Guide to Speech Therapy Volunteer Opportunities

The field of speech therapy has many possible work settings and job duties. If you’re interested in becoming a speech language pathologist (SLP), choosing where you want to practice can be a big decision. To narrow down your options, volunteering is a great way to gain experience and determine your preferred setting. Speech therapist volunteers contribute to the community and may gain connections with professionals. Find out more about what speech therapy volunteer opportunities are available and how to get involved.

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

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Why Become a Speech Therapy Volunteer?

Other than making a difference in the community, volunteering may also allow Master of Speech Pathology students to gain necessary clinical experience toward SLP certification. Whether you are in an undergraduate program or pursuing a master’s degree, if you want to become a certified SLP, you may benefit from firsthand experience in the field. 

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), individuals who wish to practice as an SLP are required to earn a master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders (CSD). Admission to speech pathology school may be competitive depending on the school you are applying to, and volunteering may give you an edge. 

Access to professionals in the field may open opportunities for letters or recommendation, which may be required for your admission into a speech pathology program, and firsthand experience may make your application standout. As a volunteer, you may also be able to form meaningful connections and open doors for future SLP career opportunities. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) occupational outlook handbook for speech language pathologists, licensure generally requires the completion of a master’s program, supervised clinical experience and passing a licensure exam. As SLPs are required to obtain supervised clinical experience in order to begin their practice in the United States, volunteering in the field may provide an introduction into possible supervised practice experiences.

Do You Need to be an ASHA-Certified SLP to Volunteer?

Who can become a speech therapy volunteer? For SLP students and professionals, there are plenty of opportunities for volunteering, and you do not need to be an ASHA-certified SLP to get involved. 

If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, check with your program or advisor on your campus. They may partner with organizations and foundations in your area to provide you with a connection to get started. Or, you may find it easier to reach out to volunteer coordinators or organizations directly. They can help you figure out any requirements, such as if a background check is required, and provide you with relevant information.

You may find that positions may not require ASHA certification, but there are some advantages to being certified. Since clinical experience is a requirement for certification, you may be qualified for more volunteer opportunities. Being a member and volunteering for ASHA may also provide additional benefits such as networking with fellow members, developing technical skills and additional opportunities for career advancement. 

Where Can You Volunteer as a Speech Pathologist?

There are a variety of settings SLPs may find volunteer work. Depending on where your interests lie, you may find professionals or communities that you form a connection with. Some examples of volunteer work settings for SLPs include:

  • Early intervention, preschool, and K-12 schools 
  • Colleges and universities
  • Hospitals
  • Residential and nonresidential healthcare facilities
  • Private practice
  • Corporate settings
  • Nonprofits
  • Local, state and federal government agencies

Requirements for each volunteer setting for SLPs may vary state-by-state so you will need to research your preferred setting to find out if certification, background checks or prerequisite coursework is required.

When choosing where to volunteer as an SLP, you may want to consider what areas of speech language pathology interest you, what demographics you would like to work with in the future as well as what may look good on a resume or letter of recommendation. 

Other considerations when looking for speech pathology volunteer opportunities are things like your work schedule, free time and how much of a commitment you want to make to volunteering. If you are balancing school and other commitments with volunteering, your schedule may be something you want to take into consideration. Also, even if a volunteer schedule fits your needs, consider any training or onboarding activities you will have to complete. 

Find Your Perfect SLP Work Setting Through Volunteer Work

With so many options for SLPs, it can be hard to decide where you want to work. Gaining experience in a variety of speech pathology work settings may set you up for your career after graduation. If you are an SLP student who is not sure if they want to practice in schools, hospitals or open a private practice, firsthand experience may lead you to your preferred path.

Much like how there are different settings for volunteering, there are a variety of settings to work as a volunteer, and you should consider where your comfort is when you choose where to both work and gain experience.

Speech pathologists work treating patients who have language and speech disorders and may work with, among others, the following:

  • People who have experienced stroke
  • Head trauma patients
  • Patients suffering from degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or ALS
  • Patients with cancers of the mouth or throat
  • Individuals with autism 
  • Individuals with Down syndrome 
  • Dementia patients

They can work in hospitals, schools and private practices, and there are pros and cons to all settings. Perhaps you don’t want to work with children, ruling out schools. Or maybe working with injured individuals isn’t where you want to spend most of your time. These are things you can learn and explore as you volunteer before committing to a full work schedule. 

What Volunteer Opportunities in Speech Language Pathology are Available?

SLP volunteers have many ways to get involved in different volunteer settings. Some opportunities may be available in-person locally or be offered online—and some SLP volunteer opportunities are available even abroad. If you are interested in getting involved, below are some common organizations and ideas for finding SLP volunteer options. 

Speech Therapy Organizations to Research

Speech Therapy Volunteer Programs Abroad

  • Therapy Abroad is a volunteer group travel program that provides opportunities for speech language pathology students. 
  • Smiles for Speech sends SLP teams to help train, collaborate with and support children living in disadvantaged communities. 
  • Yellow House is a community-based organisation in Western Kenya that supports local communities through education and clinical services. 
  • Trinh Foundation is a voluntary nonprofit organization that promotes speech therapy in Vietnam.
  • Projects Abroad this program compiles potential SLP volunteer ventures for you. Their site states that you can “intern” there, or go as a qualified SLP. 
  • Alliance for Smiles typically wants experienced speech pathologists with cleft palate experience.
  • Speech Therapy Cambodia both brings SLPs to help treat Cambodian patients and also helps educate and train Cambodian speech pathologists, meaning they need volunteers with a variety of experience levels. 
  • International Stuttering Association aims to help people overcome stuttering in the developing world. SLPs can volunteer with this organization to help fight this cause. 
  • Children’s Services International is a charitable organization associated with the Speech Pathology Group. They offer a number of SLP opportunities abroad including in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
  • The site Volunteer Forever can also help speech pathology students find places to volunteer with a number of organizations in other countries. 

Other Ways to Help

If in-person volunteering is not feasible, some organizations and settings may offer opportunities to volunteer through telepractice through webcam. ASHA offers online mentoring programs where professional SLPs can volunteer their time to mentor aspiring speech therapists. This allows people who cannot travel to volunteer training and educating other speech language pathologists. If you find a local or distant setting or practice you’d like to volunteer with, be sure to enquire about any opportunities they may have online. 

You can also participate in online forums and help advise other SLP students. There are active communities on a number of networks of blogs as well as social media. 

Things to Consider Before Volunteering as a Speech Pathologist

Below are some suggestions, as provided by the NSSLHA blog

1. Pay

Volunteering is a great way to gain experience, but volunteer work is exactly that— voluntary and unpaid. For some students, an unpaid volunteer position is not feasible. If this is the case, consider a paid position in a similar setting to the volunteer opportunities so you may gain similar experience in that setting, even if it’s not in the SLP field. For example, if you are interested in working in schools or with children, gain experience by working in childcare or similar jobs. 

2. Schedule 

You should take into account the level of commitment needed for the volunteer position. If you have a heavy schedule and they need you four days a week, it may not be a great fit. You should also be cognizant of when volunteers are needed, such as a school only taking volunteers during their school year. 

3. Location

The location of the volunteer setting may be inconvenient. If you live on campus and the hospital you wish to volunteer with is across town, you’ll need to ensure you have reliable transportation. Or if the program is abroad, you will need to ensure you have all travel documents and secure airfare and lodging. Travel time for unpaid volunteer work may not be ideal, but with the advent of telepractice and online opportunities you may alleviate some of the inconvenience.

4. Requirements

You should reach out to your prospective volunteer organization to find out any requirements for volunteering. Certain settings may have requirements in order to volunteer such as fingerprint cards, student status or certification. 

Information last updated November 2020

Sponsored Online Speech Pathology Programs

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

Sponsored Program


NYU Campus

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

  • Live, online classes of no more than 15 students
  • Scholarships available
  • 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

Sponsored Program