what is a speech pathologist?

As a speech pathologist, you work alongside other health professionals to diagnose and treat various speech issues. Some of the problems you treat include issues with speech and voice, trouble understanding language or fluency, and swallowing difficulties. As a speech pathologist, you study a patient's history to determine the cause of speech problems, such as a developmental disability, learning condition or injury that leads to speech problems.

Speech therapists treat clients of all ages, including infants born with cleft lips or preschoolers with speech problems. You also work with children with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) or neurodiverse adults, such as autistic patients. Adults who get a brain injury may have speech problems after recovery. Seniors with neurological conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s or motor neurone disease also need speech pathologists to improve their speech.

Your job as a speech pathologist is to help your patients improve their fluency, articulation and literacy skills. You also counsel patients on ways to handle their speech challenges. When patients find it hard to communicate, you recommend augmentative communication methods, such as electronic communication devices or high-tech communication devices.

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average speech pathologist salary

The average salary of a speech pathologist in Australia is $93,000 per year. When you join the profession, you start with a lower salary of $85,000 per year. As a senior speech pathologist, your experience significantly improves your remuneration, and you can make over $100,000 annually.

what factors affect your salary as a speech pathologist?

Your earnings as a speech pathologist depend on your experience and qualifications. When you start out in the role, you are likely to earn less due to your minimal expertise. As you gain experience and improve your expertise, you can negotiate a better remuneration package. Having advanced qualifications also showcases your skills and expertise, improving your salary prospects.

The size of the health facility and the company you work for also affect your earnings. As a speech therapist, you work in schools, private hospitals or aged care homes. If your employer has unlimited resources, you are likely to earn more compared to speech therapists working in smaller companies. The complexity of your duties also influences your salary. In large institutions, you work with multiple patients daily, which increases your remuneration potential.

Want to know what you will earn as a speech pathologist? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.


types of speech pathologists

Speech pathologists work with diverse patients to treat speech, language and cognitive communication disorders. You can explore various specialisations, like paediatric or adult speech pathology. As a paediatric speech pathologist, you work with children with difficulties in speaking, pronouncing certain sounds and swallowing. You may work in schools, daycare centres, private clinics and mining communities.

As an adult speech pathologist, you work with adults with difficulty understanding speech or speaking. The speech issues are due to neurological issues or brain injuries, often caused by car accidents or occupational hazards in mining and manufacturing industries. You examine and develop treatment plans to improve their communication skills.

As a speech pathologist, you can also work as a voice or speech coach and train singers and actors. Your job is to help actors reduce their accents and adapt to new dialects. You also treat and prevent injuries to vocal folds.

smiling woman with a laptop
smiling woman with a laptop

working as a speech pathologist

If you want to become a speech pathologist, here are the duties, work environments and job prospects in the role:


education and skills

If you want to become a speech pathologist in Australia, start your career with a recognised university degree, such as a bachelor of speech pathology or a bachelor of applied science in speech pathology. Degree courses take four to five years of full-time study. If you have a bachelor's degree in a different field, complete a master's in speech pathology.

You should volunteer as a speech pathologist while studying to improve your skills and gain experience. When you complete your degree, consider registering with Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) to become a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP). Your CPSP qualification depends on continued professional development, such as working as a speech therapist for a minimum of 1,000 hours in five years. If you work in schools, you will need to undergo a Working with Children Check and a Police Check.

speech pathologist skills and competencies

As a speech pathologist, you require the following qualities and skills:

  • compassion and empathy: as a speech pathologist, you require compassion and empathy when interacting with patients. The ability to empathise with your patients helps you understand their challenges and provide better care. Being compassionate and empathetic also helps you build trust and make your patient comfortable during the treatment.
  • patience: as a speech pathologist, it is important to be patient. Working with patients with speech issues requires perseverance and patience to achieve the desired results. Depending on the severity of the patient's speech and communication disorder, you may not see any progress for months or years. Being patient helps you encourage your patients to continue their treatment and give them hope.
  • active listening: as a speech pathologist, you should build rapport and trust with your patients. Having good listening skills helps you establish a relationship, and you can identify improvements in your patient’s speech or vocabulary. Documenting changes throughout therapy is essential when determining whether or not the treatment plan is working.
  • organisational skills: as a speech pathologist, you work with a large number of patients. It is essential to keep patient records and notes well-organised to avoid mix-ups in treatment plans. Being organised also helps you manage time.

FAQs about working as a speech pathologist

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a speech pathologist.

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