Top 10 Reasons to be a School-based Speech Pathologist
I had not intended to work in the public schools.
I actually fled teaching after a one year nightmarish career as a high school science teacher.
The plan was that I would finish my Master’s degree and begin working with adults in a rehab center. Adults like my father after his stroke. Or the sweet ladies I worked with in grad school. But I couldn’t find a job in that area. Or in any area with adults. So… I ended up back in the school system from which I had previously fled.
And then I moved and took a one year internship studying Augmentative and Alternative Communication. This was going to be it! My big break! My chance to get into a truly amazing career.
But still…I ended up back in the public schools. And part way through that year, I realized I loved it. I have experienced many forms of pediatric speech therapy (hospitals, rehab, in-home private, consult). But I have not tried to change job settings in nine years.
And so I’m faced with a dilemma. How do I convince my student practicum Speech Pathologists that the schools are where-it’s-at? The commonly perceived idea in SLP grad school is that working in the schools is “settling” (and I have to admit that initially this was true for me!). And three of my last four student teachers have ended up taking non-school jobs.
This year has without a doubt been my most challenging year. Not only has my caseload increased by 33%, but the severity of my students’ disabilities have increased even more. And the budget cuts mean that we have less support for more and needier students. So to convince both myself and my student teachers that the public schools are a great place to work, I have developed a top ten list.
Get a printable version of this list here.
Top 10 Reasons to be a School-based Speech Pathologist:
10. Cute aprons and theme day apparel (not to mention jeans to work if I so desire).
9. Special Olympics and other fun field trips.
8. Work with disadvantaged kids who otherwise get little help (because of lack of family support, lack of finances, or both). Make a direct impact in the community. Foster social-justice.
7. Work with children for up to 6 consecutive years. Watch them progress, grow, and develop over time and even continue relationships with students who have “graduated” from services.
6. Work with a huge array of children and needs: Autism , Augmentative Communication , Articulation , Language , Hearing , etc.
5. Create my own materials focusing on books or activities that I enjoy.
4. Competitive salary with hospital and rehab based Speech Pathologists (and possibly more). Great benefits. Regular, steady paychecks.
3. Focus therapy on topics that directly impact the lives of my students (school curriculum, making friends, grade level materials, etc.).
2. Work directly with kids 1-5 days each week, and greet almost every student on my caseload daily.
1. SUMMER VACATION
Get a printable version of this list here.
Yeah. I kind of liked the last reason 😎 reminds me of the joke we had as students at pedagogical university, about a teacher who was filling in a form, and struggled with one question: “Give three reasons why you teach”. After long thought, the teacher wrote: “1. June. 2. July. 3. August.”
Seriously, in anything related to education, it is most rewarding to work with people of the age where we are genetically meant to learn, and that means children.
And regardless of the pay, I’d rather worked at a school than in a hospital, because, you know, in the core of the things hospitals are about sickess ad death, and schools are about new emerging life… it’s a much more optimistic and happy environment.
I am also a pediatric SLP. I also left graduate school having no intention on working in a public school. I was given a good job in a school though and thought, I’ll give it a couple years. Then I left, seeking greater “glory” at a clinic. I hated it and came running back. I vow to never leave public schools again. I LOVE the school I am at now and see myself there long term.
Four additional reasons to go with public schools that are important to me:
1. Still getting paid when kids are out sick or on a field trip (not true in most clinics or home health)
2. Fall break, winter break and spring break.
3. Daily notes/therapy notes are easier.
4. Not having to make daily productivity requirements for billing purposes.
Im so glad others feel the way I do about having holidays and summers!!! I recently started my CFY in a private practice doing home health. It has taken me very little time to realize I want the concrete “ness” of the school rather than the fluid schedule home health offers. I think another great thing with being at 1 school is having a workspace. You can keep your materials there, do therapy there, and do your paperwork and planning there. In home health you basically work out of your car, which isn’t desirable for everyone. Sure it would be nice to work my butt of Monday-Thursday and take Fridays off, but this would be year long and having holidays and summers off are definitely appealing. Luckily my company is letting me switch to a school that is contracted through the company!!!
Working with kids–such a gratifying job.
I can totally relate. In grad school I had the same attitude that working in the schools was less exciting. Then I did an internship at an outpatient clinic at a pediatric hospital and the hours were outrageous. It was a very competitive internship and everyone wanted to work there. After months of working there I realized it was not all it was cut out to be. We had patients scheduled back to back for ten, hour long sessions. We only got to see patients once a month, sometimes twice a month if they were severe. They didn’t schedule time for paperwork so every clinician used their lunch as a time to document. Most frustrating was that if we didn’t meet our “productivity” for the day we were put under a lot of pressure. So if a client no-showed we were penalized. The ten hour days always turned into 12 or 13 hours and it was exhausting.
Afterward I did an internship at the schools and realized that you get to really build a relationship with your students cause you see them once or twice every week. And you just see them around the halls. The hours in the schools are AWESOME! The teachers and librarian are such a great resource to talk to about what is expected of typically developing children and ideas of how to adapt language lessons. And you can see every kind of case in the schools, from your typical artic and language kids to TBI, hypernasality, different syndromes, fluency and the whole gammet. The only thing I really miss about working in the pediatric clinic was the parents there at the sessions to try to teach them what they can do with their child. But I try to keep in contact with my students parents as much as possible.
I started off with higher pay in the schools than the pediatric clinic would have started me. The trade off is that I haven’t really gotten a pay raise since I started because the economy crashed right after and the public school budgets keep going down.
Schools really are a great setting.
I am a Psychology and Special Education major and I have a similar issue. I hear about public school, about the administration and the salary and I want to run in the opposite direction. I’m thinking more about a center or separate organization. But it was great to hear some of the positives to public school. Maybe I wont scratch it off my list just yet!
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I agree with all your reasons, but having worked many years in the schools before leaving for my private practice, I would add the joy and benefits of collaborating with professionals in other disciplines such as OT, PT, Psychologist etc. I miss those connections now:)
Wow you get a lot of comments! I am jealous.
This was a great post. I have to say my biggest reason is #5- the creative nature of working in schools.
Like you and some of the other commenters, I had not intention of becoming a public school SLP. I did my pub school placement just because I thought I should, and I am sure I had a bit of a dismissive attitude about it when my supervisor tried to convince me that schools are the place to be (this has come back to me with my own interns as it has to you).
My white-lab-coat thinking got a turnaround when I actually worked in acute rehab during a plavement and CFY. It ended up being a CFY-bye-bye as soon as I was done for all the reasons others have stated above…
Thanks so much for checking out my blog! The sticky note scheduling idea may very well have originated from you. I heard it from one of my colleagues at the school district and it completely changed my life last year! Thank you so much!
#11 Parents absolutely LOVE and CHERISH good people who help their special needs kids.
Summer Vacation! That’s one of the reasons I’m applying to work for a school district. When I was in grad school learning O and M I also decided I didn’t want to work in schools. I had my heart set on the VA, which pays the best and has the leading edge technology. But after my internship at our local school district, I realized that working with kids is a blast. And you get summers off.
Nice and valuable blog, Really a good information.
My mom is a speech language pathologist at a special education preschool. These kids are 2-5 years old and have everything from Autism to Downs to CP. Its a hard job with a pretty low salary but she loves it because she knows that she is making a difference in these kids lives by helping them communicate. The only down side is that there is no summer vacation because it is a year round program but there are more upsides than downsides.
You are truly one of those people who are heaven-sent … you do so much good for your students … your impact will be far-reaching.
Just found your blog. Loved reading your reasons for being a school SLP! I’m starting my CFY in a school in September and I can’t wait. I loved my student teaching experience. So refreshing to hear someone talk about school SLPs in a way thats not just “settling”.
Hi! I am entering grad school for SLP in the fall in the Northwest, and I found your blog while doing research on different areas I may want to work. It does seem like a lot of students I run into want to work in a medical setting, but I haven’t decided yet. Thanks for you input! I’ll be following your blog.
Hi! Thank you for this post. I am researching becoming a SLP and every insight helps. I am leaning towards grade school 🙂 Do you also have a post (or can you write a post) about the worst things about your jobs and the types of peoples / personalities that would hate SLP? I want to have a very realistic view going in.
I’m glad I stumbled upon this post. Even though it’s the first few weeks of a new school year, sometimes the school setting is so over-whelming. This was a nice reminder of why I am really here. It WILL all calm down soon, I WILL see progress in my students, and I do enjoy seeing the impact/benefit speech services can have for my students and their families.
I also have a grad student this fall. I will probably have her read this post before making up her mind as to what setting she prefers.
I am so glad I googled best places to work as an SLP and came across this site!! I am an SLP with 14 years behind me now and have worked in public schools, nursing homes, outpatient clinics and now doing contract work in the schools…..I am applying to my local school district for the fall because after all these years, I have realized myself working for the public schools is an awesome choice for an SLP!! I used to be turned off by the lower salary too but after running crazy in nursing homes for 5 years, having uncertain income from outpatient clinics and feeling like an “outsider” as a contract speech SLP and low job security, I have come to see for myself that being a public school SLP has incredible advantages mentioned above in the other comments (decent salary, good job security, seeing your students grow, collaborating with professionals, tons of days off to spend with your family and getting paid while you have your summers off!!!) I am surprised myself I am going to come back to public schools after 14 years! Having all kinds of options as an SLP is fun but can be confusing to figure out all the pros and cons of different settings….
I would love to hear more about #1 “cute aprons.” I searched your blog and Facebook, but I didn’t find further mention of aprons other than your Mother’s Day post. I have a small apron collection but hadn’t really made an association between aprons and working as a school SLP.
This is what I wear every single day at school! I feel naked without it: https://www.etsy.com/listing/79521695/super-hero-zipperkey-clasp-vendor-apron?ref=shop_home_active_1&ga_search_query=super%2Bhero
I have always wanted to be a SLP and I started on the road to education first because teaching was my calling. I have been in the school system as a teacher for about 4 years now, and as a professional since 2008. I love teaching, but since the gradual shift in education, all I do is test. I love my subject and helping my students understand English and Language Arts. I especially love teaching them to write; yet, I have decided it is time for me to move on and the natural path is SLP. I remember during my student teaching for my Masters in Education, I observed a SLP and I was so moved by her work. I loved the one-on-one and the rapport she was able to build with her students. She was actually teaching them something. This is how I used to feel. Now all I do is test and I have decided that I can no longer perpetuate a system that I don’t believe in. I have looked at a couple universities and I am still teetering on the edge because I am afraid that SLPs in schools are under the same testing regulations as teachers. I test my kids every two weeks. Here is an example of the severity of this epidemic–my students have 15 tests from 12/1-12-18 (from 4 academic courses). Do you have more freedom than teachers or are you like us?
I feel that we have a lot more freedom. I develop my own schedule and materials! But I know that varies from district to district.
I have a degree in psychology, and was all prepared to go graduate school for School Counseling. But the job market for school counselors is so bad that I’m trying to explore other fields. I hear a lot of good things about SLP in schools. I just love psychology so much, and wonder if there is much overlap for the two fields of discipline. Help!
There is definitely overlap, but I’m not really sure how much since I never studied psychology. In my district the school psychs do cognitive evaluations only (nothing else) so that probably isn’t what you’d want to do either!
Nice post. Working with kids is always fun. Speech therapy jobs in school are the best kind of job. 🙂
Thank you so much for this post. I was definitely carrying around that “settling” mentality about school-based jobs but now I am actually really excited about the idea of working in a school when I finish grad school.
School based jobs are NOT settling. I initially did not want to work in the schools, but now after working in private practice, hospitals, and other settings, I wouldn’t trade my location for anything!!
My best friend told me recently that she’s interested in going back to school to become a speech pathologist. Before reading this, I didn’t know that in this career you can work with all different kinds of kids that have things like autism and hearing disorders. It seems like correct speech is necessary for many times in a person’s life, so I’m sure that this career would be really rewarding for her. I’ll be sure to remember this if she actually does go back to school!
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