Is a Speech Pathology Degree Worth It?

As a speech pathologist, you’ll have the chance to use your education and training to help children and adults daily. By helping patients overcome difficulties with speech and swallowing, speech pathologists may positively impact many lives during their careers. This rewarding field often requires post-graduate education in speech pathology, so it’s important to consider if it’s the right path for you.

Sponsored Online Speech Pathology Programs

Sponsored Program

Earn your Online Master’s in Speech Pathology from Emerson College

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • Prepares you to pursue certification as an SLP generalist
  • 5-term and 9-term study options
  • Now accepting applications

NYU Campus

Sponsored Program

Earn Your Master’s in Communicative Sciences and Disorders Online at NYU Steinhardt

  • Live, online classes of no more than 15 students
  • Prepare for SLP licensure from anywhere in the country using a state-of-the-art online platform
  • Now accepting applications

Sponsored Program

Earn your Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders Online from Baylor University

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • Full-time and part-time options available
  • Same standards as the on-campus program, which has 50+ years educating SLPs
  • Now accepting applications

Things to Consider When Deciding if a Speech Pathologist Career is Right for You

A speech pathologist career can be highly rewarding in many ways, but it may not be right for everyone. Before investing in a speech pathology degree, consider the following questions to help determine if the speech pathologist career path is right for you. 

Do you enjoy making individual connections with patients? 

While you may work with patients in groups, you’ll also spend time working with patients one-on-one. You’ll have the chance to make individual connections with patients and will be able to share in their progress and success. 

Do you need instant results? 

Helping patients is a slow, long-term process, and you may not see results for quite some time. With patience and the ability to focus on the big picture, this career might be for you. If you feel the need to see instant results, working as a speech pathologist might not be a great fit. 

Are you flexible? 

No two patients are alike, which means that every appointment you have will be a little different. Flexibility is a key skill any speech pathologist will use regularly. You might have to adapt exercises to patients’ needs and comprehension levels, especially when working with kids. 

Do you want to make a difference in patients’ lives? 

Think about your motivation for becoming a speech pathologist. If you love working with others and find helping people rewarding, then you’re probably in this field for the right reasons. You’ll work closely with patients daily, and a genuine desire to help improve patients’ lives may help you to do your job well while also enjoying your career.

Are you driven to continue learning? 

The speech pathology field constantly evolves and there’s always more to learn. If you’re naturally inquisitive, you’ll be more likely to stay on top of new advancements so you can best help your patients. 

How long do you want to be in school? 

Becoming a speech pathologist requires specialized schooling, including bachelor’s and master’s degrees. If you haven’t started your undergraduate education, plan to spend at least six years in school before being able to start your SLP career. Learn more about applying to speech pathology school.

Is Becoming a Speech Pathologist Worth It?

To become a speech pathologist, you will need specialized education. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) notes that while undergraduate degrees in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) are a common path toward this career, an undergraduate degree in CSD isn’t required, and you could pursue a degree in another area.

A master’s degree in speech-language pathology will help you gain the skills and knowledge needed in order to receive your license to practice depending on the state you chose to work in. This program combines academic and clinical elements, and with a focus on working with patients of all ages, it helps equip you with the skills and knowledge you’ll need in daily practice. 

Consider both the time and financial investment these degree programs will require. Your undergraduate degree will take four years and, according to the ASHA, most master’s degrees in speech-language pathology take about two years to complete. Program cost will vary depending on the school and the program you pursue.

It’s important to consider the workplace environment you would experience as a speech-language pathologist, too. As a speech pathologist, you may find employment opportunities in many different settings, including in the health care, education, and research fields. Bilingual speech pathologists (BSP)—speech pathologists who work with patients who are bilingual speakers—work primarily in school settings but can also be employed in other settings. A speech pathologist may work as part of a team, and you might collaborate with teachers, doctors, social workers, occupational therapists, and other professionals. 

With speech pathologists in high demand and the job growth increasing 25% between 2019-2029, you may be able to negotiate your hours, whether you’re working full-time or part-time, and potentially your salary depending on which state you chose to get licensed and practice in. 

While a good job outlook, financial return and flexible schedules are all important, one of the greatest benefits of being a speech pathologist is the emotional satisfaction that comes from helping patients. During your career, you will get to know patients closely as you work with them over extended periods of time. The satisfaction of helping others is a major motivation for speech pathologists as you get to celebrate with them in their triumphs.

Financial Return on Investment for a Speech Pathology Degree

Becoming a speech pathologist may be a financially rewarding career choice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2019, median pay for speech pathologists was $79,120 per year or $38.04 per hour. The BLS predicts the number of speech pathologist jobs will increase 25% from 2019 to 2029. This growth is much faster than the average for all occupations. Aging baby boomers will have more health conditions, like strokes, that can result in speech impairments, increasing the need for speech pathology. 

While the salary as a full-time speech pathologist can be enticing, be sure to also consider the costs of your education. If you take out student loans, you’ll be paying interest for 10 years or more, significantly driving up the cost of your education. Try to find the best program for you  that is within your education budget and use strategies to help minimize your loans to get the maximum financial return on your investment. 

How Does Life Change After a Speech Pathology Degree?

As a speech pathologist, you may encounter many positive life and career changes. A speech pathology career could provide flexible scheduling, the option to take on part-time, evening and/or shift work that falls on certain weekdays, if that is something that you are looking for. 

You’ll also have options when it comes to where you work and what population you work with. You might want to work with kids, or specialize in working with older adults. You may even explore entrepreneurial options, starting up your own practice or working as an independent contractor. 

If you’re looking for flexibility and the chance to see the country, you might pursue a career as a traveling speech pathologist. By accepting short-term positions and helping to fill staff shortages, you could travel across the country multiple times per year. Plus, by working in a variety of environments, like hospitals, home health settings, and schools, you might discover a setting that appeals to you in case you want to pursue a long-term job in one place.

There are also some downsides to this career. Some health care settings require that speech-language pathologists be available on weekends and holidays. Like any career, long hours can lead to burnout, so it’s important to balance your work with your personal life and monitor your own well-being.

Alternatives to a Speech Pathologist Degree

Explore your options and consider the following careers that are closely related to speech pathology

Speech Pathologist Assistant Jobs

If you’re not ready to pursue a master’s degree, then you might consider a career as a speech pathologist assistant. According to the ASHA, speech pathologist assistants must complete an equivalent to an associate degree from a technical training program or a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology or communication disorders. Assistants must also complete fieldwork and on-the-job training. They’re responsible for supplementing the work of the speech-language pathologist who supervises them. It is also important to be aware that additional schooling and/or credentials may be required based on the working environment. 

Occupational Therapist Jobs

The American Occupational Therapy Association explains that occupational therapists work with many different populations, including children and seniors, to help them live life to the fullest. Occupational therapists may help patients understand workplace ergonomics, make their homes more accessible, attain greater health and wellness, and more. According to the BLS, occupational therapists must be licensed, and most hold a master’s degree in occupational therapy.

Audiology Assistant Jobs

Audiology assistants work closely with patients without the extensive education requirements that an audiologist position requires. ASHA explains that as an audiology assistant, you’ll work to improve patient care, increase the facility’s productivity, shorten patient wait times for a better experience, and help keep costs down by assisting the audiologist. Requirements to become an audiology assistant will vary depending on your state’s restrictions.

Is a Speech Pathology Master’s Right For You?

A career as a speech pathologist may offer many benefits, including job stability and a wide array of job setting and specialization options. With the ability to tailor your career to the populations and work environments that most interest you, this field may be an attractive option.

Information last updated September 2020

Sponsored Online Speech Pathology Programs

Sponsored Program

Earn your Online Master’s in Speech Pathology from Emerson College

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • Prepares you to pursue certification as an SLP generalist
  • 5-term and 9-term study options
  • Now accepting applications

NYU Campus

Sponsored Program

Earn Your Master’s in Communicative Sciences and Disorders Online at NYU Steinhardt

  • Live, online classes of no more than 15 students
  • Prepare for SLP licensure from anywhere in the country using a state-of-the-art online platform
  • Now accepting applications

Sponsored Program

Earn your Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders Online from Baylor University

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • Full-time and part-time options available
  • Same standards as the on-campus program, which has 50+ years educating SLPs
  • Now accepting applications