Speech-language pathologists (SLPSs) are in demand across the United States. And if you’re looking for a chance to help people with clinical and social issues live better, happier, healthier lives, this could be the perfect job for you. But what do speech-language pathologists do, exactly? And what should you know before becoming an SLP?
According to ASHA, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the main job of SLPs is to make “effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all.” But what does that mean on a day-to-day basis? If you’re thinking of a new clinical career, here’s what you should know about becoming a speech-language pathologist.
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What Do Speech-Language Pathologists Do to Help Patients, Students and Nursing Home Residents?
Also called speech therapists, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work to help people improve communication. And, like any clinical job, that chance to truly help people can be exciting. In the words of Yasminah Abdullah, M.S., CCC-SLP, every day “could be the day for a speech breakthrough,” making SLP a rewarding career.
But what do speech-language pathologists do to help these patients? According to ASHA, the range of work for SLPs includes:
- Speech, or improving the way people speak and use sounds
- Language, or putting together sounds to communicate and understand others
- Vocals, or speaking in the right way and at the right volume
- Fluency, or speaking without a stutter or hesitation
- Literacy, or helping develop reading, writing and spelling skills
- Cognitive communication, or applying memory, organization and other thinking skills to communicate
- Social communication, or understanding the rules of speaking with others
- Feeding, or properly chewing, eating and swallowing food
Where Do SLPs Work?
These conditions can affect anyone, young or old — especially when they’re the result of injury. And because they treat issues that are social and developmental as well as clinical, SLPs work in a variety of settings, and with people of all ages. Outpatient clinics, hospitals, private practices, rehab centers, long-term care (LTC) and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) all commonly employ speech-language pathologists.
Yet even given this variety of settings, more than half of all SLPs work in schools and other educational settings. In addition to the duties listed above, speech therapists working in schools help kids and teens overcome dyslexia, hearing problems, language disorders, and difficulty with social adaptation.
What Do Speech-Language Pathologists Do on a Day-to-Day Basis?
So, now that we know the big picture, what do speech-language pathologists do on a day-to-day basis? Whether you work in a school or a more clinical setting like a hospital, clinic or nursing home, your daily routine will likely include the following tasks:
Working with Patients
Speech therapists spend much of their time on direct patient care. This includes guiding patients (or students or residents) through different exercises or types of therapy, or just talking to them. It can also involve one-on-one time, or sessions for groups who require similar treatment.
Some of the types of therapies used in direct patient care include speech or language intervention and articulation therapy, as well as auditory rehab and feeding therapy.
Assessing Patients and Creating Treatment Plans
Part of working with patients is assessing what specific conditions they may be struggling with. Part of this process includes taking notes and reviewing a patient’s medical history. It can also include running lab tests or holding more in-depth interviews to gain further context.
After assessment and diagnosis, SLPs create a treatment plan to address the patient’s issues. This plan is updated and adjusted over time, based on the patient’s progress.
Working with Families
A speech-language pathologist’s job also includes meeting with the patient’s family. This is especially true when working with children in schools. In that setting, SLPs consult and meet with parents or guardians to get more context for the child’s specific condition.
The SLP should also consult families about the treatment plan they create, to make sure the patient’s home life supports that plan. They also usually hold progress reports with families over the course of treatment.
Meetings and Administrative Work
Speech-language pathologists can also spend a significant amount of time in meetings and administrative work. This includes writing and reviewing case reports, updating patient files, scheduling meetings with family, and more. It also includes meeting with other clinicians like nurses, physical therapists and doctors to discuss patients.
SLP Duties Specific to Schools
What do speech-language pathologists do in schools that may be different than clinical settings? Speech-language pathologists have specific responsibilities when they work in educational settings. According to ASHA, this can include:
- Helping prevent academic failure of students
- Ensuring compliance with federal and state mandates and local policies
- Supervising and mentoring new professionals
- Providing “parent training” to help families create a more “language- and literacy-rich environment”
- Helping set the school’s “linguistic and metalinguistic foundations of curriculum learning”
SLP Job Outlook & How to Qualify
What’s the job outlook for SLPs? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), speech-language pathology is growing at 21%, which is “much faster than average.” That means jobs are opening at a faster rate than other professions. The BLS also reports that the mean annual wage for SLPs is $89,460 as of May, 2022, reaching as high as $126,680.
In other words, it’s a good time to become a speech-language pathologist! But in order to do so, you’ll first need to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in speech pathology. During your education, you’ll usually choose a specialization. This means a focus on disorders in speech, language fluency, or swallowing, for instance.
After your education, you’ll need to pass a national exam. Then, you’ll need to earn a license in the state where you want to work — each has its own different process. You can find specific requirements for SLP licensing in each state here.
Other SLP Skills and Qualifications
Getting a clinical fellowship in speech pathology will also help you land a great job (and earn a high salary). This usually means being mentored during your education. You should also plan on earning the certificate of clinical competence in speech-language pathology (CCC-SLP), as well as other certifications that may be related to speech therapy.
> Applying for a new speech-language pathology job? See the most common SLP interview questions!
What skills do you need to have to become an SLP? Perhaps it’s obvious, but communication skills are essential. This includes listening, especially when meeting with patients and their families. It also means being able to write a treatment plan that’s clear and easy to understand. In addition, you should be good at multi-tasking to juggle the many different tasks you’ll have each day.
Problem-solving skills are also important to help translate what you hear from a patient into an effective treatment plan. It also helps to be skilled with current technology, especially since treatment may depend on this — using electrical stimulation tools, for instance. You’ll also need to access patient records via computer or EHR system.
Find Your Next Speech-Language Pathology Job with CareerStaff
If you’re interested in finding a new SLP job, you’ve come to the right place! We’re currently filling SLP positions all across the country. With CareerStaff, you’ll not only get access to great opportunities, but also top pay, amazing benefits, and more. See all available SLP jobs here, or fill out a quick online application to get in touch with a recruiter.