How to Become a School 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 surprisingly that 2 out of 5 Speech-Language Pathologists work in schools.
Demand for School Speech-Language Pathologists
The job growth for SPLs 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.
School Speech-Language Pathologist Shortages 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:
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Salary for School Speech-Language Pathologists
According to the BLS, the average salary for a school social worker 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.
Steps to Becoming a School Speech-Language Pathologist
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 Master of Science in Communicative Sciences and Disorders.