I have my SLP degree! What’s next?
So, you just graduated and the time has come to find your first job in speech-language pathology. What now? Looking for a job can be pretty stressful, but those student loans aren’t going to go away…or pay themselves off. There’s no time to waste. It’s time to polish your resume, work on those interview skills, and strike out into the job market. The first question is:
Where do I apply?
SLPs have a number of options. You may prefer a medical center, a private office, a telespeech setting, a nursing home, or a school setting. There’s also a lucrative and interesting travel option, but not until you have worked for a couple of years. Each setting has challenges and rewards. If you’re close to a major city or willing to relocate, you may have any of these options. In a rural setting, your choices will be more limited. The second decision you need to make is whether you’re willing to move to get the job you really want…or if you’d rather stay close to home and accept whatever is available.
Working in a school
Working as an SLP for schoolchildren means different things in different areas. You may work in a single school, travel between many schools in a district (this is more common due to budget restrictions), or practice telespeech therapy from a central location -a cost-effective solution taking hold across the country.
As a school-based SLP, you’ll work with children who suffer from a variety of speech-language issues as well as autism. You’ll collaborate with teachers and work with parents to teach support therapy at home. It’s a great job and you get time off in the summer, but there are some negatives to consider.
Not every school district has a budget for the latest tools to enhance your career and support your students. Strained budgets mean high caseloads…and all too often, unpaid overtime. Schools require a great deal of paperwork, a lot of administrative meanings, and heavy oversight by comparison.
Working in a hospital or medical center
If you prefer working with adults, this is an excellent career choice. Most of your patients will be adults who have suffered a stroke or trauma. They will be eager to participate and quick to learn, and you can count on them to practice on their own. The cons are dealing with insurance forms, very limited time with patients, and, with outpatients, cancellations and no-shows.
Private offices offer both variety -patients might be of any age- and higher pay. Your hours may be more flexible, and you have more time to get to know the patients and their families, which means you can follow the impact of treatment and gauge the effectiveness of your methods. In addition, you have the option of choosing a specialty. The drawbacks are the necessity of travel (in some cases), dealing with insurance and documentation, and cancellations and no-shows.
A telespeech practice is a great solution in a rural setting for both patients and SLPs. Everybody gets to stay in one place and be comfortable. There’s no loss time while traveling, no waiting-room delays, and no pressure. You can schedule appointments to fit your schedule, and if there’s a cancellation, it’s not nearly as disruptive. You’re still going to have to fill out insurance paperwork, and there will still be issues here and there, but for the most part, you answer only to your patients. There’s less direct intrusion by administrative types trying to justify costs, unless of course you’re working as a telespeech professional in a school district, and not in a private practice. School telespeech professionals operate much like in-school therapists, but from a central location.