What is the Demand for Speech Therapists in the Healthcare Sector?

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Speech therapists, also referred to as speech-language pathologists, diagnose, treat, monitor and aid in the prevention of swallowing and speech disorders. In other words, speech therapists provide services for a variety of cognitive and communication conditions. Clients typically have language, pronunciation, fluency and resonance deficits which affect their ability to communicate clearly with others. Clients range in age from infants to geriatric.

The exact cause of speech, swallowing and language disorders varies, but brain injuries, strokes, hearing loss, a cleft palate, developmental delays, emotional distress and cerebral palsy appear to contribute to these types of conditions. The main function of speech therapists is to improve the client’s communication skills through cognitive therapy and vocal training. If you are interested in becoming a speech therapist, this article can help you better understand the demand for speech therapy in the healthcare sector.  

Job Functions

As a speech therapist, you may diagnose clients in the following ways:

  • Evaluating the client’s levels of speech, swallowing and/or language capabilities
  • Instructing the client to complete basic reading assessments (tests) and vocalizing exercises to determine the extent of his/her communication deficits
  • Identifying viable treatment options
  • Developing, organizing, executing and supervising individualized treatment plans

As a speech therapist, you may treat clients in the following ways:

  • Teaching clients how to expand their voices
  • Teaching clients how to make different sounds
  • Teaching clients, with little or on ability to speak, how to use sign language to communicate with others
  • Teaching clients how to improve their writing and reading skills
  • Helping clients build and strengthen their swallowing muscles
  • Counseling clients and their families on how to better cope with communication and swallowing disorders

Healthcare Sectors

Speech therapy is a healthcare profession that provides you with a variety of career choices and employment opportunities. In fact, you may work in more than one healthcare setting at a time. Some of these healthcare sectors may include: hospitals, medical offices, skilled nursing facilities, physical therapy facilities, long-term facilities, health departments (local or stage) private practice (medical offices), social service agencies, home health agencies, rehabilitation treatment centers and clinics.

Salary Range

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), you can expect to earn approximately $67,000 per year, as a speech therapist. If you fall in the lower 10%, you can expect to earn approximately $43,000 per year and if you fall in the upper 10%, you can expect to earn $104,000 or more, per year (bls.gov). If you a considered a contract worker, you can expect to spend most of your work time traveling between treatment facilities.

Demand for Speech Therapists

The demand for speech therapist is steadily growing due to the increase in autism diagnoses and medical conditions associated with growing older. As the baby boomer population ages, the risks rise for language, memory, swallowing, hearing and speech deficits associated with strokes, hearing loss and brain disorders. Moreover, as people grow older, they are more susceptible to falls, which can lead to brain injuries and speech, language and swallowing impairments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics (2013), speech therapy jobs are expected to increase approximately 23% by the year 2020.

  • Baby Boomers

In the healthcare sector, speech therapists are in high demand with the elderly population. According to the United States Census Bureau (2013), baby boomers comprise the largest population in the world. In fact, according to Administration on Aging (2013), people over the age of 65 (estimated at about 40 million) is projected to reach approximately 72 million by the year 2030. Moreover, approximately 8 million Americans have a speech and/or communication disorder (National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2013).

  • Children & Adolescents

Speech therapists are in the highest demand in the area of pediatrics. These therapists help children and adolescents born with speech and communication problems and those who later develop speech and communication disorders (i.e. stuttering, speech delays and autism). Speech therapists tend to work heavily with children who have autism and those who develop speech problems as a result of an accident, medical condition and/or injury.

  • Bilingual Therapists

There is also a high demand in the healthcare sector for speech therapists that can speak more than one language, preferably Spanish. Spanish is the fastest-growing language in the United States so it makes logical sense that there will be an increasing demand in Spanish-speaking speech therapists. A bilingual speech therapist can determine whether a client, from another country, is simply having a hard time picking up the English language or whether he/she has a legitimate speech, swallowing or communication disorder.

Further Reading


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