When you become a speech-language pathologist, you are choosing to spend a rewarding career helping people across the lifespan manage or overcome challenges with communication or swallowing and live their best possible life.
Speech-language pathologists address communication, cognitive, and swallowing disorders, and find themselves in an extremely satisfying and meaningful career—and in high demand, too. Here’s some information to help you decide if this career is right for you.
What is speech-language pathology?
Speech-language pathology is a profession with a broad scope of practice. Speech- language pathologists evaluate, diagnose, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders, helping people who have difficulty with issues such as pronouncing words, formulating thoughts, following directions, reading and writing, impaired hearing, voice disorders, cognitive communication impairments, and swallowing difficulties, just to name a few.
What Would I Do?
A speech- language pathologist can provide evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment for a variety of speech, language, communication, and swallowing disorders. SLPs work in many different settings such as schools, hospitals, clinics, and research sites, with varying roles, clients, and responsibilities.
Who Could I Help?
Speech-language pathologists work with people who have difficulty swallowing, speaking, hearing, and communicating, which could be due to a variety of causes such as delayed development, an accident, or a stroke. Ages range from infants to elderly and some populations that you could choose to work with include:
- Young children, who are just developing their speech and language habits and patterns
- School age students, who are struggling with fluency, following directions, or social skills
- Adults with conditions like motor neuron diseases, Alzheimer’s, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, a brain injury, or stroke
- Elderly, for whom safely swallowing food and communicating with loved ones is essential to quality of life
How Much Education is Required?
Entering the field requires a master’s-level speech-language pathology degree, plus certification and licensure according to ASHA. To learn more, read our blog post “How do I become a speech-language pathologist?”
How’s the Job Market?
Hot! The number of speech-language pathologist jobs in the U.S. is expected to grow 21%—much faster than the national average—between 2014 and 2024. At Loyola, our last three graduating classes have employment rates of 97% to 100%, according to our student outcome data.
Take Merertu Kitila, who accepted her position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Voice and Swallow Clinic two months before graduation. Today, she specializes in adult swallowing disorders in the acute care setting, with 20% of her time devoted to clinical research.
While searching for your first job/clinical fellowship, she advises, "figure out what’s most important to you—mentorship and supervision? work setting? location?--and think about what things you may be willing to sacrifice for the right position. Start looking early on so you can see what opportunities are out there and make a plan."
Graduate Jen Hood landed a dream job working with "tiny miracle babies" who are learning how to eat and swallow for the first time, and spends weekends working with adults who are recovering lost skills due to illness or injury. "Every single day is different and I like the challenge each day presents," she says. "The most important advice I can give to new SLPs is never lose sight of why we do what we do. Never stop advocating and fighting for your patient, even if you are standing alone."
Ultimately, the question is which career you think would be the best fit for you.
If you’re leaning towards speech-language pathology, we recommend Loyola’s graduate program, where our mission is for you to become an effective and compassionate advocate for persons with communication disorders. Check out our F.A.Q. to learn more about what we offer.