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Speech Pathologists and Audiologists

At a Glance

  • Speech pathologists treat language and speaking disorders
  • Audiologists treat hearing disorders and balance problems
  • Interact with clients and family members
  • Speech pathologists need a master's degree
  • Audiologists need a doctorate degree
  • Usually need a license
  • May work part time or full time

Career summary

Speech pathologists and audiologists help people speak more clearly or hear better.

Speech pathologists treat language and speaking disorders. They are often called speech-language pathologists or speech therapists. Audiologists treat hearing disorders and balance problems. They work to prevent hearing loss.

Speech pathologists and audiologists have common tasks. When they get new clients, they ask them questions to identify their problems. They collect information and arrange for tests. They consult with other staff members to interpret test results. Speech pathologists and audiologists evaluate the information to decide how to treat clients. They monitor clients' improvement and revise plans as needed. They also keep records about clients.

Some speech pathologists and audiologists research new treatments and write reports about their findings. Others advise teaching and medical staff about preventing and treating hearing loss and speech disorders. Speech pathologists and audiologists take classes and attend conferences to keep up with new developments.

Speech pathologists

Speech pathologists evaluate clients' ability to understand and speak language. They check clients' hearing because poor hearing can affect the ability to learn speech. In addition, they check if muscles important for speaking are working. When they discover a physical problem in the structure of the mouth, pathologists may refer clients to doctors.

Once they understand the client's problem, speech pathologists begin treating them. For example, they may teach clients how to make specific sounds. They may also teach sign language or lip reading.


Audiologists use special instruments to test how well people can hear. They also check whether people can hear quiet sounds or high pitched sounds, because those are the hardest sounds to hear. Audiologists may recommend hearing aids or similar devices to improve clients' hearing. They fit clients with hearing aids. Audiologists work with doctors to determine if surgery is needed to help resolve a hearing problem.

Audiologists advise employers on preventing hearing loss on the job. They test noisy work areas and point out sounds that can cause hearing loss. They also recommend ways to protect workers from hearing loss.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to speech pathologists and audiologists.

Common work activities

Speech pathologists and audiologists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, speech pathologists and audiologists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Speech pathologists and audiologists frequently:

It is important for speech pathologists and audiologists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for speech pathologists and audiologists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Speech pathologists and audiologists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a speech pathologist, you typically need to:

To work as an audiologist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Speech pathology programs are two-year graduate programs that award a master's degree. In a speech pathology program you learn anatomy, normal speech and language development, and the nature of speech disorders. You also learn to evaluate and treat speech disorders.

Audiology programs also grant a Doctor of Audiology (AuD). In an audiology program, you learn anatomy and physiology, physics, and genetics. You also study normal communication development, assessment and treatment, and rehabilitation.

On-the-job training

While completing your education, you work as an intern under the supervision of an experienced speech pathologist or audiologist.

Work experience

To get a license in some states or national certification, you must work in a clinic after graduation.

Military training

The military does not provide the initial training to become a speech pathologist or audiologist. However, it can provide job experience to those who have completed a master's degree in this field.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers require speech pathologists and audiologists to have at least a master's degree and a license. In addition, employers prefer people who can communicate well with clients. Employers also look for applicants who are patient, because client progress can be slow.


Classes in human anatomy and medical courses are helpful. Volunteer experience in public schools and clinics serving a variety of clients provides an excellent opportunity to understand the job duties and responsibilities of this occupation.


Speech-language pathologists and audiologists must be licensed by the State of Washington unless they are certified as an educational staff associate by the State Board of Education. Licensing requirements include:

Most employers already require this level of education and some may require doctoral degrees for entry-level audiologists. Audiologists must also carry a surety bond of $10,000 if they fit or dispense hearing instruments.

Speech-language pathologists and audiologists who work in public schools must also pay for an initial Educational Staff Associate certificate from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (external link). The certification process includes completion of a 30-clock hour course approved by the Professional Educator Standards Board. Those who do not already have a valid Washington Educational Staff Associate Certificate must go through a background check which includes digital fingerprinting. Digital fingerprints can be obtained at one of nine Educational Service District (ESD) offices. Each ESD may charge an additional processing fee. Fingerprints can also be obtained from law enforcement agencies or private fingerprinting services for an additional fee and submitted to the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Many employees join professional associations, which may have annual dues.

Both speech-language pathologists and audiologists must complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education, including one hour of infection control, every three years. Certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association also is required in most work settings. 

For more information about state licensing, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Board of Hearing and Speech (external link)

Customer Service Center
PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504-7865


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


#In Washington, the average entry-level wage for audiologists is $5,612 per month ($32.38 per hour), while for speech-language pathologists, it is $4,820 per month ($27.81 per hour).

#Updated ES wage info 07.16 sd

Speech-language pathologists and audiologists working for public school districts in the State earn an average base salary of $56,419 per year.

#08.14 sd; updated ospi 2/27/14 lh. Updated OSPI & upper end of DOP wage as State has added another step (M) to pay scale, 4/7/15 cj; updated 08.16 sd, OSPI 4/6/16 lh. OSPI 4/3/17 cj. Removed State of WA wage 4/13/17 cj.

Audiologists (SOC 29-1181)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $30.27 $34.38 $40.38 $49.09 $58.64
Monthly $5,246 $5,958 $6,998 $8,507 $10,162
Yearly $62,970 $71,500 $83,990 $102,100 $121,960
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $32.29 $33.57 $35.72 $37.86 $39.15
Monthly $5,596 $5,818 $6,190 $6,561 $6,785
Yearly $67,161 $69,836 $74,294 $78,752 $81,426
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $31.75 $35.95 $42.44 $48.94 $57.81
Monthly $5,502 $6,230 $7,355 $8,481 $10,018
Yearly $66,038 $74,769 $88,268 $101,788 $120,247
    Vancouver Hourly $33.61 $38.63 $46.88 $55.82 $62.67
Monthly $5,825 $6,695 $8,124 $9,674 $10,861
Yearly $69,895 $80,348 $97,521 $116,100 $130,354
    Wenatchee Hourly $20.58 $22.22 $25.79 $30.66 $39.69
Monthly $3,567 $3,851 $4,469 $5,313 $6,878
Yearly $42,814 $46,227 $53,638 $63,791 $82,545
United States Hourly $25.14 $30.48 $36.50 $45.62 $56.69
Monthly $4,357 $5,282 $6,325 $7,906 $9,824
Yearly $52,300 $63,400 $75,920 $94,900 $117,910

Speech-language pathologists (SOC 29-1127)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $20.48 $28.91 $35.22 $41.55 $48.94
Monthly $3,549 $5,010 $6,104 $7,201 $8,481
Yearly $42,600 $60,120 $73,250 $86,430 $101,790
    Bellingham Hourly $25.63 $29.41 $34.57 $38.99 $53.83
Monthly $4,442 $5,097 $5,991 $6,757 $9,329
Yearly $53,313 $61,177 $71,908 $81,085 $111,967
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $26.74 $31.12 $37.05 $43.16 $49.30
Monthly $4,634 $5,393 $6,421 $7,480 $8,544
Yearly $55,614 $64,741 $77,081 $89,767 $102,548
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $25.91 $28.98 $34.06 $37.88 $40.28
Monthly $4,490 $5,022 $5,903 $6,565 $6,981
Yearly $53,894 $60,259 $70,840 $78,789 $83,785
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $23.92 $28.64 $35.60 $44.77 $54.98
Monthly $4,145 $4,963 $6,169 $7,759 $9,528
Yearly $49,753 $59,562 $74,045 $93,115 $114,367
    Longview Hourly $25.40 $27.63 $31.96 $41.79 $48.08
Monthly $4,402 $4,788 $5,539 $7,242 $8,332
Yearly $52,841 $57,483 $66,473 $86,918 $100,020
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $21.55 $28.02 $33.92 $40.45 $48.38
Monthly $3,735 $4,856 $5,878 $7,010 $8,384
Yearly $44,822 $58,287 $70,545 $84,144 $100,618
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $25.62 $28.73 $34.07 $39.43 $46.93
Monthly $4,440 $4,979 $5,904 $6,833 $8,133
Yearly $53,290 $59,764 $70,864 $82,018 $97,617
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $18.10 $29.94 $36.32 $43.22 $50.60
Monthly $3,137 $5,189 $6,294 $7,490 $8,769
Yearly $37,639 $62,287 $75,551 $89,895 $105,241
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $24.27 $28.32 $34.61 $40.71 $46.65
Monthly $4,206 $4,908 $5,998 $7,055 $8,084
Yearly $50,476 $58,917 $71,992 $84,675 $97,034
    Vancouver Hourly $28.83 $34.05 $39.75 $47.29 $55.51
Monthly $4,996 $5,901 $6,889 $8,195 $9,620
Yearly $59,984 $70,825 $82,686 $98,371 $115,468
    Wenatchee Hourly $28.04 $33.05 $37.12 $42.10 $49.13
Monthly $4,859 $5,728 $6,433 $7,296 $8,514
Yearly $58,320 $68,731 $77,191 $87,576 $102,193
    Yakima Hourly $25.98 $32.05 $36.00 $39.89 $46.98
Monthly $4,502 $5,554 $6,239 $6,913 $8,142
Yearly $54,040 $66,662 $74,874 $82,987 $97,727
United States Hourly $23.41 $29.12 $37.26 $47.01 $57.72
Monthly $4,057 $5,046 $6,457 $8,147 $10,003
Yearly $48,690 $60,570 $77,510 $97,770 $120,060

Pay varies by area of the country. In general, those who work in rural areas earn lower wages. Wages also vary by the worker's level of experience, education, and responsibility.

Benefits vary by employer. Those who work full time for schools and government agencies usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

State Outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Audiologists (SOC 29-1181)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 439 24.6% 16.1% 43
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 28 14.3% 13.4% 2
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 32 56.3% 11.9% 5
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 17 17.6% 15.2% 1
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 22 45.5% 14.1% 3
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 15 20.0% 14.6% 1
    King County 214 22.0% 19.6% 20
    Pierce County 44 22.7% 15.2% 4
    Spokane County 46 15.2% 13.9% 4
United States 13,600 16.2% 5.2% 800

Speech-Language Pathologists (SOC 29-1127)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 4,046 24.2% 16.1% 419
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 98 24.5% 13.4% 10
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 142 4.9% 8.6% 9
    Benton and Franklin Counties 106 17.9% 15.0% 9
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 141 13.5% 11.9% 11
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 271 18.5% 15.2% 24
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 142 21.1% 14.1% 13
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 198 17.2% 14.6% 17
    King County 1,695 28.1% 19.6% 191
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 93 15.1% 13.8% 8
    Pierce County 332 20.5% 15.2% 31
    Snohomish County 448 32.8% 12.4% 54
    Spokane County 344 12.5% 13.9% 26
United States 153,700 27.3% 5.2% 13,500

National employment

Nearly half of all speech pathologists work in schools. Most audiologists work in health care facilities.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be very strong. As the population ages, more people will need help dealing with hearing loss. Age-related impairments such as strokes will mean that more people will need help with hearing loss and speech impairments. Increased awareness of childhood speech and language disorders will also lead to more demand. Medical advances allow more children to survive premature birth and adults to survive strokes. Many of these patients need speech-language therapy.

Other resources

American Academy of Audiology (external link)
11480 Commerce Park Drive, Suite 220
Reston, VA 20191
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (external link)
2200 Research Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850
Council for Exceptional Children (external link)
3100 Clarendon Blvd, Suite 600
Arlington, VA 22201-5332
Explore Health Careers: Speech-Language-Hearing Overview (external link)


Career cluster

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