Speech language pathologists (SLP) help children and adults assess and correct critical problems with their speech sounds and language. Several patient types benefit from working with SLPs, including language-delayed children, adults who lost their ability to speak after a brain injury or an illness and seniors who suffered a stroke or similar condition affecting their speech. These professionals also often help those with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, as a side effect of cancer or another illness.
In this guide, we discuss the average speech language pathologist salary in states across the United States and how you can increase your pay when working in this field.
What Is the Typical Speech Language Pathologist Salary?
The average speech language pathologist salary varies depending on whether your contract is permanent or travel-based. While Vivian has limited salary data regarding permanent contracts, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook indicates that the median annual wage for this profession was $79,060 as of May 2021, which equates to a little more than $1,520 per week.
Those who obtain travel contracts have the potential to earn a higher weekly salary. According to our data, travel speech language pathologists earned an average of $1,980 per week in late October 2022, with those in some states making even more.
Where Do Speech Language Pathologists Earn the Most?
The salary you earn as SLP varies depending on what region you’re working and living in. Those with travel contracts can expect to earn more in states with higher average salaries.
According to Vivian’s salary information, the weekly wages for travel speech language pathologists in the top 10 highest-paying states in late October 2022 included the following:
- Alaska: $2,569
- Wyoming: $2,242
- North Dakota: $2,238
- California: $2,140
- Montana: $2,106
- Wisconsin: $2,104
- Vermont: $2,089
- South Dakota: $2,083
- Illinois: $2,051
- Oregon: $2,044
Looking at other markets, travel SLPs tend to earn slightly less than in these states. For example, SLPs working in Utah made an average of $1,747 per week in late October 2022, which was 14% below the national average. Georgia-based SLPs earned an average of $1,764, or 13% below the U.S. average. Meanwhile, the average in Rhode Island was slightly higher but still less than the national average by 9% at $1,826 per week.
Demand for Speech Language Pathologists Across the United States
BLS data published in May 2021 indicates the demand for speech-language pathologists will rise 21% between 2021 and 2031, with an estimated 14,000 job openings projected annually throughout the decade. Whether you’re a veteran SLP or considering a career in the field, the availability of work in the coming years shouldn’t be a concern.
States with the Highest Demand
The demand for SLPs and the availability of speech language pathologist jobs often varies based on the part of the country where you’re employed. Although some states may have limited job openings available in the field, others have a high demand for new and experienced therapists in settings such as schools, clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
According to BLS data, the states where demand for SLPs is the highest are:
- New York
Coincidentally, two of these states are also noted for paying some of the highest speech language pathologist salaries nationwide.
Finding Speech Language Pathologist Jobs
Vivian can help you find speech language pathologist jobs in markets across the United States. Use the Vivian job search tool to seek permanent speech language pathologist jobs and travel SLP jobs in your desired location and connect directly to recruiters. Vivian’s job postings also let you quickly access details such as potential salary, bonuses, schedules and employers for jobs in your city and state and across the nation.
Speech Language Pathologist Salary vs. Other Therapists
If you’re still exploring career paths to determine which healthcare field or therapy specialty you’d like to pursue, research top-paying allied health and therapy specialties before settling on speech language pathology.
In general, therapists working travel contracts earned an average of $1,939 per week in late October 2022, with those in Alaska and other higher-paying states earning as much as $3,904 per week. Your chosen specialty can affect this average considerably, so compare salaries for specific fields.
To get you started, we’ve listed the average weekly travel contract compensation for some of the top allied health and therapy specialties below:
- Occupational therapist: $1,916
- Physical therapist: $1,916
- Rehabilitation therapist: $2,074
- Respiratory therapist: $2,462
- Audiologist: $2,558
- Radiation therapists: $2,647
While occupational and physical therapists earn slightly less compared to the speech language pathologist salary of $1,980 per week, rehabilitation therapists make nearly $100 more per week. Respiratory therapists, audiologists and radiation therapists earn even higher wages, with radiation therapists earning over $650 more weekly.
Education Requirements for Speech Language Pathologists
Most employers require SLPs to have a master’s degree at minimum. Enrolling in a master’s degree program requires a 4-year bachelor’s degree in a related field. Completing your master’s program typically requires an additional 2 years of schooling. The time it takes to complete your education may vary based on your class schedule and the program.
Once you’ve completed your master’s degree, you must complete a 2-year clinical fellowship with approximately 1,260 hours of mentored clinical experience.
Obtaining your education from an accredited institution within the United States and following the requirements for your degree and your state’s governing board helps you secure high-pay speech language pathologist jobs.
Is a Doctorate in Speech Language Pathology Worth it?
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the benefits of obtaining a Ph.D. in communication sciences or speech-language pathology can be vast, especially regarding your salary.
A Ph.D. is a great way to open up more opportunities in your field. It gives you a competitive edge in obtaining work right after you’ve completed your education and helps you qualify for positions with higher levels of seniority. Furthermore, a Ph.D. is more likely to grant you opportunities that position you as an expert in your field, such as speaking at conferences, contributing to research papers and teaching or mentoring in hospitals or universities.
5 Ways to Increase Your Speech Language Pathologist Salary
While your education is one important way to help you gain the highest possible income as a speech language pathologist, here are five more ways you can give yourself the leverage you need to negotiate for a higher salary.
1. Research Average Salaries in Your Area
Knowing what other SLPs earn, particularly in your geographic region, is one of the best tools to have when negotiating your salary. Compare the average salary to the education and experience of the typical speech pathologists in your area, then use that data to determine what your skills and experience may be worth to potential employers.
2. Choose a Sub-Specialty
Many employers seek speech language pathologists who specialize in a particular niche and may be willing to pay a higher salary for someone with the right background. Several specialties you might consider include:
- Speech fluency
- Dysphagia/swallowing disorders
- Pediatric language delays
- Geriatric speech-language
3. Obtain Specialty Certifications
Based on your specialty, you may obtain professional certifications or even board certification. Becoming a board-certified specialist helps you gain higher-paying positions and may put you in a position of authority over others in your field.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) offers the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology to set your expertise and dedication in the field apart from your peers. Earning this coveted certification requires you to graduate with a master’s degree from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation, pass the Praxis Examination in Speech-Language Pathology and then submit an application.
Once ASHA receives your application, you may choose to join ASHA and select your mentor for completion of the required clinical fellowship. Clinical fellowship experience requires a minimum of 36 weeks and 1,260 hours. After uploading verification of completion, review of your application can take up to six weeks before ASHA grants certification.
National boards offering certification programs in SLP subspecialties include:
- American Audiology Board of Intraoperative Monitoring
- American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders
- American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders
- American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders
4. Take High-Paying Travel Contracts
Travel contracts almost always offer higher weekly wages than staff positions or local contracts. If you have the flexibility to spend several weeks or months working in a location away from your permanent tax home, you could earn considerably more money. You may also reap various other benefits such as paid travel, meals and housing.
5. Consider the Whole Package
Before turning down a speech language pathology position due to a salary below your desired amount, take any added benefits the employer offers you into account. Additional perks might include vacation days or other paid time off, investments such as a 401(k) plan, gym memberships, professional training reimbursements and medical or dental benefits. When totaled with your weekly salary, all these benefits count toward your total compensation package and may result in a better total salary than other employers offering higher wages.