Become a Speech Pathologist in a School Setting

School environments can be a fruitful field for speech pathologists, because early identification and diagnosis of speech, language and swallowing disorders is growing, precipitating the need for school speech pathologists. Schools are also seeing growth in enrollment, which will also create more needs for SLPs.

Below you will learn about speech-language pathology jobs at schools, including qualifications, work environment, specialized skills and more.

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Sponsored Program

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

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  • 5-term and 9-term study options
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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

Qualifications for School Speech Pathologists 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), speech-language pathologists are regulated in all states. Most states require licences to pursue a speech pathology career, while others require pathologists only to be registered.

No matter the work environment, a licensed SLP will need a master’s degree from an accredited program, supervised clinical experience and an exam. Each state has its own specific requirements, so state medical or health licencing boards should be contacted.

School speech therapists may need teaching certification. A state’s department of education or your school should be able to provide you with more information.

As a certified and licensed speech pathologist,  you will bring multiple points of expertise to the school setting, including:

  • Addressing language development and language disorders 
  • Identifying pragmatic and social language difficulties
  • Improving executive functioning deficits
  • Knowing about improving speech production
  • Understanding literacy development

What Does a Speech Pathologist in a School Setting Do?

SLPs will spend time at school working with children to improve their various speech issues. In a school setting, here are some common skills a speech pathologist will work on and ways they will prepare a student for success.

Boost students’ skills

Children can be prepared for reading by learning new skills. SLPs can help by working with them on rhyming and identifying the beginning sounds in words. 

Build vocabulary

Knowing more words can help children with listening, reading and speaking. SLPs may help by acting out words, retelling stories with new words or playing vocabulary games.

Develop speech fluency

SLPs can help children overcome common disfluencies—breaks in the flow of speech—such as stuttering. These disfluencies can affect a child’s ability to communicate and can affect their schoolwork and self-confidence.

Grow social communication

Some children are confused by the back-and-forth of conversation. SLPs can help them learn to pay attention to the other speaker’s tone of voice, body language and emotions.

Help understand inference

Some ideas aren’t directly stated in text or in spoken language, and some children have problems processing those inferred ideas. SLPs can help children understand symbolic language, gestures and other signals of speech.

Improve reading comprehension

Comprehension is a vital part of successful reading. SLPs may work to help children recall what they know about a topic before reading and can help them find words or pictures that are clues to help with understanding.

Make speech more understandable

Young children can have problems articulating some parts of speech, hampering their intelligibility. SLPs will work to help children learn how to produce the specific speech sounds or sound patterns that they find challenging to help make them more understandable.

Use more complex language

SLPs may help teach students longer sentences and how to share more details. As they learn, they’ll be able to combine ideas in sentences with so-called “joining words.”

Educate and empower parents

For parents, one of the best things an SLP can do is to help them learn how to help their children. This can be in sit-downs with parents or in the creation of learning plans, in consultation with school administration and teachers.

9 Skills School Speech Pathologists Use Every Day

Despite the specialized education, some of the overall skills a school speech pathologist will use day to day are the skills of any successful person. 

Here are nine skills you’ll use every day as a school speech pathologist.

1. Adaptability

Children in a school setting will have a variety of speech and language challenges, including stuttering problems, swallowing difficulties and voice disorders. Pathologists should be ready to switch quickly from child to child and meet their particular needs. The ability to adjust plans and think on your feet will help you adapt to constantly changing needs.

2. Analytical thinking

School speech pathologists must select the most appropriate diagnostic tools and analyze results to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan. They need to formulate this plan while working with teachers, administration and parents.

3. Communication

Test results, diagnoses and proposed treatments must be presented in a way that families can understand. SLPs must also keep communication with families and other parties open at all times, fielding questions and concerns to their satisfaction.

4. Compassion

Children and their parents will often be frustrated by speech difficulties. School speech pathologists should be prepared to support children and their parents emotionally.

5. Listening 

Speech pathologists should not just talk but listen – to the needs of children, the expectation of parents and the direction of school administration. All these needs must come together in the SLP.

6. Organization

Working in a school means tracking cases, documentation, charting and other paperwork, in addition to treating children. Speech pathologists will need to be ready for additional duties, including unscheduled meetings with parents and school administration. Staying organized amid this flurry of activity is important for a successful SLP.

7. Resourcefulness

Because children may respond differently to various speech therapies, it’s helpful to have a variety of ideas and tools available. Pathologists should keep up with the latest apps, equipment and games to help children of all ages. They should also remain up to date with the latest ideas and know how to find the answers they need.

8. Teamwork

Pathologists know they aren’t alone in treating and helping children. Physical and occupational therapists may be called in, along with special education teachers. Aides, counselors and parents are also part of the team. School speech pathologists should be ready to work with a variety of people to help children.

9. Willingness to learn

Despite likely being the most qualified person in a school to deliver therapy to children, there’s always more to learn. Advances in technology, medicine and new research may change the way some language disorders are treated. School-based SLPs should be willing to stay up to date on the latest studies and new advances in speech therapy. 

Why Become a School SLP?

There are several places someone can work after becoming a speech pathologist and grow their career as an SLP, such as nursing and residential care facilities; hospitals; physical, occupational and speech therapy offices; and schools. 

Why might schools be the right place for you? The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) offers these 10 reasons to pursue an SLP career in a school.

1. Array of in career options

As an SLP in a school, you’ll have an opportunity to develop a specialization, advance to administrative work and participate in research.

2. Career for a lifetime

You’ll help unlock a student’s potential in a school. You can contribute to your students’ personal, academic, social and vocational growth, and you’ll develop long-term relationships with students, families and colleagues.

3. Competitive salaries

According to the BLS, speech pathologist salaries in elementary and secondary schools average $74,010 a year. SLPs can also be rewarded for advanced credits, degrees or earning the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence. SLPs also can earn extra income with leading summer or after-school programs. 

Learn more about SLP Salaries.

4. Favorable schedules

Your school hours as an SLP will be family-friendly. You’ll also receive paid holidays, breaks and summer vacations. Part-time work and job sharing might be available for SLPs.

5. High demand

SLPs enjoy growing opportunities. According to the BLS, the number of jobs in the field are expected to grow by 27% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all other jobs.

6. Job security and excellent benefits

Schools and school districts typically offer SLPs competitive health, leave and retirement programs. You’ll likely also be able to take advantage of comprehensive benefit packages.

7. Ongoing professional development

Professional development is typically a requirement of retaining your licensing. This gives you an opportunity to advance your professional knowledge, learn about school-related topics and share your expertise with others.

8. Opportunity for creativity

As a school SLP, you’ll have a chance to develop new approaches, materials and techniques. You’ll also create programs to meet student needs and work with new models of service delivery.

9. Supportive team atmosphere

SLPs have collaborative relationships with other professionals, such as administrators, nurses, teachers, therapists and school psychologists.

10. Variety of opportunities

The SLP field offers many different ways to practice with many different students. You could work in preschool, elementary, middle or high schools. You could work in urban, suburban or rural settings. Services could be provided individually, in small groups or classrooms. 

Is a Speech Therapy Career in a School Right for You?

There are a lot of factors to consider when weighing a career in speech and language pathology. This is a career for you if:

  • You want to form close relationships with students and parents.
  • You look forward to the challenge.
  • You want to help diverse communities.
  • You like working with children.

The SLP field continues to grow, for a variety of reasons. ASHA points to medical advances that improve survival rates of preterm infants and growth in enrollments in elementary and secondary schools as a reason that the need for school SLP continues to grow.

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

Information last updated September 2020