The Future Career Outlook for Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists, or SLPs, work with people of all ages to assess, prevent, treat, and diagnose speech, swallowing, cognitive-communication, language, and social communication disorders. In other words, they work with people who cannot communicate well or who need alternative forms of communication to connect with others. 

These professionals are in high demand, and their roles continue to expand thanks to an improvement in how speech-language conditions are diagnosed as well as a growing population of patients needing services. 

Speech-language pathologists are responsible for:

  • Evaluating individuals for trouble with swallowing, language, or speech
  • Carrying out individualized treatment plans to address functional needs
  • Helping clients improve their swallowing reflexes and strength
  • Counseling families and patients on communication and swallowing disorders

…as well as other services. 

The future of speech-language pathology is bright — new opportunities are opening up every day. For those interested in the field, now is a great time to get involved or find a new position.

The Future of Speech-Language Pathology

If you’re interested in getting started in speech-language pathology, you’ll be happy to see that the outlook for jobs is excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that between 2022 and 2032, the number of open roles is expected to grow by 19%, which is much faster than average. With 171,400 jobs already available or filled in 2022, it’s clear this field requires an influx of capable SLPs. 

In terms of pay, SLPs earn a median salary of $84,140, according to 2022 data. That works out to around $40.45 per hour. Pay and salary will vary by location, which is something to keep in mind. The best-paying cities for speech-language pathologists include:

  • San Francisco, CA: $124,160
  • Napa, CA: $118,180
  • San Jose, CA: $117,320
  • Honolulu, HI: $116,330
  • Modesto, CA: $115,060

Not everyone wants to live in Hawaii or California, though, so some other good choices include Washington D.C., where SLPs have a mean salary of $105,360, or New York City, where SLPs earn a mean salary of $104,240. Every state has its own pros and cons, so it’s worth doing your research before choosing your next role. 

Keep in mind that most speech-language pathologists do work full-time hours, but some also take on part-time roles. Additionally, if you choose to work for a school, it’s common to have several months off during the summer as well as time off in the winter when the school systems go on breaks. Perks like extra time off may offset slightly lower salaries.

New Opportunities in Speech-Language Pathology

Speech-language pathology roles come in a variety of forms. Some options you have include:

  • Contract jobs: Contract assignments give SLPs flexibility and freedom in their career. Contracts may only be a few months long, giving you the opportunity to take a break or try working in different places to find the right fit. 
  • Travel roles: If you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, the great news is that speech-language pathologists are in demand all over the country. The Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact (ASLP-IC) allows member SLPs to travel and practice within any state that is a member of the compact. The goal of the ASLP-IC is to expand where SLPs can work to improve t patients’ access to care.
  • Virtual jobs: These roles allow you to work from home or remotely away from patients. SLPs may work with patient populations that would otherwise find it difficult to come in to seek care, such as those in rural areas. If you are licensed in more than one state, you may also be able to take patients across state lines for telehealth or teletherapy.

And note that SLPs don’t only have to work with one demographic. They can work with many different populations, including the aging population. If you enjoy working with older people, there will be many new opportunities to do so as the number of Americans over the age of 65 increases. By 2050, it’s estimated that there will be 82 million people 65 or older in this county, an increase of 47%. 

Additional awareness of speech and language disorders also helps bolster the number of potential clients you could see. Patients and students in need of speech therapy may include disorders or medical conditions such as:

  • Nonverbal autism 
  • Stuttering
  • Trauma-related speech issues
  • Stroke-related speech or swallowing problems

There is a significant amount of variance in speech-language pathology, so if you enjoy traveling or working on a contract basis, doing so may help you experience different aspects of the field before settling down into a long-term position in a specialty you enjoy.

SHC Supports SLPs

Speech-language pathologists have an opportunity to change the way people communicate and help them build connections and confidence. At Supplemental Health Care, we support SLPs and the work they do. We’re happy to partner and collaborate with our own speech-language pathologist and family literacy advocate, Dr. Kelly Byrd

Dr. Byrd, the ASA National Staffing Employee of the Year 2024 winner, runs Love for Literacy, an organization that “seeks to shine a light on the importance of black family literacy experiences and its role in literacy development in children. She has worked with SHC as a speech-language pathologist for over a decade and is a Black family literacy advocate who promotes the importance of representation in children’s books and stories.