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It’s not every field where you can pick Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands to work, but that’s what Alexis Saull likes about being a speech-language pathologist. The choice of locations for jobs has no boundaries.

After living on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu for nine months, Saull is moving to St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her job as a speech-language pathologist in a St. Croix public school will pay her more than $50,000 a year for just 180 days of work.

“I always wanted to live on a Caribbean island,” says Saull. “I want to feel like I’m on vacation everyday.”

Best of all, the 28 year-old says being a speech-language pathologist is really satisfying work. “You are helping people with their communication skills, teaching them how to express their wants and needs,’’ she says. ‘’It’s pretty exciting.’’

Demand is Increasing

As children with disabilities get diagnosed earlier and the elderly live longer, there is an increasing demand for speech therapists. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment will increase to about 11%  by 2016.

That’s not the only good news, speech-language pathologists earn pretty generous salaries, even better than Saull’s Caribbean pay.  Therapists working in health care average $73,000 per year, while the median salary for those working in schools year round is $65,000 per year.

Speech-language pathologists are employed in a wide variety of settings including health care, schools, universities, private practices and corporations. They help peoplewith not only speech problems, but with a wide variety of issues including problems with written language and swallowing disorders. There are some unique areas of practices, such as working with the transgender population and helping them adapt to their new identity.

The increased need for speech-language pathologists also stems for greater awareness of people with disabilities, says Lemmietta G. McNeilly, Chief Staff Officer, Speech-Language Pathology for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “Instead of looking the other way when grandma can’t chew people now realize that… grandma may have a swallowing problem that can be treated,” she says. 

How to Get Started

A master’s degree is the minimum requirement to become a speech-language pathologist in most states, but there are exceptions. Nevada allows pathologists to work in the school system with just a BA degree as does Arizona. Connecticut, Florida, Maine and New York also allow school practice with a BA degree, but a school therapist must obtain their Master’s degree within a specified time period.

Speech pathology programs usually last for two years and include internship experiences. Speech-language pathologists must pass a licensing examination and work for a year under the supervision of a licensed pathologist before they are fully credentialed.

Tiffany Taliaferro, 22, a  second-year speech-pathology student at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, is looking forward to graduating school and becoming a therapist. She is also looking forward to the ease of getting  hired. “It’s good to know you can find a job when you graduate."

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