Future SLPs face a daunting burden of choice. Entering into our extraordinarily rich and broad field, new professionals may feel anxious about making the right choice, leaving other good options behind, and trying to find the setting where their strengths will shine.
When finding the right job for you, not only is it important to consider your personal gifts and preferences, but also the trends and demands of the setting. While no two jobs are alike, and you can never know what kinds of bonds you might make (or not make) with future colleagues and managers, it’s helpful to learn as much as you can about the nature of each setting.
Here’s some inside knowledge from SLPs who have worked in three of the most common work settings in the field …
- Work with students ranging from early intervention programs (ages 0-3), preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school to transitional programs.
- Since services are “free, appropriate, and public,” school-based caseloads are often richly diverse—economically, linguistically, and culturally.
- Caseloads often represent a variety of communication disorders and levels of severity.
- Lots of access to “real life” context and typically developing peers.
- Ample opportunity to collaborate with other disciplines including general education teachers, psychologists, special education teachers, OTs, PTs, and BCBAs.
- Develop long term connections with students over a period of years in many cases.
- Get major holidays, as well as winter, spring, and summer breaks off
- You’re likely going to be the only SLP on site, which may feel isolating.
- Caseloads are often high.
- You may be assigned to multiple sites.
- Many students “would benefit from” speech services, but eligibility criteria and least restrictive environment requirements must be considered in schools.
- Litigious cases do come up, which can be stressful and time consuming.
“I never envisioned myself in schools, but it turns out I love creating my own schedule, as well as prioritizing and managing my own to-do list. The high organizational demands and structure of educationally-focused practice fit well with how my mind works.” – Maria
- Ability to cater to desired age group, population, and areas of disability.
- Work closely with families to teach them strategies to support clients’ progress and carryover of the skills.
- Manageable caseloads.
- Freedom to be creative with frequency of service and goals; not always governed by educational code or insurance regulations.
- Flexibility to do home visits and community-based visits, as appropriate.
- One-on-one sessions can help you feel like you’re really making a difference in a client’s progress.
- Opportunities to collaborate with other professionals including other SLPs on the team, OTs, PTs, behaviorists, and teachers.
- Schedule is typically year-round, following business hours, and time off is more in line with other professionals accruing PTO.
- Client numbers are often low during school breaks and over holidays.
- Managing insurance billing, productivity, and other third party payer guidelines.
- For group-based therapy, it can be hard to find other appropriate partners (less “push in” therapy).
- You’ll need to be flexible and frequently switch gears with seeing a variety of disorders and ages.
“Helping families learn how to communicate with their children and having so many opportunities to coach caregivers on the strategies is truly rewarding. Being part of a team and working on goals that are functional and can be carried over across settings has made me love the clinic and home-based setting for a majority of my career.” – Jill
- Work in a fast paced environment with complex and interesting cases.
- Families are often present for training.
- Patient progress is quick.
- Patients tend to be very motivated, especially when working with adults.
- Paperwork is typically completed by the end of the workday, so work is rarely taken home.
- You’ll have research opportunities in some settings.
- Have access to high tech equipment and the opportunity to learn procedures specific to the medical setting (e.g., FEES, laryngeal endoscopy).
- Less mobility than other settings (i.e., there aren’t as many hospitals as there are schools).
- While exciting, the fast pace can also be stressful.
- Depending on the patient’s condition, you may work on maintenance goals (degenerative disorders).
- You’ll focus more on short term goals and typically don’t work with clients year after year.
- Working weekends and holidays may be required
“In a medical setting, you can learn so much from working with a multidisciplinary research team of neurologists, psychologists, and social workers.” – Jenny
While the process of finding the perfect first job is enough to make a new SLP’s head spin, each setting has its perks, and our field has many options to choose from. Shakespeare said, “to thine own self be true.” Take this to heart when examining the options available to you. With this burden and blessing of choice, there’s flexibility to find a fit for you.
This blog post is sponsored by the Speech Pathology Group.