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Employment Outlook for SLP's

Conservative estimates are that there are 42 million Americans with some type of communication disorder, affecting approximately 16% of the U.S. population. The prevalence of communication disorders in the United States is expected to grow in the coming years. The expected growth in the number of Americans with communication disorders is due to several factors. First, as the overall population continues to expand, the number of persons with communication impairments will also continue to grow in a linear fashion. Simply stated, more people equates to more people with communication problems. Second, the elderly segment of the population is also increasing as so-called "Baby Boomers" mature into the middle to later years. Communication disorders such as aphasia (a language disorder in adults typically caused by stroke or other brain injury), dysphagia (problems in swallowing), and hearing impairment, are related to some degree to advancing age. Third, technical advances in the field of biomedicine are resulting in higher survival rates for persons experiencing catastrophic illness or accident. The need for more speech-language pathologists to serve these individuals cannot be understated.

Misericordia University is a Roman Catholic, co-educational, liberal arts-based, private college located in Dallas, Pennsylvania, which is part of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). According to 1998 census data, the MSA has a population of 623,974. Approximately 22.1% of the MSA population consists of children below the age of 18, and 29.2% of the population is age 55 or above. With the prevalence of communication disorders being approximately 16% for the U.S. population, this equates to nearly 100,000 persons with communication disorders in the MSA; approximately 22,000 of these individuals are below the age of 18 while an additional 29,000 individuals are 55 or older. Caseload estimates for typical speech-language pathologists approach a ratio of 60:1. This would indicate that the MSA requires the services of at least 1,700 speech-language pathologists. Shortages of speech-language pathologists are evident in the public schools of the Commonwealth; additional shortages exist in other segments of the profession. When considering surrounding states in the Middle Atlantic region, these shortages become even more evident. A cursory view of classified advertisements in the ASHA Leader recognized as the pre-eminent media instrument of the profession-identified 27 openings for speech-language pathologists in the Middle Atlantic region. A relatively small number of employers actually publish job openings in the ASHA Leader, instead preferring to advertise more locally. The actual number of job openings, therefore, is much greater than the number indicated in the ASHA Leader. There is a great need for speech-language pathologists in northeast Pennsylvania and the greater Middle Atlantic region. A greater number of graduates is needed to meet the demand that exists. The demand can only be met by increasing the number of professional degree programs offering training in the profession.

The prospect of obtaining a job in speech-language pathology upon graduation is very favorable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, it is expected that speech-language pathology positions will increase from approximately 88,000 to 122,000 between 2000 and 2010. This equates to an increase of about 39 percent. With attrition taken into consideration (e.g., individuals changing careers or retiring), it is expected that approximately 57,000 new jobs in speech-language pathology will be needed over this ten-year period. Speech-language pathology was listed as one of the 30 fastest-growing professions in the United States. A recent article, "Careers to Count On," in U.S. News and World Report (February 18, 2002) supports this outlook. Speech-language pathology was mentioned in the article as one of the eight most secure career tracks.

In light of the data presented immediately above, and in light of the need for speech-language pathologists in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, graduates of this program should have little difficulty finding jobs, especially in the public school sector, but in other employment settings as well. According to the United States Department of Labor, the Median annual earnings of speech-language pathologists were $52,410 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,090 and $65,750. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,420. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of speech-language pathologists in May 2004 were:

Offices of other health practitioners $57,240
General medical and surgical hospitals 55,900
Elementary and secondary schools 48,320

According to a 2003 survey by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the median annual salary for full-time certified speech-language pathologists who worked on a calendar-year basis, generally 11 or 12 months annually, was $48,000. Certified speech-language pathologists who worked 25 or fewer hours per week had a median hourly salary of $40.00. Starting salaries for certified speech-language pathologists with one to three years of experience were $42,000 for those who worked on a calendar-year. According to a 2004 survey by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the median annual salary for speech-language pathologists in schools was $50,000 for those employed on an academic year basis (usually 9 or 10 months).

Generally, jobs in the educational sector pay less than jobs in the medical sector, although most education positions are typically for nine or ten months whereas jobs in the medical sector tend to be 12-month positions. Regardless of the employment setting, graduates of Speech-Language Pathology programs can expect to earn a respectable living while performing an essential task for the public that is personally rewarding.