Before Nicole Spruill opened her own practice as a speech and voice coach, she often saw patients with voice injuries in the North Carolina hospital where she worked as a speech language pathologist (SLP). She taught pastors, teachers, cheerleaders and singers to heal vocal nodules and properly use their voices without causing more harm.
“Most of it was just an abuse of the voice,” she said.
Spruill is among the speech pathologists applying their knowledge outside clinical and classroom environments. While most speech language pathologists work in schools or health care facilities, there are other therapy settings that benefit from an SLP’s expertise.
“I can listen to people on the news or even people on the radio or analysts, and I can hear that they’re just misusing their voice. And I can automatically tell where that tension is,” Spruill said. “We are trained to know what it looks like and what it should sound like.”
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The median SLP pay by industry, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is: nursing and residential care facilities- $94,680; therapists’ and audiologists’ offices- $84,390; hospitals- $83,970; schools- $68,270.
5 Alternative Career Options for Speech Language Pathologists
Additional education after speech pathology school is not always necessary for SLPs to make a career change, but it can be helpful to take coursework in specific concentrations of speech language pathology to further professional development.
Voice and speech coaches can train actors, executives and others to reduce their accents, adapt new dialects, and heal and prevent voice injuries by using their voices properly. Although no additional education is required to become a voice coach, Spruill suggests taking continuing education courses in voice and speech. Certifications like the Compton PESL (Pronouncing English as a Second Language) can also help coaches specializing in accent modification.
SLPs have a strong understanding of mechanisms of the voice and an edge in working with injured voices, Spruill said.
“A lot of people get vocal nodules because they are misusing their voices. But why are you misusing your voice? What muscles are you using?” Spruill said. “We can hear it immediately. Especially those of us who are trained in voice know exactly where that breakdown is.”
In addition to speech and voice courses, taking business classes can also help SLPs prepare to work in a corporate setting.
Traveling SLPs take on temporary assignments in a range of clinical settings domestically and abroad. Traveling positions typically require at least two years of experience working in a permanent clinical setting. Traveling SLPs can work with therapy or medical staffing agencies to secure contracts at hospitals, schools and other facilities that need to fill SLP positions quickly.
“Be positive, be flexible, and be prepared to hit the ground running and go to work in any situation,” said Kuhn. “Be open to new possibilities. Travelers go where therapists are needed. If you are really stuck on going to one location or working in one specific setting, it may never happen.”
Researcher or professor
SLPs in academia can teach other prospective speech pathologists and conduct research in the field of speech language pathology.
Unlike other SLP careers, obtaining an academic position typically requires a PhD. There’s a need for more PhD-prepared SLPs to fill faculty and scientist positions, according to ASHA.