How to Become a Speech Therapist

Many people think of overcoming speech impediments when they think of speech-language pathology. However, the profession of speech therapy, or speech-language pathology, goes much deeper than that. Fluency, the ability to express thoughts and ideas, understanding others or even swallowing properly are all issues that speech therapists might assess, diagnose and treat.

And these are not insignificant challenges. Trouble communicating makes it difficult to pick up new information in and outside the classroom. It makes forming relationships hard, and in the case of swallowing disorders, it disrupts social interactions.

Speech therapists 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 who need them. With how crucial speech-language pathologists are to education, many SLPs opt to pursue career opportunities within school systems.

What Is a Speech Pathologist?

Speech pathologists, also called speech-language pathologists (SLPs) or speech therapists, are professionals who work with people of all ages to improve communication techniques and treat swallowing disorders, among many other job responsibilities.

Speech pathologists practice in a variety of settings including, but not limited to, independent practices, doctor’s offices, schools, hospitals and residential health care facilities like nursing homes.

Jumpstart Your Career in Speech Pathology, Explore Online SLP Programs

The program cards/tables featured on this page were last updated in March 2022. For the most current program information, please refer to the official website of the respective school.   

Online MS: Pursue SLP Certification. Study FT/PT

Speech@Emerson enables you to earn an MS online and pursue SLP certification in as few as 20 mos. Learn the same curriculum as the on-campus program. Study FT or PT.

  • Prepares you to pursue certification as an SLP generalist
  • In-person clinical placements at faculty-approved partner sites
  • As few as 20 months to complete


Want to Become an SLP? Earn an MS Online at NYU

NYU Steinhardt’s online master of science program in Communicative Sciences and Disorders prepares aspiring speech-language pathologists with a comprehensive professional education.

  • Prepares students to pursue SLP licensure 
  • Accredited by ASHA’s Council on Academic Accreditation 
  • As few as six terms to complete 
  • Full-time and part-time plans of study


Steps to Becoming a Speech Pathologist

There are three common steps that aspiring speech therapists can take to become a practicing SLP. Below, we have outlined the process:

  1. Bachelor’s Degree Program:

    To begin, aspiring professionals can pursue a bachelor’s degree from a reputable higher education institution. Although it is common for speech-language pathologists to come from a wide variety of backgrounds, it doesn’t hurt to demonstrate interest in the field by earning a degree related to speech therapy. A few examples of common undergraduate majors for aspiring speech-language pathologists are communication sciences and disorders, linguistics, language development, education, psychology and English.

  2. SLP Master’s Degree Program:

    In a majority of states—whether you’re employed in a clinical or a school environment—a master’s degree in speech-language pathology accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is an essential requirement for individuals pursuing a career as a speech therapist. 

    Master’s programs typically are paired with clinical or internship experiences to ensure that students are getting a well-rounded and practical learning experience. Coursework might cover language development and anatomy and physiology, among various other topics. Some working professionals may opt for online speech pathology programs to earn an advanced degree without having to relocate or compromise their work schedule and income.

  3. Pursue Licensure:

    SLPs must be licensed to practice, a process that varies by state and requires supervised clinical experience. For SLPs who want to work in schools, a teaching certification may also be necessary, depending on the state.

Interested in becoming a speech-language pathologist? Read more about earning a master’s in speech-language pathology (SLP).

Speech-Language Pathologist Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for speech-language pathologists in 2023 was $89,290. Those who worked in educational services (state, local and private) earned a median annual salary of $79,960.

Salary prospects for speech therapists depend on several factors, including the geographical area of their practice, the extent of their experience in the field and the particular work setting in which they are employed.

Demand for Speech-Language Pathologists

Employment of speech-language pathologists is expected to grow 19% from 2022 to 2032, which is considerably faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.

As of May 2023, the states with the highest employment levels of SLPs are Texas, California, New York, Illinois and Florida.

Last updated June 2024