How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

Most people think of lisps when they think of speech-language pathology, but the profession of speech language pathology goes much deeper: fluency, the ability to express thoughts and ideas, understanding others, or even swallowing properly are all issues that SLPs assess, diagnose, and treat.

And they’re not small issues. Trouble communicating makes it difficult to pick up new information or communicate what’s not being understood in the classroom. It makes forming relationships hard, and in the case of swallowing disorders, thwart social situations in which friendships are formed.

Speech-Language Pathologists help prevent communication disorders early on and identify at-risk students, assess and evaluate communication skills in students, and develop individualized education programs for those students who need it. With how crucial SLPs are to education, it’s not surprising that two out of five Speech-Language Pathologists work in schools.

Demand for Speech-Language Pathologists in Schools

The job growth for Speech-Language Pathologists from 2014 to 2024 is a predicted 21%, a much higher rate than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest employment of SPLs is mostly big cities—the New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles. But taking population into account, Sherman-Denison, TX, Homosassa Springs FL, Cumberland, MD-WV, and Jonesboro, AR are all big employers of Speech-Language pathologists too.

Speech-Language Pathologist Shortages in Schools by State

A shortage area is defined by the U.S. Department of Education as a role in which "there is an inadequate supply" of qualified professionals. The Department allows states to identify their own shortage areas, but encourages them to follow a prescribed methodology based on unfilled positions, positions filled by professionals with irregular certifications, and positions filled by professionals certified in other areas. Because the Department allows states to report shortages as they wish, some states only report teacher shortages while others include administrative shortages as well. Please reference each state's department of education to learn more about their particular shortage areas.

The following states reported a shortage in school speech-language pathologists:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin


Emerson’s online Master of Science in Communication Disorders program prepares aspiring speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to make an immediate impact in the lives of those facing speech, language, and swallowing challenges.

With a comprehensive curriculum that combines research and evidence-based clinical practice in a flexible online format, Speech@NYU prepares students across the country to become creative, collaborative, and effective speech-language pathologists.

The online master’s in applied behavior analysis at Pepperdine University prepares students to take the board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) exam. GRE scores are not required to apply.

Earn your master’s degree in behavior analysis online in 19 months through Simmons’ highly respected program, BehaviorAnalysis@Simmons.

OT@NYU is NYU Steinhardt’s online Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. Applicants must hold an entry-level OT degree and a master’s degree. GRE scores are required.

Top-ranked by U.S. News in 2016, USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy offers a hybrid Doctor of Physical Therapy program, DPT@USC.

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Salary for Speech-Language Pathologists in Schools

According to the BLS, the average salary for a school speech-language pathologist was around $73,410 per year, or $35.29 per hour, in 2015. The highest areas for SLP salaries are Redding, CA, Watertown-Fort Drum, NY, Sacramento--Roseville--Arden--Arcade, CA, Fairbanks, AK, and Staunton-Waynesboro, VA.

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Steps to Becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist in Schools

A master’s in Speech-Language Pathology that’s accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is non-negotiable for this role in most states, whether you’re working in a clinic or a school. SLPs must also be licensed--a process that varies by state, and requires supervised clinical experience. For SLPS who want to work in schools, teaching certification may also be necessary, depending on the state.

Interested in becoming a speech-language pathologist? Read more about earning a Masters in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP).