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Future Job Outlook: Speech-Language Pathology

Company review site Glassdoor recently listed speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in its 50 Best Jobs in America. Job opportunities in speech-language pathology are expected to grow by 18% from 2016 to 2026—far outpacing the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. ASHA represents 172,805 certified SLPs, and 802 of those members hold dual certification as both audiologists and SLPs.

The demand for SLPs will continue to climb as the population and life expectancy increase, and as awareness of early intervention and prevention measures grows.

There are job opportunities for SLPs in the following areas:

Providing Early Identification and Diagnosis

Greater awareness of the importance of early identification and diagnosis of speech, language, and swallowing disorders in young children will increase employment opportunities for SLPs. As part of early intervention teams, SLPs are often the first points of contact for identifying infants, toddlers and preschool age children at risk or have communication, language, speech, emergent literacy or feeding/swallowing impairments. SLPs work closely with professionals and families to provide culturally and linguistically responsive supports and services.

Working in School Settings

Employment in educational services will increase along with growth in elementary and secondary school enrollments, including the enrollment of special education students. School-based SLPs are integral members of school communities. They help students meet performance standards for school districts and states, and work in partnership with teachers, staff and other specialized instructional support personnel. Federal law guarantees special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities. SLPs can be employed directly by the school or can collaborate with them as independent contractors.

Working in Health Care Settings

A variety of health care settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, and home health rely on the critical services provided by SLPs. SLPs treat individuals of all ages, from babies in the NICU to older adults in end of life care. A large number of opportunities are available as a full-time employee of organizations, as an independent contractor, or with as needed (PRN) positions.

Treating Older Populations

More than 46 million Americans are over than 65. As the population continues to grow and age, the demand for speech, language, and swallowing services grow. The National Council on Aging has identified Alzheimer's disease and dementia as chronic conditions for adults age 65 and over which will require additional treatment and interventions by SLPs.

Providing Bilingual Services

Many opportunities exist for those with the ability to speak a second language.