What to Expect at Your First Speech Pathologist Job

You’ve done it. You completed speech pathology graduate school, clinical training and more — now you’re gearing up for your first speech pathology job. Whether you’re heading into your clinical fellowship or your first job as a licensed speech pathologist, there are some things you should prepare for in a speech pathologist job.

Sponsored Online Speech Pathology Programs

Sponsored Program

Earn your Online Master’s in Speech Pathology from Emerson College

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • No GRE Required for all 2021 Cohorts
  • 5-term and 9-term study options
  • Now accepting applications

NYU Campus

Sponsored Program

Earn Your Master’s in Communicative Sciences and Disorders Online at NYU Steinhardt

  • Live, online classes of no more than 15 students
  • Prepare for SLP licensure from anywhere in the country using a state-of-the-art online platform
  • Now accepting applications

Sponsored Program

Earn your Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders Online from Baylor University

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • Full-time and part-time options available
  • Same standards as the on-campus program, which has 50+ years educating SLPs
  • Now accepting applications

This page is only to be used as an informational guide. It is always best to contact the university or a licensed speech pathologist for academic and professional advice.

SLP Clinical Fellowship as Your First Speech Pathologist Job 

A clinical fellowship for speech language pathologists is required as part of the licensing criteria in all but eight states. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) requires speech language pathology clinical fellowships provide participants a minimum of 1,260 hours of experience where at least 80% of those hours are spent in ‘direct clinical contact.’ The fellowship should last at least 36 weeks full time (35 hours per week) or the part-time equivalent (at least five hours per week).

The clinical fellowship usually occurs at the end of speech pathology school. This part of the Master of Speech Pathology experience allows you to become a speech pathologist while working with a mentor. It creates a space where you can develop your skills so you no longer require supervision. During the fellowship, you will be able to use the knowledge and skills you learned during your academic studies in a working therapy practice while getting paid.

Selecting the best clinical fellowship for you is similar to finding your dream job. Clinical fellowships differ from place to place, and it is up to you to find the fellowship that best fits with what you need and meets your goals. Consider the following factors when deciding on a fellowship:

  • How much access will you have to your mentor, and how often are they available. 
  • Your mentor’s strengths and weaknesses. 
  • The salary you will receive during your fellowship.
  • Whether the fellowship meets the requirements for state licensure or CCC-SLP certification.
  • What your role as a fellow would entail and how you would fit into the practice’s operations.
  • Is there a possibility you could become permanently employed by the practice once you have completed your fellowship? 
  • Whether the practice is focused on the specialty you are considering (if any).
  • The clients you will be working with. While the minimum requirement for the fellowship is 1,260 hours, consider that you will need enough time to see your client(s) through their therapy process, if possible. 

What You Need to Know Before Your First Day as a Speech Pathologist

During your first speech pathologist job, you will transition from being a student to a working professional. Several things should be taken into consideration before your first day at your new speech pathology career.

Dress code

Some workspaces could require business or business-casual attire, while others are more laid back. Find out about the dress code before your first day. This is especially important when you will be working with children. 

Codes of Ethics and laws

As a speech pathologist, you will be working with clients or patients, and often these clients will be children, people with disabilities, or older adults. You will be required to follow all relevant state and federal laws and professional codes of ethics. Following the ASHA Code of Ethics will help you to conduct yourself ethically and professionally in a treatment setting.

How to Get the Most Out of Your First Speech Pathology Job

Below are some aspects of the job, as seen across SLP blogs, that SLPs learned during the beginning of the career.

Treatment

Your learning really starts when you enter your first job. You have gained all the academic knowledge and experience that your studies and clinical fellowship could provide. Now it is time to step out of your comfort zone and soak up as much as possible.

During your first job, you can develop your clinical skills and techniques by working with your clients and observing more experienced professionals.

Beware of burning out 

The potential to burn out will follow you throughout your career. You are likely to have a high caseload and be required to work shifts that include weekends and holidays. By incorporating self-care and creating healthy coping strategies, you will be able to make the most of your downtime and thus provide your clients with the best possible care. 

Ask for help if you need it 

In your work environment, you will likely be surrounded by more experienced professionals. These individuals have been where you are and could offer valuable insights on how to do things more efficiently and effectively.

Ask questions

The more information you have, the better you will be at helping your clients. You will be working with people from different demographics, and the more you understand about them, the more you will be able to tailor your methodologies to them. Consider speaking to a child’s parents and asking the child to find out what works for them.

Asking colleagues questions could help you become better equipped to handle certain situations. Speaking to teachers and other caregivers who spend a lot of time with the child can assist in your treatment plan. 

What Do Speech Pathologists Learn On Their First Job? 

Below are some aspects of the job, as seen across SLP blogs, that SLPs learned during the beginning of the career.

Working as a part of a team

Unless you go into private practice straight away, you will be joining a team of professionals. This will give you the opportunity to learn from other members of the team and share information and ideas. 

Parents and teachers spend a lot of time with the child you are treating. They are valuable sources of information and often pick up things you cannot see or access during your sessions.

Building a professional relationship with your client’s support structure can help a lot with their progress. Parents, teachers, and primary caregivers will be there to encourage and support your clients in the times when you cannot be there.

Developing as a clinician 

During your first job as a speech pathologist, you will be able to apply your academic knowledge in caring for your patients. 

Embracing the paperwork

A lot of time is spent doing paperwork and compiling and tracking data. While some places will have set requirements and guidelines on how paperwork needs to be completed, others could leave this up to you. Being organized and consistent in keeping your paperwork up to date will help avoid it piling up.

You might be required to deal with Medicaid billing, completing progress reports on your clients, or working on therapy plans. Document everything. This allows you to go back and look over your documents. It also makes it easier if you need to hand your client over to someone else.

Be flexible

Things will not always go according to your plans. Your clients will not always fit into textbook descriptions, and that is when you need to become flexible and creative in your treatment methods.

Speech language therapy takes time

Sometimes progress is slow, and at other times a client might backslide. 

You will become emotionally vested in your clients

Even while upholding professional boundaries, you will connect deeply with your clients. During their progress, you will have to deal with your emotions while also balancing your client’s emotions and those of their caregivers. 

Being emotionally vested in your clients is not a weakness—it is part of what makes you uniquely qualified to help them on their journey.

Learn tools that will help you deal with your own emotions. By doing this, you will be better able to keep your clients and their caregivers motivated. 

What Happens After Your First Speech Language Pathology Job? 

Your first job does not need to be your last place of employment. As you learn and grow and are exposed to different therapies and methods, you might want to shift your focus or specialize in a particular field. This is all part of personal and professional growth. 

The ASHA Code of Ethics provides some guidelines that need to be followed when you are considering a change in career or moving to another job. It is crucial that there is a continuation in treatment for your patients, and part of this includes proper hand-over practices and thorough record-keeping. By communicating with everyone involved, you can make the transition process easier for yourself and your clients. 

Information last updated September 2020

Sponsored Online Speech Pathology Programs

Sponsored Program

Earn your Online Master’s in Speech Pathology from Emerson College

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • No GRE Required for all 2021 Cohorts
  • 5-term and 9-term study options
  • Now accepting applications

NYU Campus

Sponsored Program

Earn Your Master’s in Communicative Sciences and Disorders Online at NYU Steinhardt

  • Live, online classes of no more than 15 students
  • Prepare for SLP licensure from anywhere in the country using a state-of-the-art online platform
  • Now accepting applications

Sponsored Program

Earn your Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders Online from Baylor University

  • Complete degree in as few as 20 months
  • Full-time and part-time options available
  • Same standards as the on-campus program, which has 50+ years educating SLPs
  • Now accepting applications