If you’re considering a career as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), understanding your educational and professional options is key to selecting a training path that matches your goals. This guide will highlight the different real-world training environments available to SLP students and recent program graduates.
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Less formal than an externship
At various points during your graduate SLP program, you may be required to complete an externship as part of the degree plan. Externships are typically :
Prearranged between the academic program and the externship site
A way for students to gain and demonstrate knowledge and skills learned during the academic program
Shorter than internships, lasting a few days or weeks
Both types of off-campus training are usually held at clinical sites.
Difference Between SLP Clinical Fellowship and Externship
After getting into speech pathology school, you may be required to complete an SLP externship as part of a clinical doctoral program. The academic program will have a formal agreement with the externship site that outlines expectations of the school, site supervisor and students. Part of the arrangement requires the site to confirm you are demonstrating required competencies set by the academic program. Most externships are unpaid, but some may be paid.
Clinical fellowships are reserved for individuals who have already graduated from an SLP program. These opportunities may take the form of a paid employment position.
Each educational opportunity allows the individual to take what they’ve learned and apply it to a real-life setting.
Finding and Matching with an SLP Internship
Locating an SLP internship that’s a good fit takes effort. A good place to start is the ASHA website and career portal. Click “Find a Job link,” then browse by experience level to view open internships across the country.
You can also ask your academic program clinic directors about internship opportunities. While discussing options, consider whether this person could serve as a mentor. They might be willing to do more than make a referral for an internship. A mentor can provide you with additional suggestions based on their experience in the field.
Speech Pathology Graduate Internship Checklist
Assess your readiness for your speech pathology graduate internship with this handy checklist. Before your first day, be sure you:
Read the internship policy manual, ideally before your first day. Knowing the site’s expectations can reduce awkward interactions and demonstrate that you appreciate the opportunity to complete the internship at their location.
Confirm the work attire. Inappropriate clothing can give the impression that you don’t respect the site or clients. First impressions are hard to erase and can color the rest of your time at the internship.
Prepare your support materials. One key to staying organized is having the right tools. Materials might include note pages, language guides, calendar or planner pages, SLP reference handouts, etc. Bring a binder on your first day so you can add to it and take notes.
Guidelines for a Rewarding Speech Pathologist Internship
Below are some common suggestions for how to get the most out of your speech pathology internship:
Put a name to each face. While it might be overwhelming to learn each person’s name on your caseload, taking the time is worth the effort. Set a goal to learn the names and faces of your clients within a set time. If the site has pictures in its database, you might start by reviewing files and learning five unfamiliar names, faces and client goals a day.
Give more than the minimum. Show your commitment to the field by going above and beyond the minimum requirements for the internship. Express your desire to help in other areas. The exposure will increase your professional knowledge, and you may also learn more about yourself.
Accept constructive criticism. It’s challenging to grow and mature in the field without receiving constructive criticism. Student clinicians are supervised by seasoned professionals whose role requires them to provide feedback. Dismissing negative, but valid criticism slams the door on learning. Whether you agree with the comments or not, always ask questions to make sure you understand the feedback. Even more important, follow through on any improvement plans created because of the evaluation.
Voice your goals. This isn’t the time to be shy about your career aspirations. Communicate what you’d like to learn. Your clinician probably won’t be able to make any promises, but they can stay alert to training opportunities that align with your goals.
9 Things To Do During Your SLP Internship
During a speech pathology internship, you may encounter a lot of firsts. Here are some common tips that can help you prepare to meet some of those challenges head-on.
1. Be aware of how you’ll communicate
Know when you’re going to meet with your clinician. Will it be once a week? At the start of the day? Can you text your clinician off-hours? Learn all this so you can keep lines of communication open.
2. Be clear about your role in meetings
If you have not been given any duties in an individualized education program (IEP) meeting, it may be wise to observe and take notes.
3. Be familiar with the layout
You’ll be learning a lot, but make sure you know where classrooms and therapy materials are located. You might want to keep a map of the location until you feel more comfortable.
4. Be humble
You may fail at some things. You may also face criticism from your clinician. Know that this is how you learn, so try to take this feedback well.
5. Be mindful of your time
After all, it’s your supervisor’s time, too. Aim not to be late, even a few minutes. This may demonstrate a lack of preparation or difficulty with scheduling. You don’t want to sow doubts about your abilities.
6. Be open about your goals
Make sure you communicate with your clinician about specific aspects and caseload expectations you’d like to experience. It might not happen, but you might get special opportunities.
7. Be prepared and be flexible
Your supervisor is watching to see how you will plan therapy. Be ready to implement a plan, but know that you may need to adjust it.
8. Be respectful of your master clinician
Show respect and listen. Your clinician is a professional who has been in the field and has a lot of experience and knowledge to share with speech pathology students. Don’t miss this enriching opportunity.
9. Be thankful for this opportunity
Supervisors don’t usually get paid extra for helping you out, but internships are invaluable to students. Don’t spend your time complaining and critiquing the process.
Tips for Supervising Speech Pathology Graduate Interns
If you find yourself fortunate enough to supervise speech pathology school students, apply these tips to help your graduate intern thrive.
Set expectations early. When your student knows what’s expected of them at the internship site, they can succeed. If they have to guess about the dress code, session procedures or clock in/out policies, disagreements and ill-feelings are likely to develop. Students who feel they can meet established expectations may perform better and share their positive experiences with others.
Encourage critical thinking. Students will need these skills to effectively problem-solve for their clients. Figuring out how to select appropriate therapy materials, design effective treatment plans and interpret evaluation results requires critical thinking. If you provide answers to student questions before encouraging them to think through their options, they may have a tough time working as a professional SLP. Respond to their questions with a question. Encourage competency by guiding them on the path to the correct answer instead of merely responding.
Stick to a routine. Schedule your time in blocks to ensure you have time to give direct feedback to your students. If you commit to the same time each week, you can avoid unnecessary stress for you and your student. It keeps both you and your student accountable. Try not to reschedule booked time for anything other than an actual emergency.
Resources for Finding Speech Pathology Internships
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Career Portal
This national professional, scientific, and credentialing association boasts 211,000 members and affiliates representing audiologists, speech-language pathologists, students and more. The ASHA career portal provides links to help you find externship opportunities and employment in the industry.
ASHA has additional resources for individuals seeking fellowships, internships and jobs in the field. Some include:
The Ridge Zeller Therapy blog welcomes SLP interns and features helpful articles for parents, caregivers, and those interested in the field or already pursuing training. They also offer clinical fellowships, internships, externships and job shadowing opportunities. Recent blog posts include:
SLP Now is run by a school-based SLP who offers tips and tricks she’s learned. Content focuses on caseload management, speech room organization and therapy planning. She also runs a podcast where she interviews other SLP professionals about their experiences and industry trends. Recent posts and podcasts include: