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13 Pros and Cons of Being a Speech-Language Pathologist


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Are you considering a career as a speech-language pathologist? A speech-language pathologist has the unique and essential job of helping people communicate better, but what are the pros and cons of being a speech-language pathologist? Before you make any decisions, it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons of this profession. As a speech-language pathologist, you can expect to face various challenges and rewards in your career. Here are the top 13 pros and cons of being a speech-language pathologist so you can decide if this is the best career move for you.


What Does A Speech-Language Pathologist Do?


Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) help people who have problems with their speech, language, voice, and/or fluency due to such conditions as stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI) or developmental delays to name a few. A speech-language pathologist will also help clients learn how to swallow safely and effectively, speak in a way that is easy for others to understand, and manage stress-related communication disorders such as stuttering or spasmodic dysphonia.

Speech-language pathologists work with all age groups and abilities, from young children to the elderly. Speech-language pathologists work with people of all ages and ability levels. For example, some speech-language pathologists work with children who have cerebral palsy, autism, or genetic disorders that affect speech and language. Others treat adults who stutter or suffer from aphasia (language problems caused by a stroke). Still, others help those who cannot swallow.


Where Does A Speech-Language Pathologist Work?


You will find speech-language pathologists working in a variety of different settings. These settings include hospitals, private practice, college/university speech pathology clinics, public school systems, nursing homes, and more.

Although each setting has its own professional guidelines to which the speech-language pathologist must adhere, most sites have very similar daily tasks and overall responsibilities. You can also find a speech-language pathologist in their own private practice. A speech-language pathologist in private practice is becoming more popular in diverse geographical areas and there may be a high need for their services.


What Is A Typical Speech-Language Pathologist Work Schedule Like?


Speech-language pathologists (SLP) typically work a 40-hour week, but this is not always the case. The typical work schedule for a speech-language pathologist will differ depending on where you work. If you work in the hospital or nursing home setting, you may work 8-10 hour Days. These 8–10-hour days may include weekends depending on your location.

If you work in the education system, you will typically follow the school schedule. This means your day would start at around 8 am and end around 3 pm. You will not work weekends or holidays if you work in the school environment.

If you decide that you want to work in the private practice setting, you will essentially decide on the hours and days you will be working. Since you will be your own boss, you can schedule around the hours and days that work best for you.


How Much Does A Speech-Language Pathologist Make?


Now, let’s talk figures. The average annual salary for a speech-language pathologist is around $83,240 a year, which will break down to about $40.02 an hour. Now, if you are just starting out in your career, you can expect to earn around $24.22 an hour or $50,370 a year. As a speech-language pathologist who has gained mid-level experience, your salary will increase significantly. You can expect to earn annually $80,480 a year or $38.69 an hour. Those who have top-level experience will really see a jump in their salary. A top-level speech-language pathologist will earn around $122.790 or $59.03 an hour.

Level of ExperienceHourlyAnnual
Entry-Level$24.22$50,370
Mid-Level$38.69$80,480
Top-Level$59.03$122,790
Average Salary$40.02$83,240
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Job Outlook For A Speech-Language Pathologist


According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, the speech-language pathology profession is expected to grow by 28.72% between 2020 and 2030. That is quite a job increase. In 2020 there were 158,100 speech-language pathologists; that number is projected to grow by 45,400 to 203,500. This number accounts for the new and replacement jobs.

Employment
in 2020
Projected
Employment
in 2030
New Employment
Growth (2020-2030)
Annual Job Openings
(New + Replacement)
Number %
158,100203,50045,40028.72%15,200
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)



TOP CONS OF BEING A SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST

(The following are the top 13 disadvantages of being a Speech-Language Pathologist.)

1. You will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree.

One of the top disadvantages of being a speech-language pathologist is that you first need to earn a bachelor's degree. You will need to earn an undergraduate degree in either speech-language pathology or communication sciences. Earning a bachelor's degree will monopolize four years of your life. This means that if you intend to become a speech-language pathologist, you will need to set aside four years out of your life just for the sake of earning your bachelor's degree.

2. You will need to earn a Master’s degree.

The next step to becoming a speech-language pathologist is that you will have to earn a Master's degree. There are varying degrees, though. You can earn a Master's in speech-language pathology, or you could get a Master's of Science in Communicative Sciences and Disorders. A lot will depend on your personal preference.

You will be looking at about two years of coursework as well as clinical work to complete the degree. This is two-plus years of your life. I bet you are kind of feeling like you will be putting your personal life on hold for quite some time. This is where I would recommend you take a step back and re-evaluate your life. Is this degree really what you want to do? If not, do not waste your and other people's time.

3. You will need to pass the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service Exam.

One of the cons of being a speech-language pathologist is that you will be required to pass the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service Exam. The Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) Exam is a standardized test that needs to be taken by anyone who wants to get into clinical practice or pursue advanced degrees in Speech-Language Pathology. The test is required in order to ensure that all prospective clinicians are on the same playing field and have had a traditional education.

When you take the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service Exam, it is comparable to taking a driver's test before getting a license. This exam often comes off as extremely difficult for people who have never taken such an exam before.

The Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) Exam will test your knowledge in the areas of both speech and language. The test itself will focus on your ability to analyze functional problems in communication and how to treat such disorders.

4. You will need to complete your required clinical hours.

In order to become a speech-language pathologist, you will need to complete the required clinical hours to be a speech-language pathologist. You will need to complete many hours of clinical training, which is also known as practicing your profession. You will need to complete 375 hours of supervised clinical work experience. Now, if you decide that you want to work within the school system, you will then need to complete a postgraduate fellowship of 400 hours of supervised clinical practice. Wow, this sounds pretty intense.

5. If you want to work in a school, you will need to earn your Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP).

If you want to work in a school, you will need to earn your Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology. To earn your Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, you will need to complete a Master's degree and then pass the national certification examination for speech-language pathologists. After earning your CCC-SLP, you will be qualified as a member of ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) and able to provide therapy to school-aged children and adults. Earning certification will take more time and more energy on your part. Sometimes you'll feel like it is taking over your life.

6. You will need a license to practice.

Another one of the disadvantages of being a speech-language pathologist is that you will need to obtain a license to practice. In order to legally practice in a speech-language pathology setting, you will need a license which means that you will have to complete a minimum of a master's degree and practical training supervised by licensed professionals. Some states will allow for reciprocity of your license while others do not. It is best to check with the state you plan on practicing in order to determine the requirements for licensure.

7. I hope you have been saving your pennies.

So, we have discussed the amount of schooling that is required to be a speech-language pathologist, but we did not discuss the cost. Well, first, you will have to pay for your undergraduate degree. The average net price of attendance for full-time undergraduate students attending 4-year institutions is about $13,900 at public institutions, compared with $27,200 at private nonprofit institutions and $23,800 at private for-profit institutions. Next, you will need to pay for your Master's degree, which will cost you $23,000-$75,000 for tuition and fees each year at a public institution. At a private institution, the cost of earning your Master's degree in speech-language pathology tuition and fees reach $50,000-$90,000. I do not know about you, but these seem like pretty hefty figures.

8. You may have a huge caseload.

When evaluating the pros and cons of being a speech-language pathologist, you will need to keep in mind that you may end up with a giant caseload. Having such a large caseload may make it difficult for you to provide the type of care you want or the client needs. You may not be able to finish all your work during work hours, so in some cases, you may end up taking work home to complete. This will cut down substantially the time you will be spending with loved ones and will also not allow for you to have any downtime. You will not find time for hobbies and may find yourself with a very small social life because you will spend most of your time working.

9. You may have to work weekends.

As a speech-language pathologist, you may find that you will have to work weekends. This is a very common requirement of the job. Working weekends will mean that you will miss out on family and friend activities, events, and time with your children. You may feel like you never get to spend enough time with your family. You may find yourself resenting your job.

10. You may have to work holidays.

One of the biggest disadvantages of being a speech-language pathologist is that you may have to work holidays. For example, you may have to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas day. This is not ideal for most individuals, but it does happen. Working holidays means that you may be missing family and friend gatherings. You may feel so removed from your loved ones. No matter how hard you try to explain that it is just a job, family and friends may not be able to understand your schedule.

11. You may become burned out.

As a speech-language pathologist, you will run the risk of becoming burned out. Some of the most common reasons speech-language pathologists become burned out are speech-language pathologists are expected to be miracle workers. Speech-language pathologists must manage their client's expectations about treatment outcomes while also managing their own expectations, and most insurance companies cover only a tiny percentage of the costs associated with your services. Burnout may put your career at risk. Eventually, you may look for a new career.

12. If you work in the school system, you may be split between more than one school.

When evaluating the pros and cons of being a speech-language pathologist in the school system, you may be split between multiple schools. You may find that you will be required to travel between various schools. Or you may find yourself in a school for 9 months and another school the next. Juggling multiple schools will just add to the pressure you may already feel with having a high caseload.

13. You will have a ton of paperwork to complete

As a speech-language pathologist, you will have a great deal of paperwork that will need to be completed. This paperwork will include many tasks such as assessments, admission and discharge reports, progress notes, and IEPs. Without those reports and documents, patients will not receive the care they deserve and need. These papers need to be completed as accurately as possible. These documents can be time-consuming and laborious to complete. Whew, I am getting overwhelmed thinking about all this paperwork.


TOP PROS OF BEING A SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST

(The following are the top 13 advantages of being a Speech-Language Pathologist.)

1. You will earn a good living.

Speech-language pathology is a rewarding profession, with many opportunities to thrive. The annual average salary for a speech-language pathologist is around $83,240. Not bad, right? Having a yearly wage of this caliber will provide a comfortable lifestyle. You will be able to afford some of the finer aspects of life, such as a new car or maybe a vacation to your favorite destination. The options are truly limitless!

2. You can work in a variety of settings.

One of the top pros of being a speech-language pathologist is that you are able to work in a variety of settings. You can work in schools, hospitals, clinics, community agencies, and even private practice. This decision of where to work is entirely up to your individual preferences. This is great because if one setting does not feel like an excellent fit for, well, you have others to choose from.

3. You will have job security.

Another one of the pros of being a speech-language pathologist is that you will have job security. A career as a speech-language pathologist is an in-demand career that is expected to grow by 28.72% by the year 2030. This growth means that there will continue to be a need for speech-language pathologists. The demand for services has been growing as more individuals survive strokes or sustain traumatic brain injuries. Speech-language pathology is also needed because society is getting older, which means there is an increased need for assistance with swallowing difficulties.

Another factor contributing to the growth is the growing diverse, multicultural society, which means more individuals have different communication needs. More and more people are working in jobs where they must speak English as a second language. A speech-language pathologist helps provide linguistic and cultural support to those individuals.

4. You will always be able to find a job.

As a speech-language pathologist, you will always be able to find a job. There are jobs available all throughout the country, which means that if you are in the job market, you do not have to relocate unless you really want to. This is also great for deciding which type of setting you want to work in as well as the different hours that are available. You will be able to find the perfect fit for you and what you want to accomplish.

5. You could travel for work.

One of the advantages of being a speech-language pathologist is that you can take on a travel position. As a travel therapist, you do not have to live or work in one place for too long. A travel speech-language pathologist will travel and possibly work in different parts of the country. There are many opportunities available as a speech-language pathologist; you just need to know where to look.

6. You can be your own boss.

One of the pros of being a speech-language pathologist is that you could be your own boss. As a speech-language pathologist, you could open your own practice. This means you could work on your own terms, make your own hours, create your ideal work environment and have the satisfaction of being independent.

You could work full-time, part-time, or for just a few hours each week. You can choose to work in elementary, middle, and high schools—even the White House! Speech-language pathologists are needed throughout society, and they have made quite an impact on people of all ages.

7. Your schedule can be flexible.

As a speech-language pathologist, you will be able to enjoy a flexible schedule. This is because your schedule will constantly change as you work with different people, at different times and in different locations. Ultimately, you will choose the order and time that you see your clients depending on the setting you work in. You may also get to select the day of the week you see your clients. Some therapists work Monday through Friday, while others choose to see their patients on weekends. If you are self-employed and have a solo practice, this schedule will become even more flexible to accommodate your clients' needs.

8. You can even further specialize.

One of the top pros of being a speech-language pathologist is that you can choose to specialize further. This can be done by working with a specific population, such as children or people with a brain injury. Or you could decide to specialize within your field of speech-language pathology by choosing to work in the areas of fluency disorders, medical speech-language pathology, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), dysphagia, voice disorders, literacy support. The possibilities are truly endless.

9. You are helping people.

One of the biggest advantages of being a speech-language pathologist is that you will be helping other people and their families. Many people have benefited from the therapy they have received from a speech-language pathologist and can now enjoy a better quality of life due to their hard work. People may have never achieved or regained their communication abilities without you. You have the unique chance to impact the lives of others in a positive way every day. As a speech-language pathologist, you will be an essential part of many people's lives and also their families.

10. Your job will be intellectually challenging

As a speech-language pathologist, your career will be intellectually challenging. You will learn about how language and cognitive processes affect communication and swallowing abilities. You will be collaborating with other medical professionals such as pediatricians, neurologists, developmental pediatricians, and many more people who specialize in different fields of medicine. It is a growing field because as technology advances, so do research areas to understand why things are the way they are.

Cognitive and language development will always be a never-ending study as humans grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. The benefit of working in this area is that you will feel intellectually satisfied with helping others. People who work in this area develop deep relationships with their clients and guide them through times when they may not understand why they are struggling.

11. You will be helping educate and empower your clients and their families.

When you choose a career as a speech-language pathologist, you are choosing to do something very rewarding. You will be helping educate and empower your clients and their families.

Speech-language pathologists work closely with people of all ages; children, adolescents, adults, seniors; who have communication disorders due to physical/mental/developmental disabilities or delays.

You will be educating and empowering your clients and their families by detecting and treating disorders related to speech, language, cognitive-communication, and swallowing. You will also be assisting with feeding, augmentative communication, and alternative augmentative communication. Your goal is to help them function in everyday life better, which can lead to a more fulfilling life!

12. You will see your client’s progress.

One of the joys of being a speech-language pathologist is that you see the results of your hard work. You will be able to see your client's progress. They will get better, and you can look back on what they have been able to do. Let's think about the changes that take place over time in speech, language, and swallowing.

13. You are a valuable member of the healthcare team.

When you are weighing the pros and cons of being a speech-language pathologist, you will need to keep in mind that you will be considered a valuable part of the healthcare team. In this capacity, you will work on developing goals of care with other healthcare team members and then see your patients regularly to teach them strategies they can use for self-management and improvement of their condition. Being part of a team is a slightly different dynamic than working in a more solitary capacity. However, if you thrive on change and enjoy seeing improvement in patients' lives, then it may be a good fit for you.


My Final Thoughts


If you are considering a career in speech-language pathology, this list of pros and cons of being a speech-language pathologist should help you make an informed decision. The job is excellent for people who enjoy working with others or want to work more independently. It is also helpful if you like the idea of helping children learn how to communicate better so they can become more successful adults later on in life.

That said, it is not without its challenges--from low pay early on in the career to long hours that may require weekend and evening hours. You will also need strong organizational skills because therapists often juggle paperwork along with their clients' care plans while juggling other responsibilities at the same time. So, if you are on the fence regarding if this is the right career for you, then I hope the top 13 pros and cons of being a speech-language pathologist will help you decide.


Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.