Speech-language pathologists work to improve communication and swallow in persons across the lifespan. A speech-language pathologist address feeding and swallowing, social communication, speech, language, voice, fluency, and cognitive-communication deficits. SLPs work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, inpatient rehabs, skilled-nursing facilities, and visit homes for home health visits.
I’m a speech-language pathologist who has worked over 10 years in various settings. I have a growing passion for sharing my knowledge and vast experience in the field with other clinicians and those interested in learning more about the profession. While I started this blog to share my experiences specifically as a traveling speech-language pathologist, it has evolved to share my opinions and advice on the field. Since I also share a lot of lifestyle information and travel tips from travel therapy, I also get a lot of questions about “what is a speech-language pathologist?”.
One of the benefits of working 13-week short term contracts as a speech-language pathologist is that I have been able to experience a large variety of settings, patients, and peers in a relatively short career. During my time in the field, I feel as though I’ve experienced more in 10 years than some therapists do in a 30-year career and I am very grateful for that experience and knowledge.
The more I’ve traveled, the more passion I have for sharing my experiences with others. Here are some of the more popular questions that I get related to being a speech-language pathologist.
How Do You Become a Speech-Language Pathologist?
This is such a loaded question and one that I receive a lot on this website. It takes anywhere from 6-8 years to become a certified speech-language pathologist.
Here are the basics for how to become a speech-language pathologist:
- Complete a bachelor’s degree program
- Earn a master’s degree from an accredited CAA program
- Pass the Praxis exam
- Complete a 9-month post-graduate fellowship
- Apply for ASHA and state licenses
As you can see above, you need to spend a minimum of six years in school (4 years undergrad and 2 years graduate) to become an SLP. If you did not complete your undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders or took an extra year to complete your undergrad degree, you might need an extra 1-2 years to complete your education. During your education, you need to complete 25 hours minimum of observation hours and 375 supervised clinical hours.
Education can come at a variety of costs. I attended a public, in-state university from 2003-2007 and then a private graduate program from 2007-2009. My education totaled around $175,000 with the costs of credits and housing. As much as possible, I recommend students to reduce the cost of their education as much as possible to avoid the burden of student loans.
Once you graduate, a supervised clinical fellowship is required to obtain full licensure nationally with the American Speech and Hearing Association and with your state. You need to be licensed in your state to practice, ASHA certification is not mandatory in most states.
Finding a clinical fellowship job can be a challenge because you need a position with a supervisor who is willing to take on a CF. Ideally, it is a great learning experience that bridges the gap between education and independent practice. However, many CFs report vacant supervisors or inadequate training.
Is Being an SLP Worth it?
Many aspiring clinicians reach out to ask if being an SLP is worth it, all things considered. This is an impossible question for me to answer because it is completely going to depend on your personal situation and what you are looking for in a career.
The number one thing I tell aspiring clinicians is that being an SLP is physically and mentally taxing work and I believe you need to have a passion for it to enjoy it. As an SLP you constantly have to be “on”. You don’t get to sit at a desk and zone out during the day, you are constantly working with your clients and constantly engaging in communication.
SLPs have high caseloads and high production standards, which push us to go, go, go. Meanwhile, there are not many opportunities to advance vertically in your career. Unlike other people who may start at an entry-level job and advance through their careers, we stay in a similar position during the life of our careers.
I find that job satisfaction also is dependent on the job opportunities and cost of living in your area. SLPs can live very comfortably in places that have a need for clinicians, pay well, and have a low cost of living. However, I know many SLPs struggling financially and working multiple jobs to pay their bills in areas that have a higher cost of living.
Questions to consider before becoming a Speech-language Pathologist
- Are there job opportunities in my area or an area that I would be willing to move to?
- What is the median salary in my area?
- What will the cost of education be and how will I pay for it?
- Is my personality suited to work directly with clients/students/patients all day every day with limited downtime?
- Is this something that I can see myself doing in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, etc?
- Am I passionate about the work of speech-language pathology
- Where Can You Work as a Speech-Language Pathologist?
I want to be a traveling Speech-Language Pathologist!
If you are a YES to being a speech-language pathologist, then you might be on this page wondering “how do I become a traveling speech-language pathologist”.
The backbone of this website is to teach you how to become a traveling therapist and I am happy to have you here! As a traveling SLP, I’ve worked in hospitals, SNFs, and other facilities across the United States. There are endless opportunities to grow clinically and interpersonally by working travel jobs.
Travel has helped me to grow as a clinician, advocate, leader, and as an independent woman.
Getting started as a traveling therapist might seem difficult, but I have you covered here! Traveling SLPs take short-term contracts through staffing agencies. To become a traveling SLP, you need to connect with one or multiple staffing agencies to represent you for jobs and apply for short-term jobs through the agency. It is a bit more complex than that, but that is the basis of being a traveling SLP. I go through the steps HERE.