I majored in psychology and linguistics during my undergraduate years. Because I did not have a Bachelor's in speech language pathology, I had to take those classes after I graduated with my B.A. before I was able to apply to graduate school. After graduate school, I completed my clinical fellowship in a public school district. I then worked at an acute rehabilitation unit for a few months, then moved to skilled nursing for about 5 years. I transitioned back to working with children in a clinic and was there for 3 years. I then moved to another state and worked for a public school district. I love that I have been able to help people of all ages.
I have worked in multiple settings - for public school districts, in an acute rehabilitation unit at a hospital with adult patients, a skilled nursing facility with geriatric patients, and a non-profit clinic with children. I currently work for a school district split between two schools, a K-8 and a K-12 school.
On a typical day, we are asked to be at work 1 hour before school starts - I will prepare, do paperwork, or have a meeting with other team members. During the school day, I see students on an individual or small group basis, usually for about 20-30 minute sessions, once a week. Some days, I have many sessions back to back. After school is out, I may have another Individualized Education Program meeting to discuss a student's goals and progress. There is usually paperwork such as report writing, billing, and correspondence with parents and teachers that can't all be done during the school day because I am too busy in treatment sessions with the students. The workday is technically less than 8 hours on paper, but most teachers/SLPS/other school district employees end up working on their own time after hours at home - sometimes during the weekend too. The long workdays are balanced by having school holidays - federal holidays, Winter Break, Spring Break, summers off!
The most rewarding part of the career is knowing that I have made a significant impact on my client/student/patient's life, no matter what setting it is in. Families love you and are forever grateful for all that they have learned from you.
Depending on what setting you work in, there may be a lot of paperwork and report writing involved, which can be time-consuming. In some settings, you may have to bill medical insurance for your services and deal with possibly not being reimbursed, or under reimbursed. There are also some rules and regulations that may stop you from working exactly as you would want to with your patients.
There is a very wide range of compensation depending on what city and setting you are working in. It is typical for new graduates to be paid a lot less than seasoned clinicians, but you can catch up quickly after the first couple of years. I have seen salary ranges anywhere from $35,000 to $120,000+ depending on experience level, setting, and what city/state you are in.
Find out if anyone you know has an SLP friend. Check out the websites for colleges that have a speech language pathology program. Call around local schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and privately owned clinics to see if any speech language pathologists would be open to you observing them, job-shadowing, and having your help as a volunteer. You will also do a lot of observation during graduate school.
You need a Master's degree in communicative disorders and sciences or speech language pathology. After earning your Master's degree, you need to apply for a temporary license and work under a fully licensed speech language pathologist to ear your license. Each state has its own license. You may also need national certification through the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. Some school districts will require you to have a teaching credential through that particular state.
SLPs are in high demand. They are notoriously known as having type A personalities, probably because the job does require you to be very detailed oriented and organized!
There has historically always been a high demand for speech-language pathologists. Many states have a shortage of SLPs. COVID-19 has affected my work in that the school district has asked us to do teletherapy sessions; however, the demand for SLPs in a public school district setting has not been as impacted compared to the demand for SLPs in a private clinic, hospital, or skilled nursing facility.
There is a LOT of learning you will do on the job that you can't learn in graduate school. You never stop learning in this career and that's one of the best and most challenging parts about the field!