A speech pathologist deals primarily with speech and language disorders in both adult and children.
Speech is not only a form of communication – it’s a source of friendship, of self-confidence, of the agency to interact with your world. Speech impediments can be extremely harmful to those afflicted, both mentally and emotionally.
With somewhere around 8 percent of school-age children being affected by speech, voice, and swallowing disorders, the work for speech pathologists is exceedingly important.
How Do You Earn a Speech Pathologist’s salary?
There’s no denying that in order to become a speech pathologist, there is a great deal of education and licensure involved.
The science of speech pathology is constantly evolving, too, so you’ll have to keep up your study habits and continue to attend professional development classes in order to earn that speech pathologist salary.
The Job Description
It is the duty of a speech pathologist to help people of all ages with various disorders that relate to speech, voice, swallowing, language, and other communication-related disorders. This isn’t just people with lisps and trouble with their ‘Rs,’ either, though those certainly fall within their scope.
There are language disorders that aren’t necessarily related to trouble with word formation, and instead speak to a greater problem with both receiving language and expressing it. These kinds of disorders aren’t even just spoken – the inability to communicate written language can sometimes fall into the speech pathologist’s purview.
Speech pathologists also deal with cognitive communication issues. These disorders relate to attention span, memory, ordering your thoughts, and even basic issues like solving problems.
Other disorders that the speech pathologist works with include swallowing and feeding issues, voice problems, semantics, and even non-pragmatic speech.
The speech pathologist employs articulation speech therapy, sensory feedback, oral motor techniques, and other tried-and-true methods to help ease speech disabilities and improve the lives of those in their care.
In order to become a speech pathologist and earn that sweet speech pathologist salary, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree (hopefully in a related field). Recommended fields include speech and hearing science, or communications. Getting some education in another language – especially a common one in your area – could be a huge boon as well. Bilingual speech pathologists sometimes get paid more, but they definitely have more job opportunities than monolingual speech pathologists.
From there, you’ll need a master’s degree in speech pathology, which comes packaged with practical in-field study and practicums.
As far as certificates are concerned, the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology is almost certainly a requirement. This involves over 350 hours of observed experience in the clinic, and of course that pesky master’s degree we mentioned earlier.
This certificate and the test that goes with it is administered by ASHA, or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Unfortunately, even if you’ve obtained all of the necessary education and you have a well-paying job in the field, it’s not the end of the path just yet. Like many fields, speech pathology is an evolving field of study, and is constantly being tested, improved, and augmented to better help both the patients and the pathologists in their duty.
You can be expected to hit up workshops, attend seminars, and even complete more classes in order to stay ahead of the curve.
Luckily, some of these conferences will be in Las Vegas, so that’s nice.
According to the Educational Psychology and Communication Disorders branch of Georgia State University , there are a number of notable skills and personal characteristics that a good speech pathologist ought to possess.
First and foremost, you must thrive on solving problems, of seeing an obstacle and enjoying the process of finding a way around it. Not all communication and speech disorders are made equal, and even if they were, it’s your job to communicate to people who are having trouble communicating. This is a sticky situation that requires enthusiasm, perseverance, and the joy-of-the-job necessary to try over and over again until you’ve achieved your goal.
After that, obviously communication skills are key. When someone cannot communicate verbally (or cannot hear or understand what they’re hearing), then you must be skilled enough at non-verbal communication, body language, and written skills to get your message across. Of course, the opposite can be true, too – someone who is having a poor time of understanding body language needs to be told, verbally, both its importance and how to identify and decipher it.
The next most important skill is organization prowess. No matter where you end up working, you will likely have multiple clients (sometimes more clients than you feel like you can handle). You must keep track of all client’s diagnoses, track the work being done and its efficacy, and also keep track of all testing materials and results.
You’ll also be under heavy scrutiny as regards to local laws and regulations, be they for school rules and laws, hospital regulations, or even the ethics guides of a corporation or government organization. You’ll live in a nest of red tape, so being able to untangle and navigate through skeins of bureaucracy and paperwork is vital.
Collaboration skills are also key – you’ll rarely be doing your work in a vacuum. If you’re working at a school, you’ll have to work with the student, their teacher, and their parents in order to implement the strategies necessary for rehabilitation. Teachers sometimes either forget or disagree with accommodations and fail to implement them, and parents can sometimes be very particular and hands-on about their child’s needs.
Being able to solve group problems in a tactful manner is vital to not only your client, but to your career.
If you work at a hospital or other mental health facility, you can apply all of those collaboration responsibilities with doctors, patients, patient caretakers, and nurses.
Places to Work
There are a few roles speech pathologists may find themselves in, which is why it’s important to break them down. This is also where we’ll get into a discussion about the speech pathologist’s salary – a general average may not be terribly helpful, but if broken down by exact roll it could be a more useful figure.
School Speech Pathologist
Working in elementary and secondary schools offers a number of benefits to be considered. The first is the actual, literal benefits – school employees often have spectacular health care, a schedule with lots of time off, and a number of legal protections.
Working in a school also offers a high degree of job satisfaction. It is in the early years that many speech impediments and disorders happen, and it’s also in these formative years that self-esteem issues can become set in stone. No matter how long ago it happened or how repaired the issue is, being bullied or teased for the inability to communicate creates scars that can last a lifetime.
A speech pathologist can be a hero to kids most in need of help.
The average school speech pathologist salary runs around $71,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hospital Speech Pathologist
Hospital speech pathologist isn’t an official title, but we’re using it to cover those working in hospitals, mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, and the like.
You will treat both children and adults in a variety of cases. Some may be congenital like swallowing disorders, others may be learned like speech impediments, while others may be the result of an accident, disease, or surgery.
You may also not be a permanent fixture at one clinic – many private speech pathologists travel between hospitals, rehab centers, and even private homes to accommodate their patients. Some even travel long distances, even internationally, so if you love the idea of traveling on the job you may want to consider a position like this.
The average clinical speech pathologist salary floats at around $86,000.
If you intend to run or manage speech pathologists, whether in a clinical setting, private organization, or school, you’ll need the same knowledge of speech pathology as anyone working beneath you. Those communication, problem-solving, and pacifying skills will come in twice as handy in a position like this.
The average managerial speech pathologist salary is $99,000.
Make a Difference as a Speech Pathologist
As you can see, no matter where you end up working, the salary for a speech pathologist is hefty and well-earned. It’s not often an easy job, and it requires a lot of education and certification, but it’s the kind of career that changes people’s lives.
Whether their speech and communication disorders came at birth or through bad luck, a speech pathologist can change the lives of their clients every single day.
I saw a speech pathologist when I was a child, and it’s the only reason I’m able to verbally communicate as well as I can.
Students and adult will forget many lessons and many people in their lives, but the person who gave them the gift of speech will forever remain in their mind.