How Can You Negotiate Your Rate?

Speechies, repeat after me: “I deserve more money.”

Does saying that scare you? Excite you? Could you even get the words past your lips?

In this post, we’re going to lay out some hard facts, such as the fact that, on average, SLPs make 9% less than PTs and 5% less than OTs.

We’re also going to challenge you to question some ingrained beliefs. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Helping people is reward enough
  • Talking about money is rude
  • If I ask for more money, the company won’t want to hire me anymore
  • There are set rules for how much my company can afford to pay me

Finally, we are going to help you ask for more money. We offer negotiating tactics, mindset shifts, and other resources to get you paid.

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SLPS Make Less than PTs and OTs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average 2020 salary of a speech-language pathologist in the U.S. was $83,240.

That’s 5% less than occupational therapists ($87,480) and 9% less than physical therapists ($91,010).

* Another sobering finding: the higher the percentage of men in the field, the higher the average salary. Here’s a breakdown from our rehab trio’s professional organizations:

Speech Therapy is 95.5% women (ASHA)

Occupational Therapy is 92% women (AOTA)

Physical Therapy is 65% women (APTA)

This is no coincidence, my friends. Even within physical therapy, men make 10% more than their female counterparts. Ouch.

This wage discrepancy is being reinforced on many levels: societal, companywide, and personal level.

*We include only female and male genders to reflect the surveys conducted by our professional organizations.

So, What Can We Do About It?

It’s actually quite simple.

  • We can change our limiting beliefs about money.
  • We can ask for more from our companies.
  • And we can encourage our friends and colleagues to do the same.

Limiting Beliefs About Money

Limiting Belief: Helping people is Reward Enough

I had my sons earlier than my peers, and as they started having kids, I’ve noticed a trend. Daughters are being taught a clear and consistent message: Girls need to be nice.

My friends range from progressive to conservative, from well-off to not, yet I’ve noticed this trend across just about every family with a daughter.

A precocious 2-year-old once interrupted me to declare, “Stop talking!” I could see her point—I had talked about boring grown-up stuff for fifteen minutes, and she was over it. But her parents immediately shushed her, “That’s rude. You need to be nice!”

In contrast, when boys interrupted our conversations, parents would respond differently. Yes, they were still annoyed, but the messaging wasn’t ‘be nice.’ They would say, “Just a minute, okay?” or “Can you go play with your toys?”

Here’s my point. Girls have been—and still are—being socialized to ignore their own needs to make others feel good. We were taught this in childhood and we still subconsciously act on it.

Let’s look at your own life. Is your household’s labor split 50/50 with your partner? In grad school, did you find yourself laughing loudly at your one male classmate’s not-so-funny jokes? Did you accept the first offer your company made you without negotiating—and not asked for a raise since?

Limiting Belief: Talking About Money is Rude

Different cultures and families have varying levels of comfort when it comes to money-talk. Some consider it vulgar. Some are matter-a-fact. Some are so afraid of money, it’s as if they want to pretend it doesn’t exist and they don’t need it.

Let’s liberate ourselves from anyone else’s money-beliefs and focus on what’s true for you:

Did you work your ass off through college, grad school, internships, externships, and CFYs to become a legitimate professional? (Yes)

Do you help people do incredibly important things like swallowing, talking, and thinking? (Yes)

Do you need enough money to pay for basic needs, like rent and food? (Yes)

Do you want enough money to pay for ease and joy, like a meal-prep service, rejuvenating travel, or K-beauty products? (Yes)

Does it make any sense to not talk about money? And thereby not ask for a fair wage for your incredible skills in order to cover your wants and needs? (No)

Limiting Belief: If I Ask for More Money, the Company Won’t Want to Hire Me Anymore

Not true!

According to a study by, 84% of employers always expect job applicants to negotiate during the interview stage. That’s right, they are coming to the table expecting you to ask for more.

Limiting Belief: There are Set Rules for How Much my Company Can Give Me


Every company is different, of course. And there are some with less salary flexibility. A government-funded hospital, for example, may not deviate from a set salary scale, while some regions in the country pay way more than others. I knew a PT who moved to San Francisco. They transferred to the same exact job in the same exact hospital system—but was paid $50,000 more.

Most companies have wiggle room, and some may deliberately offer less because they expect you to negotiate. But even if a company doesn’t budge on pay, there are other ways to ask for more. We’ll cover that in a bit.

How to Ask for More Money

Educate yourself on what the average salary range is for your job.

Consider your location, your setting, and the pay structure being offered.

You can’t expect San Francisco wages in a rural setting, for example. But maybe home health pays better than hospitals in your area. And even though the hourly rate for a per-diem job looks amazing, after calculating the out-of-pocket costs of health insurance, continuing education, and vacation time, you may realize that it’s not actually a competitive rate.

To find salary ranges, talk to your classmates and colleagues, look up salary info on sites such as Glassdoor, and compare offers on local job boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter.

Have an average range written down? Great, let’s move on.

Ask for 10% More

You received a job offer—congrats! Thank them sincerely, then ask for 10% more.

Did they offer $80,000 per year? Ask for $88,000. Or did they offer $50 per hour? Ask for $55. For extra credit, round up to $90,000 per year or $60 per hour.

If you start freaking out inside, which is likely, remind yourself that 10% more would just get you to the average PT pay. It is entirely fair. Do it for your field!

Chung Brewer, the author of The Adult Speech Therapy Workbook, negotiated pay on her very first professor gig. Despite having no prior experience as a professor, she asked for 10% more anyway. And got it!

Overcoming Negotiation Barriers

Barrier 1: They come back with an offer that’s higher than their original—but lower than what you asked for.

Time to look at the average salary range you wrote down. Is their new offer on the lower end? Then consider sticking with 10% more or maybe going down a little bit.

Barrier 2: They absolutely can’t or won’t offer more money.

Maybe you are negotiating with a company that truly doesn’t have pay flexibility for your position. Or, they’re sticking firm to their offer. Luckily, there are other ways to negotiate.

The key is to do your homework about the company and think about what would will your job easier, more fulfilling, more fun, etc.

If the job only pays for five hours of documentation time per week, ask for eight paid hours. Ask for training on an assessment or team you’d love to learn about. If you’re working home health, ask for your preferred area. Or guaranteed pay, even when patients cancel. Ask for higher continuing education pay. Or for a Medbridge subscription, if they don’t pay for CEUs.

I was once offered a job at a publically-funded hospital with no pay flexibility. Their salary was on the low end of average, but I liked the setting and benefits a lot. So, I asked if I could have a regular shift in the NICU instead. It was a highly coveted position with skills that I wanted to learn, making the lower pay worth it to me. They said yes!

Barrier 3: You don’t know how to justify asking for higher pay.

Maybe you’re a new grad with limited experience. Or maybe you feel inadequate compared to the rock-star therapists you work with. Ask yourself this question: What skills do I have that would make my company more money or otherwise add value?

Maybe you speak Korean fluently. Suggest that hiring you means that they could add “Korean-speaking” to their website, bringing in many more potential customers.

Maybe you’re an excellent writer. Offer to spearhead or revamp their blog or newsletter in a way that will attract referrals.

Maybe you had a previous career in event planning. Offer to organize an engaging booth for the company at a community event.

All of these skills can bring real profits to your company, absolutely justifying a 10%—or more—pay raise.

You are worth it, my friend, so come to the table prepared and ready to negotiate. 15 Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer – Harvard Business Review.

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