If you’re weighing the pros and cons of a career in speech-language pathology (SLP), you may ask yourself, “Is a Master of Science in SLP worth it?”

Speech therapists are in high demand due to the recent trend in early detection of communication disorders in children as well as the growing need for more providers for geriatric populations. Below we take a look at the investment, and payoff, of this career path so you’ll be better equipped to answer this question for yourself.

The Investment

Cost of Earning Your Degree

The cost of a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology varies significantly, depending on the number of credits you’re required to complete and the program you attend. Although credit hours usually range from 38 to 75, you should expect to complete 50 to 60 in most programs.

According to CostHelper, tuition at a public university typically ranges from $23,000 to $75,000, while private tuition ranges from $50,000 to $90,000. You should also factor in the cost of books, supplies, clinical fees, and living expenses. Institutions may charge per year or per credit, and in both instances, the cost is higher for out-of-state tuition.

While that may seem like a high cost of investment, you’ll find similar costs associated with most graduate degree programs.

If you have a strong desire to be an SLP, look into your options for reducing the cost of a degree. Financial aid, scholarships, assistantships, grants, and employer-based assistance programs are common sources of funding for graduate school. They can lower the cost of furthering your education and make a graduate degree more accessible.

Time to Complete Your Degree

On average, an MS in SLP takes two to four years to complete, depending on your program and whether you’re studying full time or part time. Again, this is based on the amount of credits in your degree program as well as the amount of credits you’re allowed to pursue each semester.

While some institutions allow graduate students to take as many as 12 credits per semester, others restrict the course of study to between six and eight credits to ensure you’re able to gain an in-depth understanding of the subject.

So, how long will it take for you to start practicing? From undergraduate education to licensure, it will take between six and eight years to become a speech therapist.

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The Payoff

Competitive Salary

Postgraduate education is often a smart investment because it can drastically increase your career prospects and salary.

The median annual wage for all speech pathologists is $80,480, while the median is $95,010 for people who work in nursing and residential care facilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

As an added benefit, SLPs have the opportunity to work in a wide variety of environments, including educational institutions, medical facilities, private practices, and private homes.

Impressive Job Security

SLP jobs are on the rise for several reasons. Many speech therapists work in schools where they’re able to monitor and diagnose children at early ages and identify more populations that can benefit from speech therapy. For example, SLPs are increasingly helping people with autism improve their social communication skills.

Medical advancements have also allowed people to live longer and recover from severe health conditions, such as strokes and traumatic brain injuries. Patients may develop speech and hearing impairments after suffering from neurological injuries or age-related illnesses. BLS projects a 29 percent increase in demand between 2020 and 2030—roughly 15,200 new job openings per year.

Ability to Make a Difference

As you explore occupations, think about the type of work you find satisfying. Do you enjoy interacting one-on-one with people? Are you motivated by work that involves research, advocacy, and problem solving? Graduate school is demanding and requires a great deal of commitment, making it beneficial to learn as much as you can about this field before applying.

Speech-language pathology is a personally rewarding career, and many SLPs choose it because they are driven in making others’ lives better. On a daily basis, SLPs teach clients how to overcome challenges that are interfering with their ability to perform basic speech and language functions, whether this involves an injury, illness, or developmental disorder. By developing custom treatment plans, speech therapists are able to help their clients communicate and be heard.

Worth the Investment

Only you can decide whether a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology is worth it for you. Speech pathology is a growing field with a positive job outlook, so the occupation is likely to offer high earning potential for many years to come. Overall, it’s very important to consider how your strengths, goals, and personality align with the responsibilities of an SLP.