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Factors Influencing Career Choices and Levels of Professional Satisfaction in SLP

Factors Influencing Career Choices and Levels of Professional Satisfaction in SLP
Kathleen Russo, Michael J. Flahive, PhD, CCC-SLP/A
July 18, 2005


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) is expected to grow faster than the average occupation (>36%) through the year 2010 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d.).

The present study was developed to identify factors that influence career decision making and levels of professional satisfaction within speech-language pathology (SLP) to provide a better understanding of why individual's select SLP as a career, thus assisting in recruitment for the profession.

The following questions were addressed:

  1. What factors influence individuals to select a career in speech-language pathology?

  2. Are individuals satisfied with their professional vocational choices?

A survey was developed and distributed to 300 randomly selected speech-language pathologists in Illinois. One hundred and sixty-three (54%) were returned. Results reveal two factors to be strongly influential in career decision making: a desire to help others (91% agreement) and an interest in the discipline (78% agreement). High levels of satisfaction in current employment and with the profession were reported by the majority of respondents (88% and 87% respectively). A need for further research investigating possible variables that impact levels of professional satisfaction was identified.


SLP is a dynamic and continuously developing profession (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA], 2001). According to the "Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology," clinical service provision in SLP includes prevention, diagnosis, habilitation, and rehabilitation of communication, swallowing, or other upper aerodigestive disorders; elective modification of communication behaviors; and enhancement of communication (ASHA, 2001).

By the year 2010, employment in SLP is expected to increase by 36% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d.). SLP ranks 25th out of the 700 fastest growing professions, and 11th out of 68 health related occupations, according to an estimate by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for supply and demand of professions in the next decade (as cited in ASHA, 2003). To meet the demands of this growing profession, job openings will increase by 39%, creating more than 34,000 new jobs, with job openings due to growth and net replacements totaling 57,000 by the year 2010.

There are a number of variables contributing to this rapid growth and subsequent need for employment in the field. Advances in medicine and technology, which have improved survival rates of premature infants, trauma, and stroke victims, as well as an aging and growing population, are contributing to an increased number of individuals requiring speech, language, or hearing services (Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d.). There are simply not enough individuals to fill these positions as the profession rapidly expands. The most commonly cited barrier for filling these positions is a shortage of qualified applicants, which in turn leads to larger caseload sizes and less opportunity for networking and collaboration (ASHA, 2003; Speech-Language Pathology, n.d).

Kathleen Russo

michael j flahive

Michael J. Flahive, PhD, CCC-SLP/A

Michael Flahive is a forty year member of the profession, holding clinical certification in both speech-language pathology and audiology. He is a university professor who has provided clinical services across his work career. Areas of interest include counseling, aural rehabilitation, issues of professional preparation and the applications of technology in our work. Dr. Flahive is a Fellow of ASHA.

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