 $61,330 $103,930
Pennsylvania $78,670 $56,960 $121,630
Rhode Island $89,150 $60,110 $121,140
South Carolina $76,730 $37,200 $106,680
South Dakota $60,680 $46,500 $93,900
Tennessee $76,640 $47,580 $102,060
Texas $77,290 $50,730 $126,170
Utah $77,510 $47,580 $103,740
Vermont $77,310 $48,360 $123,800
Virginia $95,110 $59,660 $127,300
Washington $92,590 $67,710 $107,890
West Virginia $61,650 $47,250 $123,860
Wisconsin $76,720 $54,120 $99,460
Wyoming $62,360 $59,660 $98,790

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

The public school system, with support from the federal government, understands the importance of early identification and diagnosis of speech, language and hearing disorders. As a result, public schools have experienced an increased enrollment of special education students, which has created a higher demand for qualified speech therapists.

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