Speech-language pathology assistants, also called speech pathology assistants or SLPAs, help fully licensed speech-language pathologists with treatment of language and swallowing disorders in both school and health-related settings. Although the responsibilities of diagnosing disorders and developing treatment plans falls to speech-language pathologists, assistants have a number of duties, including administering treatment, calibrating and maintaining equipment and assisting with basic screening procedures. They generally earn less than speech pathologists, but still make a decent living.
California Salary Estimates
Organizations in California have released salary estimates for speech-language pathology assistants. For example, Evergreen Valley College, a San Jose-based educational institution that offers SLPA associate's degrees, estimates that assistants get about $15 per hour to start, plus benefits. Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California provides a higher estimate for starting wages, reporting that entry-level assistants earn between $19 and $23 per hour. Health Jobs Start Here, a website offering information about health professions in California, says that speech-language pathology assistants make between $24,310 and $37,080 annually.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, also called ASHA, estimates that speech-language pathology assistants earn between 60 and 75 percent of a fully-licensed speech pathologist's salary. A 2009 report on speech-language pathologist salaries in health care settings showed that speech pathologists based in western states, including California, made $80,000 per year on average. Working with the 60 to 75 percent estimate, a speech pathology assistant in health care would make between $48,000 and $60,000 annually. Speech pathologists in schools tend to earn less, so assistants in these settings also have lower salaries. According to a 2010 ASHA schools salary report, speech pathologists who worked during the school year in California made $75,000. That translates into earnings between $45,000 and $56,250 for assistants working in education.
California Licensing Requirements
Licensing requirements for speech-language pathology assistants vary from state to state, and some states don't permit the use of assistants at all. In California, most assistants have SLPA associate's degrees. A bachelor's degree in communication disorders or 70 hours of fieldwork experience also qualify you to work as a speech pathology assistant in this state. Licences need to be renewed every two years, and speech pathology assistants are required to take 12 hours of continuing education to qualify for renewal. California's relatively rigorous licensing requirements may partially explain the higher salaries earned by SLPAs in this state. For example, in Indiana, speech pathology support personnel are licensed on three levels. At the lowest level, supportive workers called speech pathology aides only need high school diplomas to practice. An assistant at this level would only earn about 60 percent of the pay given to a fully-licensed speech pathologist in the medical field -- about $41,000. California SLPAs in health care make at least $7,000 more.
In California, speech pathology assistant degrees are relatively inexpensive. Orange Coast College's four-semester associate's degree costs $2,200, not including living expenses. Meanwhile, a speech-language pathology student earning a master's at California State University, Fresno, could expect to pay around $7,000 per year for two years, according to the university's online catalog. Working with the $80,000 salary estimate for health care speech pathologists from ASHA, tuition works out to 17.5 percent of a fully-licensed professional's salary. In comparison, tuition costs only work out to about 4.6 percent of a health care-based SLPA, even when using the low-end California estimate of $48,000. If you need to pay off your school quickly, an assistant's program may be the way to go.