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The expanding population of older age groups is increasing the need for speech pathologists (or "speech therapists," as they’re often called) at a rate faster than the national average for other professions. However, this doesn’t mean that speech pathologists must work solely with elderly patients: They can work in educational and private clinical settings or, as Ph.D.s, contribute to research in this expanding field. As clinicians, most of a speech pathologist’s time is spent one-on-one with patients, assessing, diagnosing, treating, and helping to prevent speech, language, cognitive, communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other related disorders. Patients may suffer from congenital, developmental, or acquired problems, such as cleft palates, cerebral palsy, and strokes; bringing together knowledge of biological, physical, and social/behavioral sciences as well as math skills, speech pathologists help their patients learn or regain the ability to communicate.

Degree Information

Master’s programs in speech pathology (M.A. or M.S.) are typically two-year programs combining classroom and fieldwork. Ph.D. programs (which can tack on another four years) also require fieldwork, around fifteen hours a week over a two-year period. You’ll probably want a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), because this will streamline the process, after graduation, of state and national certification.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Do you want to work with a specific population (like children or the elderly)?
  • Do you want to work in a school, rehabilitation center, clinic, or hospital?
  • Do you want to work in the area near your program? (While ASHA’s certification is nationally recognized, most states still require you to satisfy separate or additional requirements for state certification, and programs are often geared to providing you with what you need to pass that specific state’s tests.)
  • Does this program offer the internship/field experience you want?
  • Do graduates of this program tend to work in the setting or population of interest to you?

Career Overview

Speech pathologists work with a variety of patients suffering from a range of disorders in elementary and secondary schools, hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, or academic institutions; they specialize in prevention and treatments of specific conditions and have the opportunity to work with other care-giving professionals, such as audiologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and rehabilitation counselors. By diagnosing and treating disorders at patients in all stages of the life cycle, speech pathologists are able to ease the burdens of growing up and growing old.

Career/Licensing Requirements

American Speech-Language Hearing Association administers nationally recognized Certificates of Clinical Competences (or CCCs) for speech-language pathologists and audiologists. They require a minimum of seventy-five semester credit hours, thirty-six at the graduate level, and a minimum of 400 hours of supervised clinical experience (fieldwork). Candidates are expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the various scientific and social factors impacting speech development and communication ability. Forty-four states also have licensing requirements for speech pathologists; typically, these are tied to ASHA’s requirements. (Seven states have adopted ASHA's certification standards as the only requirement for licensure. In nineteen states, ASHA certification directly satisfies licensing requirements, and in eighteen states, ASHA certification satisfies one or more licensure requirements.) Starting July 1, 2005, recertification will be required every three years.

Salary Information

The average annual salary for speech pathologists is around $50,000; starting salaries can be in the high $30K to low $40K range. Those working in elementary and secondary schools average $46,060, those in general medical and surgical hospitals average $52,940, and those in offices of other health practitioners average $53,090.

Related Links

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
National professional organization and accrediting body.

Speech Language Pathology Web Sites
This page provides links to a wide range of sites with information about speech-language pathology.


  • Phonological Disorders

  • Alaryngeal Speech Rehabilitation

  • Aural Rehabilitation

  • Clinic Or Advanced Clinical Practicum

  • Clinical Audiology

  • Clinical Placement For Those Not Seeking Teacher Certification

  • Diagnostic Procedures In Speech-Language Pathology

  • Dysphagia

  • Fluency Disorders

  • Language Disorders In Children

  • Research Methods And Materials In Speech-Language Pathology

  • School Placement To Meet Teacher Certification Requirements

  • Voice Disorders