Guest post by Erica L. Fener, PhD, vice president, strategic growth, at Progressus Therapy
There has never been a better time to be a speech-language pathologist (SLP). According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2014), SLP jobs will grow at a rate of 19% between 2012 and 2022, which translates to an additional 26,000 jobs over the course of the decade. The median pay in 2012 was $69,870 per year, and the current number of jobs—more than 134,000—indicates plenty of opportunity, even before projected growth.
If you just finished graduate school in this field, congratulations! Now all you have to do is ensure you find the right job to begin building your long-term career. Consider these seven tips to help you land your first SLP job:
1. Apply for Your Temporary State License
Every state is different, but most require you to hold a temporary license before becoming an SLP clinical fellow—the first step to being a full-time SLP. Depending on your state, you may be able to apply for the license during your degree program. Your professors can help you figure out how.
2. Land a Professional Clinical Fellowship
Your clinical fellowship year (CFY) is a crucial step on the path to working as a full-time SLP. The purpose of the CFY is to transition from theoretical knowledge to practical application. The experience you gain will be invaluable, if it is the right kind.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2015a) recommends choosing a setting that provides a full range of speech pathology services, rather than one that solely performs screenings, and treats you as a member of the staff. Also, aim to do your CFY in a setting that you would eventually like to work in, such as a school or a nursing home, so that you will get the training you need to be successful in your future career.
3. Complete Your Fellowship
Successful completion of the clinical fellow requires you to work at least 35 hours a week for 36 weeks, totaling 1,260 hours. You may also work part time, at least five hours a week, until you hit the total. Note that your mentor must be a verified SLP, which you can check through the ASHA Certification Verification page (ASHA, 2015b).
4. Reflect on Your Experience
After you complete your hours, it is time to move forward and look for a real job, which requires reflection. This step might seem a little overwhelming, but thinking through your experience can make a world of difference in your professional career. What did you like? What would you prefer to avoid? How did the setting suit your nature? The answers to these questions will help you determine where you apply.
5. Start Searching for a Job
In rare cases, the setting where you completed your fellowship may choose to hire you. Typically, however, you should not expect your mentoring facility to offer you a job. If it does, wonderful, but you must be prepared to look for work elsewhere, so it is time to start the job search. Check out career fairs and job boards, look online, and utilize your network for prospects.
6. Look Outside the Box
Not all SLP jobs will be specifically labeled as such. Some might be called “speech therapist” or “speech-language pathologist and children’s therapist.” If you are working with older people, your duties might be split between speech-language pathology and physical therapy. The specific job you land depends on your setting and your skills. To get a better idea, do your research and review job boards to see what types of jobs are available.
7. Nail the Interview
In your interview, be personable and honest about your experience and your desires. If you are worried about it, read a few articles detailing some tricks for performing well in the interview. According to Business Insider (2014), these can be as simple as warming up your hands, mirroring your interviewer’s body language, and reading facial cues. Your expert knowledge, good humor, and attention to detail will eventually land you the job you are looking for.
Now that you have that job offer, it is time to take a little break and celebrate—but not for too long, of course. Soon enough it will be time to pack your supplies and start your new career as a professional SLP, helping improve the lives of others.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2015a). ASHA certification verification. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/eweb/ashadynamicpage.aspx?site=ashacms&webcode=ccchome
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2015b). Selecting a clinical fellowship (CF) setting. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/certification/SelectingCFSetting/
Business Insider. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/psychological-interviewing-tricks-2014-9
U.S. Department of Labor. (2014). Speech-language pathologists. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm
About the Author
Erica L. Fener, PhD, is vice president, strategic growth, at Progressus Therapy, a leading provider of therapy employment, including school-based therapy and early intervention services. Progressus Therapy connects speech-language pathologists with schools across the United States.