Are you thinking about a career in speech-language pathology (SLP), but still not sure if it’s the right career for you? No doubt you have many unanswered questions that are cause for hesitation.

Should I become a speech pathologist or another type of therapy professional, such as an audiologist? What steps do I have to take to become an SLP? Does this career fit my skills and personality?

Speech therapy jobs are abundant, and they offer the chance to work in clinical, educational, and administrative settings. If you’re curious about the pros and cons of an SLP career, here are some answers to help you figure out whether becoming a speech pathologist is right for you.

Is Speech-Language Pathology the Right Career For You?

A speech-language pathologist is a clinical therapist who specializes in assessing, diagnosing, and treating disorders that affect linguistic behavior, communication, or swallowing. They develop preventive therapies to treat language impairments in early childhood and corrective techniques to improve communication problems related to physical, social, or cognitive health.

Keep the following factors in mind as you weigh the benefits and challenges of being an SLP.

1. What are your salary requirements?

While salary isn’t the only factor in choosing a career, it’s important when considering the cost of your education and long-term earning potential. The good news is SLPs earn a very competitive salary. In 2020, the median pay for speech-language pathologists was $80,480. On top of that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the job demand is estimated to increase 29 percent from 2020 to 2030.

The highest-paid speech therapists—who typically work for nursing and residential care facilities—earn anywhere from $95,000 to more than $122,000 a year. The educational services industry, which employs 38 percent of SLPs, reportedly offers a median annual wage of $71,410. If salary is a top priority, rest assured that working as an SLP can help you meet your financial goals.

2. Do you enjoy working with people?

A career as an SLP will involve working intimately with people from diverse backgrounds. Plus, depending on your work environment, you may have clients of all ages as well. Consider whether you’ll be comfortable in a hands-on role that requires a great deal of one-on-one interaction. Speech therapists need to possess these key traits:

  • Listening and communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Patience and empathy
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Resourcefulness and creativity
  • Adaptability

Since speech therapists mainly treat developmental disorders, they must also be excited to work with children. These professionals diagnose problems that typically manifest in early childhood, such as difficulty forming sounds, organizing thoughts, coordinating speech motor functions, and understanding verbal and nonverbal cues.

No matter what setting you work in, compassion and interpersonal skills are necessary to succeed. Many clients will have multiple obstacles affecting their ability to communicate, and it’s the role of a speech therapist to assess their individual needs and develop effective treatment plans. If you prefer not to work closely with others, a related research field might be a better fit.

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3. Are you willing to go to graduate school?

A Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from an accredited program is the minimum requirement to become an SLP. After graduation, a license is also mandatory to practice in most US states. Many employers, especially high-paying institutions, will require you to earn a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

Depending on the industry you choose to work in, you may need additional certifications to demonstrate competency in specialized fields. If you’re not willing to pursue a postgraduate degree, that’s totally fine—but you’ll want to choose a different career.

4. Are you looking for a meaningful career?

Speech pathologists play an essential role in improving quality of life for others. SLPs show clients how to make positive changes that have a lasting impact on their lives. That’s why it’s important to have enthusiasm for helping people if you aspire to be a speech therapist.

Because therapy roles involve a lot of investigating, listening, and experimentation, you also need to have professional curiosity and a desire to come up with innovative solutions. Does this sound like you? Then, becoming an SLP may be an excellent choice.

Consider Your Options

Now that you know how rewarding and interactive a career in speech pathology can be, you might be ready to explore degree options. Compare graduate programs or reach out to an admission counselor to find out the requirements to enroll in a Master’s degree program.

The best way to choose a career you love is to get an up-close look at the everyday responsibilities of a speech-language pathologist. A licensed SLP can answer your questions or even guide you to related fields that may be a better fit.

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