To borrow a line from Timbuk 3, for speech language pathologists, the future’s so bright, gotta wear shades. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow faster than average compared to most professions. Average job growth is an increase of 7% to 13%. SLP jobs are expected to grow at an impressive 19% by 2018, and it doesn’t get much better than that, especially in this economy. Expressed in numbers, there will be 22,000 new jobs for speech language pathologists over the next few years.
One of the reasons for this expected boom is the huge numbers of baby boomers. As such a large group of people ages, the need for SLPs to help with the effects of stroke, neurological disorders, and other speech, language, and swallowing issues will increase. In addition, survival rates for premature births and accident, trauma, and stroke victims, have improved dramatically, increasing the need for assessment and treatment.
There will be increased need on schools as the population continues to grow. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act signed into law in 2004 guarantees special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities. Schools are obligated by federal law to identify and treat children with speech-language impairments. With school budgets under fire, many will opt for distance telespeech service as a viable, more affordable option. A big slice of the employment pie will go to SLPs who work from a remote location to service a number of schools or areas. Telespeech is an exciting ground-floor opportunity in a relatively new growth industry, made all the more practical by advances in technology. SLPs who choose private practice and take outsourced contracts could maximize the efficiency of distance services to blow the top off the pay scale.
Another factor for private practice SLPs to consider is outsourcing to the medical community. Many hospitals, schools, and nursing care facilities find it more affordable and practical to outsource to a telespeech or visiting SLP than to maintain full-time staff.
The SLPs who will be most in demand will be those who speak two or more languages. For telespeech professionals working from a remote location, a working knowledge of tablet computers and SLP applications will also be a plus.
In 2008, the median salary of a speech-language pathologist was $62,930, with the lowest 10% earning about $40,000 and the highest 10% earning nearly $100,000.
This is an excellent time to enter the field of speech language pathology. The hours are good, the pay is excellent, and the opportunities are tremendous. It’s a demanding and deeply satisfying position with rich rewards in terms of helping people achieve normalcy and learn to communicate better. Living with the knowledge that your work dramatically improves the quality of life for many of your patients, especially in the case of children, is what makes the job so appealing.