Pros And Cons Of Being A Speech-Language Pathologist

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Speech-Language Pathology is continually ranked as one of the best fields to work in. Is being a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) all that it is cracked up to be? You may be wondering: what are the pros and cons of being a Speech-Language Pathologist? As somebody who has been practicing for 10 years, I can think of a lot of pros and a lot of cons. I’ll start with the positives and if you feel the need to keep on reading, you can read the cons.

THE PROS OF BEING A SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST

Ability To Make A Difference In People’s Lives

THIS is what keeps me coming to work day in and day out. The ability to help my patients through treatment and make a positive difference in people’s lives. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, you may witness the tears pouring down a parent’s face because you helped their child say their first word. You may help a stroke survivor eat a meal for the first time after they depended on a stomach feeding tube for months.

Speech pathology is rewarding because you get to help people and their families and make a positive impact in the lives of your patients and students. It is truly a rewarding field.

You Get To Perform Direct Care For Prolonged Time

Unlike other medical professionals, rehab therapists get to spend quite a bit of time with our patients. Depending on your setting, you may get to spent 30-60 minutes or more with your patient each day. In this time, you can build professional relationships with your patients that can help them to greater success.

Flexibility In Schedule

Aside from the work that I get to do with patients, the flexibility of being an SLP is my favorite part of this profession. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, there is a schedule option out there for everybody. Whether you want to work weekends only, Monday through Friday, seven days a week, or a couple of hours here and there, being an SLP has a lot of schedule options.

The flexibility of being a Speech-Language Pathologist is perfect for somebody who wants to raise a family. In fact, you see many SLPs who go from working full-time, to part-time to raise their children, back to full-time when their children are grown up.

Personally, I have worked full-time, part-time, per-diem, and as a traveling contract SLP. I’ve balanced working 13-week travel contract assignments with taking time off and traveling the world for months at a time. This is something that I truly value about my profession.

Nationwide Job Opportunities

SLPs are needed in every community in America. Unlike certain fields that require you to relocate or be in a certain metro area, SLPs are needed everywhere. Yes, certain areas may be more saturated with clinicians than others, but generally speaking, there is work for us everywhere.

Continued Growth In the Field & Need for SLPs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the need for SLPs is expected to grow at a higher than normal rate between now and 2026. There is an estimated 18% growth expected in the field. This is great news for job security and the future!

Become A Specialist

Speech-Language Pathology in itself is a very specialized field. Within the field, there are a lot of options to become an UBER specialist (e.g. those clinicians who do AMAZING work with AAC devices or FEES). You can finely hone your skills and become very specialized within an already small field.

Be An Entrepreneur

There are many options for entrepreneurial ventures within the world of SLP. Many choose to open private clinics or become independent contractors. There are SLPs who own mobile FEES and VFSS units that serve their communities. Some crafty and creative SLPs make therapy materials and sell them on TPT or other stores. Others, like myself, blog and make income online. There are certainly many options to branch out and use your business skills in this field!

Work With Different Populations

As a SLP, you can work across the lifespan from infants to geriatrics. If you feel the need to change your work or work with more than one population, that option is available!

Community

SLPs have our own little community. On social media, special interest groups, and in-person, being an SLP makes you a part of a community.

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THE CONS OF BEING AN SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST

Okay, after the pros here are the cons.

GRAD SCHOOL: The Cost, Time, & Competition

One of the biggest cons about being an SLP is actually BECOMING an SLP. To become certified to practice, you need a Master’s Degree in a speech pathology curriculum, along with the other requirements, and passing the PRAXIS.

Graduate school is becoming more and more challenging to get into and becoming harder to afford. I finished grad school with 90k in student loans, and regularly meet people who had loans twice the size of mine. Grad school is EXPENSIVE! It may put you in debt for 10-30 years. It is also a time suck! When you are in grad school, you are there full time. You have internships and/or clinic by day and classes by day or night. For 2 years, you are a student!

There is also reported to be an increase in anxiety, stress, and competition in the graduate programs. In undergrad, there is heavy pressure to maintain a high GPA for fear of getting rejected from grad school. In grad school, there may be fierce competition between students for grades, placements, and recommendations from professors.

Grad school is stressful, expensive, and takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of dedication to become an SLP. At least 6 years of education, plus a clinical fellowship year, plus passing your boards. The good thing is, once it’s over, it’s OVER and you never have to go back!

Productivity & Caseload Requirements

The demands placed on clinicians to maintain productivity standards and caseload requirements can be stressful and lead to burnout. In schools, you may be required to manage 80+ students over the year. SLPs in SNF deal with pressure to make rising productivity levels. While the work of an SLP is rewarding, the demands put on us by employers make it harder to find joy in our work. The associated politics and for-profit world of healthcare in the United States makes it harder to find jobs that don’t push the limits.

For Healthcare SLP’s: Working Weekends And Holidays

When I tell people that I’m an SLP and have to work Christmas, they look surprised. But, it’s the truth. SLPs, like other medical employees, often have to be staffed 365 days a year. This means that you may have to take turns covering holidays and weekends.

Pay Ceiling

The opportunity for advancement in wages during your SLP career may be limited. Often, Speech-Language Pathologists find that their employers have “raise freezes” that last indefinitely. Seasoned clinicians may realize that new graduates make only slightly less or possibly more than them. Often, the only way to see an increase in pay is to leave one job and negotiate a higher wage at another.

In brief, being an SLP is not a career where you see large increases in your pay over time. Advancing to a management level SLP often means a slight increase in pay (at a salaried level) with more hours worked. As mentioned above in the pro section, there are options for the entrepreneurial SLP to make money and grow a business as a side hustle or full-time gig.

Burnout

For the con list being relatively short, you may wonder why burn out made the list. Because, working year round, often on holidays and weekends, while maintaining high caseload and productivity numbers, with a stagnant pay can lead to burnout. A growing number of clinicians and reporting burnout and dissatisfaction with the field.

Hard To Transition Out Of Direct Treatment Or Advance Your Career

While burnout rises, it is also harder for clinicians to transition into roles that don’t include direct patient care. Or, if the clinician wants to leave the field altogether, it may be difficult to find a new career with such a specialized skill set. Unlike nurses, who have many options for non-bedside nursing, it is harder to find those options as an SLP. As you mature, or can no longer deal with the workplace pressure, it may be hard to find jobs that are accommodating.

Career advancement is also difficult since there is not much hierarchy in the rehab world. You can advance to being a manager, which often still includes treatment, and is high pressure.

Now that you made it to the bottom of the list, I would love to hear your thoughts! If you’re a Speech-Language Pathologist, add your own pros or cons to the list in the comments! 🙂

Related Article: My Go-To Cognitive-Communication Speech Therapy Materials

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27 thoughts on “Pros And Cons Of Being A Speech-Language Pathologist”

  1. I like that you mentioned that speech pathologists have a flexible schedule. Like you said, they can offer a schedule that is appropriate for their clients. This is great news because my sister needs the service of a pathologist for her son. Her son still hasn’t talked even if he is five years old already. Since they are busy parents, they would be thrilled to know that they can choose a schedule that fits them.

  2. I love what you said about flexibility being your favorite part of the profession. I think speech/language pathology is a vital service for those in need and it sounds like becoming one is a rewarding experience. My wife’s friend is considering becoming a speech pathologist, so I’ll be sure to share these benefits with her.

  3. I think some of these cons aren’t unique to being an SLP (I worked another career before going back to school to become an SLP), and the field that I worked in often had few jobs that many times required moving to another (very remote) location, pay was frozen for *years* at a time, and if you wanted to earn more money, you pretty much had to become a manager and were fairly stressed out by all your supervisory responsibilities. No field is perfect, and I’ve met retired nurses who said they wouldn’t recommend people becoming nurses these days too. Until something gives with healthcare delivery in this country, lots of us are stuck fighting those battles. I guess I write this partly because I want to keep things in perspective and save it up for those days when I feel frustrated with work. 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for taking your time to share this information. I’m doing my first year in varsity doing SLP and this just motivated be to do my best because I had a few doubts but now I’m certain that this is exactly what I want to do

  5. Thank you so much for this information! I am a junior getting my undergraduate degree right now in an unrelated field. However, I recently decided I want to pursue SLP. It is daunting to me to start applying to grad schools especially because I will likely have to take many prerequisites due to the fact my undergrad degree is in a completely different field. It is starting to look like I’d spend 3 or 3.5 years getting a masters and that’s hard to commit to when I always pictured it being 2. I still think that all of the pros make it worth it and I still want to do it. Thank you so much for posting this list, it was extremely helpful.

  6. Hi Julia,
    Just curious–how many contact hours do you typically have per week (with a patient) versus how many hours do you spend handling billing, treatment plan, progress reports, etc.? I’ve been an educator for 7 years and I can see how this is often half/half; wondering how teaching compares to SLP patient care.
    Thanks for reading,
    Hanna

    1. Hi thanks for the message! This really varies by setting – A LOT! I’ve never worked in schools, so I’m not sure what their schedules look like. In skilled nursing facilities, I’ve worked at places that have wanted me to spend up to 7.5 hours out of 8 indirect patient care (burn out central), with more average productivity being 6.5 hours out of 8. In hospitals, it’s been far less. I may spend half of my day in direct patient care and half with paperwork. Hope that helps.

      1. Thanks for the response Julia! Just to clarify: what does ‘indirect patient care’ mean?

        On a sidenote: You mentioned that you wound up with 90k in student loans… I’m concerned with ending up in debt, especially since I’m already 34 🙂 I hate to ask you for something so personal as a cost breakdown, but did you have to pay out-of-state tuition, for 2-3 years I’m guessing?

        1. The cost of grad school is real. I applied to 6 schools and got into 1. It was a private school (relatively cheap for a private school – some are actually double that cost), but I wasn’t able to even consider an instate school as I didn’t get into any in state schools. Indirect patient care I would define as anything where you are not face to face with a patient. Such as family education, documenting, etc.

  7. I am a sophomore in college, and I greatly appreciate this information! I’m looking into healthcare careers, and I am considering switching my major from dental hygiene to communication science disorders. One of the main reasons I considered switching was so I would have more career mobility. Do you know what the average pay for an SLP is? Any additional information would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Thanks Julia for sharing your knowledge and experience not only to the Americans but the whole wide world. My son is studying in Scotland in the Biomedical Science. He’s thinking about specialising in the Speech Pathology. I’m not sure if he can do this. Your article will certainly provide him with some valuable information for him to think before taking his next steps.

  8. Hi. I came across your article because I have been a speech pathologist for over 20 years (I experienced the “glory days”), but I haven’t practiced for the last three and was considering getting back in. While reading your pros and cons, all the good and bad memories came flooding back. You’re right, there is great satisfaction in improving the lives of people or “clients” (they are more than that when you become so involved in their care). I have worked in the hospitals, home health, outpatient, mostly SNF. But with me, the cons were overwhelming. Working holidays and weekends, salary freezes, unrealistic productivity goals, and insurance companies denying coverage or practically determining who you can evaluate, treat, and for how long. All this led to burnout. As you said, it can be difficult finding a job/career outside of the profession that will cater to such a specific skill set. I am currently a part-time supervisor at UPS, which doesn’t address any of my hard earned speech pathology skills. Me being three years outside of the profession, prospects currently don’t appear to be in my favor of practicing again, with the way healthcare and speech pathology is constantly changing.
    I don’t intend to be doom and gloom. This is only my experience. Speech pathology is an excellent profession and I have pride in being one. But for those of you are considering to pursue, I greatly encourage you to shadow a clinician as often as possible. Ask them to be truthful particularly regarding those areas no one wants to talk about. Thank you.

    1. Hi Howard, thanks for sharing your story, I think a lot of SLPs can relate to it. It is a horrible time to be working in healthcare and it pains me because there is also such a demand for SLPs to help patients. I can completely understand leaving the field and pursuing other options.

  9. Hi! My name is also Julia! I am a junior in high school and have really been feeling like I have been called to be a speech pathologist. I was wondering if you had to learn sign language to become a speech pathologist. Also if you have any other advise on what I can do now to help prepare for going into this profession, that would be deeply appreciated. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Julia! That’s exciting that you want to be an SLP. No, you don’t have to learn ASL to be an SLP. To prepare, I would recommend trying to shadow some local SLPs and really get a sense if this is a career that you want to go into or not. Once you start the educational journey to become an SLP, it is a long time and a lot of money, so you want to make sure that the job is for you.

  10. Hi Julia,

    I became interested on becoming a SLP due to having to experience first have the need for one. My child was diagnosed with speech language delay and articulation disorder at 2 yrs old, his speech was 0 words. It was hard for me to take this but thanks to a SLP and her dedication and patience he was able to start talking. He has come a long way and it has been such a beautiful experience for all involve to see the results. My child has giving me the motivation and inspiration to pursue this career. I know it will be a long journey but also well worth it and rewarding. I’m not worry about the pay I just wanted to be able to make a positive impact in the community and those who need it. I said to myself that I will not rush or worry about the length of time it will takes me to get there, I will just take it as it come and focus on my goal.

      1. Thanks Julia for sharing your knowledge and experience not only to the Americans but the whole wide world. My son is studying in Scotland in the Biomedical Science. He’s thinking about specialising in the Speech Pathology. I’m not sure if he can do this. Your article will certainly provide him with some valuable information for him to think before taking his next steps.

  11. Hi Julia,

    Thanks for your article. I am a grad student in Linguistics and I would like to switch to SPL. I am a non-native speaker of English and I was wondering if still there will be job opportunity for a non-native speaker compare to a native speaker. (Considering that I am in my 30s). And, how can I find any opportunity for shadowing or volunteering in the field to get more sense of the work.
    Thank you,

    1. Yes, there are job opportunities for non-native English speakers. To find volunteer opportunities, I recommend reaching out to local facilities where SLPs may work and inquire if they have volunteer opportunities.

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