Speech Pathologist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Speech Pathologist, or Speech Therapist, is responsible for helping people communicate and swallow appropriately. Their duties include assessing patients, diagnosing disorders than can impact swallowing and speaking and providing treatment for their patients.

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Speech Pathologist duties and responsibilities

Speech Pathologists often work with individuals who experience voice disorders such as harsh voice or inappropriate pitch or who are unable to understand language. They are responsible for completing administrative tasks including documenting billing information and keeping accurate records of initial evaluations, diagnoses, treatment progress and any treatment plan notes. In addition, they are responsible for:

  • Evaluating levels of swallowing, speech and language difficulty
  • Identifying treatment options
  • Creating and carrying out individualized treatment plans addressing specific functional needs
  • Teaching patients how to make sounds while improving their voices and maintaining fluency
  • Helping individuals improve sentence structure and vocabulary used in written and oral language
  • Working with adults and children in developing and strengthening muscles used to swallow
  • Counseling individuals and families on ways to cope with swallowing and communication disorders

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Speech Pathologist Job Description Examples

What does a Speech Pathologist do?

Speech Pathologists are typically either employed by an institution like a hospital, school or nursing home, or they have their own private practice where they see patients. They perform duties like assessing, diagnosing, treating and helping to prevent swallowing and communication disorders in adults and children. Swallowing, speech and language disorders result from a variety of causes including autism, a cleft palate, Parkinson’s disease, developmental delay, hearing loss, brain injury and stroke.

Speech Pathologist skills and qualifications

Skills and qualifications that will assist individuals looking to enter into a Speech Pathologist career include:

  • Analytical skills for selecting the best diagnostic tools and analyzing results to identify an accurate diagnosis while developing an effective treatment plan.
  • Communication skills for communicating diagnoses, test results and available treatments in terms that clients and their families can understand.
  • Compassion when working with individuals frustrated by the difficulties they are experiencing.
  • Critical thinking skills for adjusting treatment plans as required and identifying alternative ways to help.
  • Attention to detail for maintaining notes on treatment and progress.
  • Listening skills for listening to concerns and symptoms of clients so they can decide the most appropriate course of treatment.

Speech Pathologist salary expectations

Speech Pathologists can expect a salary range of $11.10 to $91.65 an hour with the average salary at $41.66 per hour based on 7,554 anonymously submitted salaries to Indeed by Speech Pathologists, Indeed users and past and present Indeed job postings within the last 36 months.

Speech Pathologist education and training requirements

Speech Pathologists usually need a minimum of a master’s degree. While master’s degree programs don’t require specific undergraduate degrees for admission, certain coursework is often required to be completed prior to entering a program.

Graduate programs typically include supervised clinical experience along with coursework in swallowing disorders, alternative communication methods, age-specific speech disorders and speech and language development.

The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) which is part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is responsible for accrediting educational programs in speech-language pathology. Certification and state licensure require candidates to graduate from an accredited program.

Speech Pathologist experience requirements

All states regulate Speech Pathologists, and most require them to be licensed while a few states also require registration. Licensure usually requires a minimum of a master’s degree, supervised clinical experience and passing exams.

Speech Pathologists can also earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) administered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Certification usually satisfies many state licensure requirements and is required by some employers.

In order to obtain CCC-SLP certification, applying candidates must have a degree from an accredited program, successfully pass an exam and complete a fellowship while being supervised by a certified Speech Pathologist. An additional 30 hours of continuing education is required every three years in order for Speech Pathologists to maintain their CCC-SLP credentials.

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Frequently asked questions about Speech Pathologists


What makes a good Speech Pathologist?

Speech Pathologists are trained professionals who must have extensive education and training to perform their jobs well. Generally, Speech Pathologists share a number of qualities that make them excellent at their jobs: 

  • Communication: Speech Pathologists should excel at all types of communication, including written, verbal and non-verbal to best support their patients. 
  • Organization: Since most Speech Pathologists treat a number of different patients, organization is key to ensure they’re meeting the needs of each individual they work with. 
  • Time management: Most Speech Pathologists have set appointments with their patients. Managing time appropriately during these sessions is vital. 
  • Empathy: Great Speech Pathologists are empathetic of their patient’s situation and treat them with kindness and respect. 
  • Professionalism: Excellent Speech Pathologists are professional in all settings with their patients. 


What is the difference between a Speech Pathologist and an Occupational Therapist?

Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists share a similar goal — to help their patients master certain physical abilities to improve their lives. Speech Pathologists focus exclusively on the mouth, throat and face to help patients who struggle with speech or swallowing challenges. Occupational Therapists work with the whole body and treat a wide range of physical disorders and injuries that result in physical challenges for their patients. 


What are the daily duties of a Speech Pathologist?

Most Speech Pathologists perform similar duties from day to day, although those duties can vary depending on the environment in which the Speech Pathologist works. For Speech Pathologists who work for a school, hospital, nursing home or other institution, they may spend the majority of their day working with their regular patients and attending meetings with institutional leadership. For Speech Pathologists in private practice, they may evaluate new patients and hold sessions with current patients. 


What are the different types of Speech Pathologists?

Speech Pathologists can specialize in certain disorders and types of speech pathology by pursuing additional education and training, usually concluding in a certificate. One of the most common certificates for Speech Pathologists to pursue is the board-certified specialist certification, or BCSC, which allows Speech Pathologists to focus in one of four areas: 

  • Child language disorders: These Speech Pathologists help children who have trouble forming words and speaking appropriately for their age. 
  • Fluency disorders: Speech Pathologists who specialize in fluency disorders help those who suffer from stuttering or similar speech challenges. 
  • Swallowing disorders: A Speech Pathologist who specializes in swallowing disorders helps those who have trouble swallowing. 
  • Audiology: The field of audiology is closely related to that of speech pathology. These Speech Pathologists help their patients with hearing loss or hearing impairment manage their speech. 

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