Career Outlook and Industry Trends for Speech Pathologists

Career Outlook and Industry Trends for Speech Pathologists

Job Earnings

Speech pathologists (SPs), also called speech-language pathologists (SLPs), work with patients to help diagnose and treat communication impairments and disorders. You could work with a variety of patients including those who have suffered a brain injury or stroke, help children struggling with speech impediments, those who have diseases that affect swallowing, and more. Additionally, many speech pathologists conduct research to learn more about communication processes.

While it’s good to know what a speech pathologist does, it’s just as important to research the outlook and trends for this career path. This guide will provide a break down of the estimated employment growth and what areas are likely to provide more opportunities for SLPs according to data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Employment and Job Outlook

In 2014, there were about 135,400 speech pathology jobs in the United States, and 2024, there are expected to be approximately 164,300 positions for SPs. According to the BLS, that is about a 21% projected growth in employment for SLPs. To put that in perspective, check out the BLS graph below that compares the estimated growth of SLP employment to that of health diagnosing and treating practitioners, and all other occupations.

SLP Job Outlook 2014

As you can see, the employment of SLPs is expected to increase far more than many other careers. The BLS’s research shows that advances in research, technology, and medicine have and will continue to attribute to SLP employment growth in the following ways:

  1. Increased research has allowed professionals to become more aware of what to look for and how to help children with speech and language disorders. As a society, we are realizing that the earlier parents can get their child to a pediatric SLP specialist, the better their child’s outcome can be.
  2. People are living longer, and we can now provide better assistance an aging baby-boomer population, helping them to recover or cope with communication disorders and impairments as a result of strokes or memory loss, along with other ailments that can affect speech. This requires a greater need for geriatric SP specialists.
  3. SLPs are now in greater demand for children born prematurely or with craniofacial abnormalities and victims of strokes or traumatic brain injuries. The advancements that have been made have also given SLPs more tools to help those diagnosed with certain types of cancers and diseases that affect the ability to communicate to cope and come up with strategies to maintain communication aspects of their independence.

Employment by Location

Location can play a large role in your ability to find a job once you have received your degree in speech pathology. While the demand of SLPs is high as a whole, some areas around the country may need more SLPs than others. The BLS map below highlights which states have the highest location quotient (concentration of jobs) for SPs in the darkest shade of red.

SLP 2015 location quotient BLS map

As of 2015, the BLS reports the following states as having the top five highest levels of concentration of SLP jobs, in order of highest to lowest concentration:

  1. Arkansas
  2. New Mexico
  3. North Dakota
  4. West Virginia
  5. New Jersey

A metropolitan area will have more people and they may be able to offer greater salary potential for SPs than nonmetropolitan regions. For a more specific idea of which areas have the highest location quotient for SLPs, below is a list of the top five metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of jobs (listed from highest to lowest):

  1. Sherman-Denison, TX
  2. Homosassa Springs, FL
  3. Cumberland, MD-WV
  4. Jonesboro, AR
  5. Las Cruces, NM

If you’re not a city person and prefer to have room to spread out, these are the top five nonmetropolitan regions with the highest concentration of SLP jobs, ordered from highest to lowest:

  1. Southwestern New Mexico nonmetropolitan area
  2. North Arkansas nonmetropolitan area
  3. Far East North Dakota nonmetropolitan rea
  4. East Central North Dakota nonmetropolitan area
  5. Northern New Hampshire nonmetropolitan area

While all of these areas tend to higher more SLPs than other places around the country, remember that the overall demand for this career is expected to grow at an above average rate. You’re needed as an SP no matter where you live.

Employment by Industry

Now that you know which states, cities, and other regions are optimal for this career, it’s time to take a look at which industries tend to hire the most SPs. As previously mentioned, speech pathologists are in greater demand in-part due increased research supporting early intervention with children. This has resulted in many speech pathologists working in an educational environment.

The BLS has listed these as the top five industries with the highest concentration of SLP jobs (from highest to lowest), as of 2015:

  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners
  • Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals
  • Educational Support Services
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools
  • Home Health Care Services

Working in an industry with a high level of employment, rather than concentration, can result in increased wages among other benefits. The following list represents the top five industries with the highest levels of employment for SLPs (they are listed from highest to lowest):

  1. Elementary and Secondary Schools
  2. Offices of Other Health Practitioners
  3. General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
  4. Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)
  5. Home Health Care Services

You can have a diverse career as a speech-language pathologist, since you’re able to work in a variety of places and industries, and can help people of all ages with any kind of speech, language, hearing, swallowing, or other communication disorder or impairment.

It is important to network with other SLPs to exchange resources and advance this exciting career even further. It’s never to early to connect with the community and learn more, and you can start with these websites for speech language pathologists. Remember to explore the rest of our website to learn more about this rewarding career.


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