Child Speech Therapist Career and Salary Outlook

A career in speech language pathology (SLP) is an exciting option for those who enjoy working with people and solving problems. Speech language pathologists work with patients in a variety of settings to help them overcome communication disorders. A child speech therapist evaluates, diagnoses and works with young patients to conquer speech or language challenges, primarily in schools, hospitals or clinics. 

Keep reading for an overview of a career in child language disorders, as well as a career and salary outlook. 

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
  • No GRE Required for all 2021 Cohorts
  • 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

What Does a Child Speech Pathologist Do?

The career of a child speech pathologist consists of working with children to help them overcome speech and language disorders. So, what’s the difference between a speech disorder and a language disorder?

  • When a person cannot make normal speech sounds correctly or fluently, they have a speech disorder.
  • When a person struggles to understand what others are saying or to express themselves verbally, they have a language disorder.

When working with a new patient, the first task for a child speech therapist is to determine which kind of disorder the child is dealing with. Then, the therapist can run diagnostic tests to pinpoint the patient’s challenge and create a treatment plan.

Speech language pathologists also work with patients to overcome swallowing disorders. Speaking and swallowing both require many of the same structures and movements in the mouth and throat, so a child speech therapist pathologist may also work with patients who have difficulty swallowing.

Common Steps to Become a Child Speech Therapist

To become a child speech language pathologist, you must earn at least a master’s degree in the field. Clinical practicum hours, a professional examination and Clinical Fellowship hours are also required to enter the profession. Common steps to become a child speech therapist include five milestones:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

A child speech therapist career begins with an undergraduate degree in a field related to health care, science, or education. This could include a bachelor’s in speech pathology. Some other examples of suitable bachelor’s degree programs include:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Primary education
  • Linguistics
  • Neurology
  • Psychology

Earn (at Least) a Master’s Degree

To work in the speech-language pathology field and gain certification as a professional speech language pathologist, you will need a master’s degree. Either a Master of Arts (MA) or Science (MS) in Speech Pathology is acceptable, as long as the program is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). Accredited SLP programs feature coursework and clinical experience necessary to pass the Praxis exam and gain knowledge of the field. 

A doctoral degree is not required to become a speech language pathologist, but it may offer more career opportunities and a higher salary. Earning an advanced degree would qualify you to work in positions such as university researcher or clinic director. There are three primary doctoral paths to choose from:

  • A research doctoral program, like a PhD in Communications Sciences and Disorders, focuses on research expertise. This track prepares candidates for a career as a university professor or researcher.
  • A clinical doctoral program in speech-language pathology, such as Doctor of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CScD), qualifies candidates to work as a master clinician, supervisor or administrator. Those with a CScD or a similar degree often focus on one area of expertise.
  • A clinical doctoral program in audiology (AuD) prepares candidates for a career as a clinical audiologist, working with patients with hearing impairments and coaching them to improve their speech patterns and communication skills.

Pass the Praxis Exam

Passing the Praxis Examination in Speech Language Pathology is the next step in starting a career in child speech therapy. On a scale of 100–200, the minimum passing score for American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certification is currently 162. Many but not all states have the same test score requirement to achieve state licensure. However, each state determines its own requirements and minimum passing score for state licensure. Visit the ETS PRAXIS American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Certification page for state-specific certification information.

Apply for Certification

Once you have completed your graduate studies, including clinical practicum hours, and passed the PRAXIS exam, you may apply for your Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). This credential will identify you as a qualified, professional speech language pathologist. Certification must be renewed annually and typically takes six weeks for application processing to be completed.

Complete Clinical Fellowship Hours

While preparing for a career as a child speech therapist, candidates are expected to complete, as a part of the ASHA Clinical Fellowship, at least 1,260 clinical hours. The ASHA Clinical Fellowship must be completed within four years of starting. All clinical hours must be completed under the direct supervision of a certified speech language pathologist. During this time, you will put your training into practice by:

  • Observing and screening patients
  • Consulting with patients and their families
  • Completing diagnostic evaluations
  • Writing reports
  • Providing patient counseling
  • Attending meetings
  • Collaborating on Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSP)
  • Attending additional training sessions
  • Conducting trainings and presentations

What Skills Do Child Speech Therapists Need?

To be an effective child speech therapist, focus on strengthening your skills in the following three areas of knowledge and skills needed by speech language pathologists:

Communication Skills

Strong verbal, non-verbal and written communication skills may be essential for a career as a child speech therapist. An often-overlooked aspect of good communication skills is the ability to actively listen. Being an active listener means giving your full attention to what someone says and asking questions to fully understand what they’re saying, while not interrupting. Persuasion and negotiation skills are also helpful when attempting to obtain buy-in for your treatment plan with patients, families and other members of the patient’s care team.

Analytical Skills

Part of the speech language pathology process includes leveraging critical thinking skills and good judgment to identify a patient’s specific challenges and determine the best path forward for patient treatment. You may analyze a patient’s current living and educational settings to find opportunities to improve their personal environments.

Problem-Solving Skills

As a speech therapist, you will assess and monitor patients, evaluate their needs and determine what interventions and training methods to implement to resolve the patient’s difficulties. You will repeat the process for countless patients, each presenting with their own unique strengths, weaknesses and complex problems.

Child Speech Therapy Job Outlook

Pursuing a career in child speech therapy may lead to a promising speech pathology career path. Projected demand for speech language pathologists is expected to grow by 25% through 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. 

What Is the Median Child Speech Therapist Salary?

In 2019, the median annual salary for speech language pathologists was $79,120. Many factors can affect the salary you can expect to make as a child speech therapist, including the city and state you work in, additional training and experience you acquire in the field and what kind of facility you work in. With the projected job growth, many speech language pathologists may find work at schools or healthcare facilities.

Explore These Cities for Child Speech Therapist Jobs

Where are the best opportunities for child speech therapists jobs? Demand for these clinical experts is strong across the country, but the metropolitan areas with the highest demand for speech language pathologists and their respective salaries include:

Metropolitan area Annual Mean Wage
Boston $86,370
Chicago $81,510
Dallas/Fort Worth $69,910
Houston $72,930
Los Angeles $90,460
Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Florida $87,580
Minneapolis/St. Paul $80,130
New York City/Newark, New Jersey $104,180
Philadelphia $82,070
Washington, D.C./Arlington, Virginia $91,100

Is an SLP Career in Child Language Disorders Right for You?

People who enjoy helping others, working with children and understanding the psychological and physiological challenges they face may find a career in child speech therapy to be extremely rewarding. Candidates must understand that the full SLP certification process requires a commitment of more than six years of education and hands-on training. Those interested in a career in SLP or similar may also consider becoming a speech pathology assistant, bilingual speech pathologist or occupational therapist.

Information last updated October 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
  • No GRE Required for all 2021 Cohorts
  • 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