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Speech Pathologist Salary

Michael McCarthy

Written By: Michael McCarthy

Published: 8/4/2022

It takes a great deal of time and effort to become a speech-language pathologist (SLP), so it's natural to consider your earning potential after all that work. Of course, everyone's career trajectory is different even if they work in the same field — among other variables, wages differ by geography, level of education, seniority, and individual employer. But we've taken data from several sources to give a general idea of what to expect once you start working as an SLP.

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How Much Does a Speech-Language Pathologist Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates a median annual salary of $79,060 for SLPs. This agency collects wage and job outlook information for hundreds of occupations nationwide.

What Is the Salary Range for a Speech Pathologist?

The BLS notes that 10% of SLPs make less than $51,310, whereas 10% make more than $125,560. The highest paid SLPs tend to be those with the most seniority at their places of employment, including many supervisors.

How Much Does a Speech Pathologist Make per Hour?

According to the BLS, SLPs earn median hourly wages of $38.01. Hourly pay is common in speech-language pathology, even for full-time employees. Just over half of all SLPs in healthcare receive hourly wages, according to a 2021 survey by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). But an ASHA survey of school-based SLPs reveals that 88% of these professionals receive an annual salary rather than hourly wages.

Hourly pay is common in speech-language pathology, even for full-time employees.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salary by Years of Experience

Early-career licensed SLPs typically earn lower salaries than those with more seniority. On the whole, it seems to take several years before SLPs earn significant pay increases, though it's difficult to differentiate the exact amounts because of incomplete data. For example, ASHA's healthcare salary survey shows only small jumps in pay among medical SLPs with 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15 years of experience, but this survey features a relatively small sample size.

We can partially corroborate this finding using labor market data from the analytics company Lightcast. This firm's large database of job advertisement posts shows little variation in starting salary among employers seeking SLPs with 0-2 years or 3-5 years of experience. In fact, there was only a $100 difference in median starting salary for positions in these two categories in the last 12 months.

It's worth noting that ASHA's school survey shows salary increases that are a bit steeper for education SLPs, though their pay was lower than medical SLP pay overall.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salary by Geographic Region

For most professions, the highest paying states and cities tend to be more expensive places to live — that is, the relatively high salary won't necessarily stretch further. This is true of speech-language pathology: The five highest paying areas are among the most expensive in the nation, although it's not a one-to-one correspondence. For example, California hosts the highest paid SLPs but has the fourth-highest cost of living, and Hawaii is the costliest state but only the second highest paying state for SLPs.

State Annual mean wage Cost of Living Index Cost of Living Rank
California $102,650 139.7 48
Hawaii $100,120 192.7 51
New York $98,850 152.1 49
New Jersey $98,270 112.9 38
District of Columbia $98,240 158.8 50

Lightcast grants some interesting insights into wage trends in the previous 12 months. According to job ads from this period of 2021-2022, the top three states for new-hire SLP salaries were Maryland, Illinois, and Rhode Island (though the differences in median salary were negligible among these three). Keep in mind that these numbers only apply to posts for open positions, not salaries for SLPs who have been in the same role for some time.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salary by Setting

As an SLP, your work setting usually has more influence on your lifetime earnings than other variables. For example, nearly all SLPs have a master's degree, so this is more a constant than a variable. But the type of SLP you become is very important, both for your career experiences and for your likely salary.

Highest Paying Industries

In general, SLPs earn considerably more in medical settings than in educational workplaces. The BLS notes this, and ASHA data confirms it. Public school districts simply don't have the same budgets as private health services.

Early-childhood SLP Kassie Hanson notes, "I started out working full-time directly for a public school district where my compensation matched that of a teacher with a master's degree. Unfortunately, this is a fraction of what medical SLPs can make."

Highest Paying Facilities

BLS gives the prize to nursing and residential care facilities, which pay SLPs median yearly salaries of $99,340. Hospitals are close behind at $95,620 per year on the median.

ASHA survey data confirms that skilled nursing centers tend to pay the top wages, followed by pediatric hospitals.

Common Benefits for Speech-Language Pathologists

Benefits are extra incentives that employers provide for employees. Common benefits include partially subsidized health insurance, paid time off (PTO), and retirement plans. There's no comprehensive data source on the benefits that SLPs typically receive, but we can make some strong assumptions based on the industries where they work.

Most educational and healthcare employers in the U.S. offer partially subsidized health insurance, which often also includes dental and vision coverage. Employers usually pay the bulk of the cost and employees shoulder a portion. The quality of these health plans differs — some employers choose to pay for cheaper plans that offer higher deductibles and less coverage to insured people.

Most healthcare and school district employees also receive PTO and paid sick leave, though the amount varies by employer. It's common for early-career employees to start a new job with two weeks of PTO, or 10 working days. If they work at the same place for years, they'll most likely receive extra PTO days at some point. In general, public employees are more likely to get PTO and paid sick leave plans than employees of private firms.

In addition, public school employees typically receive a retirement pension through their state. This is an incentive for public school SLPs to stay in the same state for their whole career or at least leave their money in place if they move because they'll need to pay a tax penalty on retirement funds that they remove from the pension pool early.

Working part-time may skew this benefits picture for SLPs. Employers can choose to offer benefits only to their full-time workers, so part-time SLPs may need to enroll in a health plan through the Affordable Care Act portal or receive insurance and other benefits through their partner's employer, if applicable.

Speech-Language Pathology Salary Outlook

There's reason to believe that SLP salaries will grow in coming years, though this isn't certain. Comparing ASHA's most recent salary surveys to their previous iterations doesn't reveal much — their reports mention no statistically significant increases in pay from 2019 for healthcare SLPs or from 2018 for school SLPs.

The chief hope for increased salaries lies instead in the extraordinary demand for SLPs: The BLS projects 29% growth in new SLP jobs in the 2020-2030 period, which is much faster than the 8% growth rate for all jobs combined. Increased demand often leads to higher median salaries because employers are willing to pay competitive wages to land top talent.

The BLS projects 29% growth in new SLP jobs in the 2020-2030 period, which is much faster than the 8% growth rate for all jobs combined.

Still, there's no surefire way to predict future wages, and a number of scenarios could play out. For example, public school salaries could stagnate because an economic downturn may force state governments to freeze or cut their budgets. This would lead to little or no wage increase for the largest chunk of SLPs, those who work in public schools.

Another possibility is that school districts may change the way they compensate SLPs. Kassie Hanson reports, "There is currently a big push to get compensated differently in the schools. In Nebraska (and many school districts in the U.S.), speech-language pathologists are paid on the same scale as teachers," while other professionals such as occupational therapists and psychologists are contractors who get paid more. Given the relatively large number of SLPs who work in schools, it's unclear how feasible this change is in the short term.

How Can Speech Pathologists Make the Most Money?

Healthcare SLPs make the most money, so the most important thing you can do is apply to job openings at nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient care centers, and hospitals. Starting your career in the medical industry can lead to much higher lifetime earnings than if you work in education.

Another way to potentially increase your salary is by earning ASHA's Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). This credential may make you more marketable to future employers, including for some positions that are only open to certified SLPs.

You might also increase your earnings by moving into management as your career progresses. According to ASHA's healthcare salary survey, SLPs who only perform supervisory duties earn median salaries that are $27,000 higher than those in purely clinical SLP roles. The duties are much different between these two kinds of jobs, but this path may be worth considering if management appeals to you.

No matter where you work, it's helpful to do your job diligently and demonstrate your worth to the organization. This can put you in a better negotiating position during an annual review, when it's time to discuss a pay increase for merit. Excellent performance can even help if your employer grants raises based on tiers instead of manager discretion — you can at least put yourself at or near the top tier if your work is valuable enough.

FAQS About Speech-Language Pathologist Salaries

Are Speech Pathologists Rich?

Almost nobody would consider SLPs rich based on their median income. Still, $79,060 is $33,300 more than the yearly median salary for all U.S. jobs combined, which can make for a comfortable living. But it's worth noting that although SLPs earn more than the median rate for workers with bachelor's degrees, their median salary is slightly lower than the median salary for all employees with master's degrees.

Where Do Speech Pathologists Get Paid the Most?

On the whole, SLPs earn the most money in California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. They probably get paid the most in densely populated urban areas within those territories, though BLS data doesn't filter down to the city level.

What Is the Highest Paid Speech Pathologist?

Medical SLPs make the most money in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. What's more, SLPs with years of seniority earn relatively high wages in managerial roles compared to those who are strictly service providers. It stands to reason that a supervising SLP in a nursing home or care facility would be near the top of the possible pay scale for speech-language pathology.

How Can Speech Therapists Make Extra Money?

One way speech therapists can earn more is to switch to the healthcare field if they're working in schools. Another option is to apply to a private practice or seek licensure as an independent contractor. Private contractors can generally charge whatever they like for speech therapy services, which may be over and above their current hourly rates. This mode of work can also grant SLPs the latitude to work as much or as little as they want.

Bottom Line

Speech pathologists earn median annual salaries of $79,060. On the whole, healthcare employers tend to pay greater wages than schools or school districts, with nursing homes and residential care facilities at the top. As in most fields, greater seniority and supervisory responsibility typically lead to higher pay for SLPs.

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