SLP Demographics: Why We Do What We Do

speech-language pathology demographics

In this post, I want to explore why some of us choose to be SLPs and why we are choosing to continue to be SLPs.


I’m sure many of you are familiar with the popular ‘What people think I do/What I really do’ meme that went on not too long ago (see photo to the right). I’m going to argue that the last picture, the ‘what I really do’ picture, has it all wrong. Yes, paperwork can play a large role in our overall responsibilities as SLPs, but could it be possible that we actually enjoy our jobs? In which case, we must be doing more than just paperwork in our day-to-day tasks.

Let’s begin by considering what inspired us to become SLPs and then evaluate whether the reality of being an SLP matches up with our original expectations.

When someone I’ve just met finds out that I’m a speech-language pathologist, I often hear the response, “Speech pathology! That’s interesting! What made you go into that?” I then go into my rehearsed explanation that covers the basics- I wanted a career where I would work with people and I chose speech language pathology because I’m able to help others improve their communication which has a huge impact on quality of life (and I get an excuse to blow bubbles, play with play-doh and sing songs!). When I consider friends and co-workers who are SLPs, I believe a majority would agree that the core of why they became an SLP was to help people and to make a difference. Other reasons may include an interest in education, medicine, or linguistics and/or a personal or family member’s experience with speech therapy.

google I also investigated what the wonderful World Wide Web had to say about reasons to become a speech-language pathologist. I googled ‘why become a speech-language pathologist’ and came across the following words/phrases multiple times: variety, diversity, making a difference, fulfilling, rewarding. A survey conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) also explored influential factors in choosing speech-language pathology. The results can be seen below.

Most influential factor in choosing this career

  speech-language pathology demographics

  Most Influence 2

So after we finish graduate school and find our first job as an eager SLP, does what we actually do match up with what we thought we would do? 

Having a variety of experiences.  Being challenged.  Maybe that nagging paperwork isn’t such a big deal after all…


The answer is YES!  In fact, 90% of SLPs are satisfied to very satisfied with what they are doing.  Why are we satisfied?  Along with meeting basic criteria for job satisfaction such as compensation, benefits, relationship with co-workers, and administration’s support of work, we are doing what we actually thought we would be doing.  Making a difference.  Take a look at the graphs below to see the numbers.

The statistics below are taken from a 2011 survey conducted by ASHA; find more info at: ASHA Career’s Page

SLP Career Satisfaction

90% of SLPs are satisfied to very satisfied with what they are doing.

  speech-language pathology demographics

Top 10 rank-ordered aspects of work

We find this career to be meaningful and challenging.  Many SLPs also enjoy the flexibility and independence due to the variety of work settings and types of client/patients available.

  1. Compensation/pay

  2. Flexibility to balance life and work

  3. Meaningfulness of Job

  4. Benefits: health care, retirement, etc

  5. Type of clients/patients

  6. Challenging work

  7. Relationship with co-workers

  8. Administration’s support of my work

  9. Independence

  10. Type of work setting

SLP Pay and Compensation

Regardless of profession, we all appreciate being compensated for our hard work!

  speech-language pathology demographics

Flexibility to Balance Life and Work

We value flexibility and life/work balance.  Given the variety of settings where SLPs can work, it’s easy to find a way to hold a career while maintaining quality of life outside of work hours.

  speech-language pathology demographics

Meaningfulness of Job

Having a meaningful job is the #3 reason that speech language pathologists have job satisfaction.  Working with clients and families is a major reason SLPs entered the field and it’s the reason they are satisfied with their career.

  speech-language pathology demographics

SLP Benefits (Healthcare, Retirement, etc.)

While SLPs love what they do, they also hope to enjoy the years post career.


Challenging Work

As SLPs we like to be challenged.  We have an intellectual curiosity. Because each client is unique, we have the  opportunity to practice analytical thinking skills as well as exercise our creative right hemisphere.

  Challenging Work

Types of Clients/Patients/Setting for Speech Therapists

Some SLPs love the medical scene while others prefer a school or clinic setting.  Some enjoy geriatrics and others enjoy pediatrics.  And others yet enjoy a little bit of everything.  That’s the beauty of the field of speech-language pathology, there is plenty of variety and everyone can find their niche.

  Types of Clients

Relationships with Co-Workers

Regardless of work setting, collaboration is a large portion of what we do as SLPs.  The better our relationships with co-workers, the better outcomes we can have with our clients, which in turn makes us feel satisfied!

  Relationship with Coworkers

SLP Adminstrative Support

At times getting buy-in and support from administration can feel like an up-hill battle.  However, once support is there, the possibility for great gains in therapy and collaboration increases exponentially.  We place a high value on administration’s support.

  Adminstrative Support


We are professionals and experts in our field.  We value independence as it allows for flexibility and creativity.


Where Will You Be 5 Years From Now?

In 2006, the most recent year for which there are statistics, 54 million Americans, or 40 percent of the work force, left their jobs.  Given these statistics, it’s surprising and encouraging to see that most SLPs see themselves continuing in the field.

  5 Years

It is encouraging to be a part of a field that enjoys what they do.  Why did you choose to be an SLP? And why do you love what you do?

More Information on speech-language pathology demographics:

Demographic Profile of ASHA Members Providing Bilingual Services

ASHA Demographic Counts

Written by: phuonglienpalafox

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