Speech pathologists (also called speech-language pathologists or speech therapists) diagnose and treat disorders involving swallowing, speech production and speech comprehension. These professionals can work in health-based settings (such as hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers) or for educational institutions like primary and secondary schools. A master's degree in speech-language pathology is required for most jobs and for official licensing in many states.
Basic Salary Statistics
According to 2009 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, speech-language pathologists earn anywhere between $20.34 and $48.95 per hour on average. That's equivalent to a yearly salary of between $42,310 and $101,820. Entry-level speech pathologists make close to the low end, while those with significant professional experience make the most. Medical and diagnostic laboratories pay the most, with speech-language pathologists in these settings getting $62.81 per hour, or $130,640 annually. Home health care providers pay at the second-highest level, compensating their speech pathologists at $42.22 per hour, or $87,820 per year on average. Most speech pathologists work in schools, where they earn $30.22 per hour or $62,860 per year.
School Speech Pathologists
According to a 2010 salary survey published by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), speech pathologists who work for nine or 10 months in an elementary school setting earn $58,000, while those in secondary schools get $61,000 per year. Those who work 11 or 12 months of the year can expect a bit more -- $65,000 on average. School speech-language pathologists in New Jersey have the second-highest average pay, $80,000, while Missouri reported the lowest salary average of $44,000.
Health Speech Pathologists
According to ASHA, the median salary for health speech-language pathologists in 2009 was $70,000. Salaries climb significantly with experience. With four to six years of clinical experience, a speech-language pathologist in this sector can expect $60,000 a year. Those with 22 years of experience or more earn $80,000 per year on average. If you're looking for the highest pay, move West, where salaries average around $80,000. Pay is over $10,000 per year less in America's Midwest.
According to the BLS, about 48 percent of speech pathologists work in education, while the rest work in health and social assistance. Of school speech pathologists, ASHA reports that over 60 percent have jobs in elementary schools. In other words, if you aspire to be a school speech-language pathologist and you enjoy working with younger children, the current job market is well-suited to your aspirations. Although health speech pathologists make more, many work in private practice for an hourly wage, where pay can be variable. School careers offer a bit more stability, with 88 percent of professionals in this sector receiving an annual salary.