An article by EducationWeek in 2012 reported that between 40% and 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years. The 2020 pandemic revealed how shifting demands, increased hours, and high levels of stress lead to burnout for teachers. So it makes sense that as a teacher, you’ll be considering an alternate career in speech pathology. However, you might be confused about the steps you need to take to make a successful career transition.
This article outlines and discusses actionable steps you can take to make a successful transition from teaching to a Speech Pathologist.
Let’s get to it!
Step 1. Research and Validate You Want A Career In Speech Pathology.
Suppose you’re considering a career change from teaching. In that case, speech pathology is an excellent option to transition to, mainly because both are equally rewarding and fulfilling careers, and teachers and speech pathologists already share so many common characteristics and traits, making the transition easy and attainable.
But before taking the plunge and following through on this massive decision, it’s important to understand what Speech Pathologists actually do and what a day in their working life looks like. It will also be good to understand where the areas of opportunities are.
What do Speech Pathologists Do?
Speech Pathologists are health professionals that work with adults and children of all ages in order to treat many types of communication and swallowing problems. They are interchangeably called Speech-language Pathologists (SLPs) or speech therapists.
They work to not only treat but also prevent, assess and diagnose speech, language, communication, and swallowing disorders in adults and children. They can be found mostly in clinics, schools, rehabilitation centers, and hospitals.
The disorders treated by speech pathologists mainly include difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, and social skills. Their patients may have these difficulties due to a range of disorders, including developmental delays, strokes, brain injuries, dementia, hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and a lot of other learning and intellectual disabilities.
This means the responsibilities of an SLP may include;
- Teaching people to speak clearly and form sounds easily
- Teaching people to string words together into a sentence
- Providing aural rehabilitation for patients with hearing loss
- Designing exercises to help strengthen speaking and swallowing muscles
- Providing alternative communication systems for patients with severe language disorders
Typically a speech-language pathologist evaluates a person’s communication or swallowing abilities, identifies and diagnoses the underlying cause, designs a personalized treatment plan, provides therapy, and maintains records to track their patient’s progress.
Is Speech Pathology A Respected Career?
The simple answer is yes! Speech pathologists constantly work tirelessly to make sure that children and adults dealing with a variety of speech, language, communication, or swallowing disorders are able to reach their fullest potential and eventually begin to communicate with a sense of confidence and ease.
They work to improve the well-being of others, and this generally gathers them a lot of respect and goodwill on the patient front.
Speech pathologists also undergo a lot of education, examinations, and clinical work hours before they can begin practicing. They train extensively for their positions and do a job that not just anybody can do. This also earns them respect on the professional front.
Are There Different Areas of Speech Pathology?
When it comes to speech pathology, the career opportunities are almost endless. As a speech pathologist, first and foremost, you can choose what setting you would like to work in.
Teachers are mostly confined to educational institutions, but speech pathologists can choose to work in universities, high schools, pre-schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, private practices, or even provide home healthcare.
But the career opportunities for speech pathologists aren’t based on work settings alone. Speech Pathologists also have so many areas in their field they can choose to specialize in.
Speech pathologists can choose to specialize in treating motor speech skills, hearing problems, feeding problems, emotional expressions, swallowing problems, fluency disorders, or even developmental and cognitive issues.
If you find that speech pathology is not a great fit after conducting your research, you could also consider the accounting career path.
Step 2. Network with Speech Pathologist with a Teaching Background
Before taking a big step and enrolling yourself in any speech pathology course, it’s important to network with speech pathologists that share a similar background to yours.
The good news is that there is hardly a lack of speech pathologists with teaching backgrounds. A lot of teachers make second career moves to speech therapy, so you will not be alone.
The goal of networking with these professionals is to gain detailed insight into the challenges you are expected to face when making this career transition. Professionals with a similar background to yours have already experienced these challenges and will be able to outline them for you.
They can share insight on the best programs to enroll in, how to navigate coursework and clinical placements, they can share thesis ideas, and can even alert you of any mistakes to avoid when preparing for your exams.
A good rule of thumb before meeting with any professionals is to have already drafted a list of possible questions to ask them. You can try asking what they love about being speech pathologists or even what they hate.
Working hours, work-life balance, compensation, and caseload are some other great questions to ask. Their insight will help you paint a clearer picture of how receptive the speech pathology field is to former teachers and will also alert you of all the good and bad things to expect with this career change.
Finding speech pathologists with backgrounds similar to yours may sound daunting, but a good place to start is on internet forums. Sites like Facebook groups and Sub-Reddits, are filled with professionals willing to answer any questions you may have.
If you’d feel more comfortable discussing with people face to face, you can try using your network of teaching colleagues and friends to find and network with former teachers who successfully transitioned into speech pathology careers.
Step 3. Get Training And Speech Pathology Qualifications
The next step on this career roadmap is building on the foundational knowledge that you’ll need to become a certified speech pathologist. This involves earning the basic degrees and qualifications that are needed to practice legally.
The basic educational requirements for a speech pathology career include earning an SLP (Speech-language pathology) degree, completing clinical placements, earning an active teacher certification, and sitting for a national licensure examination.
As a teacher, you already have an active teacher certification and have earned a bachelors needed as a prerequisite to enroll in an SLP master program.
As someone coming from a previous career, the most common way to earn a speech pathology degree is by pursuing a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. There are many SLP programs designed to cater to working adults, which means your role is to find one that suits you best.
Would you prefer an online master or would you be more comfortable attending on-campus classes? The choice is yours.
Some colleges that offer great online speech pathology programs include New York University and Baylor University. But once again, the choice is yours. Depending on whether you’ve agreed on an online program or on-campus program, your geographical location will matter.
Something to keep in mind when searching for Masters programs is the prerequisite requirements for entry needed by different programs. Does your bachelor’s in education satisfy the program’s prerequisite? You need to also make sure that the program you choose is properly accredited and will be legally recognized.
Additionally, in order to complete your master’s program, you will need to complete clinical placements. These placements will serve as an opportunity for you to put your theoretical knowledge to practice in a patient-facing setting.
Once you complete your degree, sitting for the national licensure exam is the next step. The Praxis Exam in Speech-Language Pathology is required by all states in order to become an SLP. The process varies depending on what country and state you live in, so make sure to look into the requirements for your area.
This is why networking with local professionals in the field is very handy; they will be able to better help you navigate through these certification and qualification processes easily.
Step 4. Acquire Speech Pathology Experience.
Alongside earning your qualifications and certifications, acquiring actual work experience in the field is a great way to prepare you for a career as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Besides, this is a standard requirement to become a Speech Pathologist.
Work experience is advantageous on two main fronts.
Firstly, acquiring work experience will show any schools you are applying to that you have taken time out of your schedule to learn about the realities of a career as a Speech-Language Pathologist and that after learning, you are still committed to pursuing a career.
Work experience will also prove useful when carrying out your mandated clinical placements. Some programs even require completion of at least 24 hours in a supervised clinical setting before starting clinical placements at a graduate level.
Lastly, work experience in the field will let you stand out among other candidates when applying for jobs in the healthcare industry.
Work experience will also help you gain some necessary soft skills you’ll need to excel in the profession. These include; analytical skills, communication skills, compassion, critical thinking skills, attention to detail, effective listening skills, and dedication.
The best way to acquire work experience is by volunteering to shadow one or more licensed Speech-Language Pathologists already working in the field and assist them with their daily tasks. This is another area where networking with Speech-Language Pathologists will prove very useful to you.
Decide on a setting you will be comfortable working in and ask your network if any of them are willing to have you. Remember, we said that Speech-Language Pathologists could be found in a number of settings ranging from hospitals, private and public healthcare facilities to pre-school and even colleges.
Another great thing is that your work experience will give you a more personal look into the day-to-day happenings of the field and may serve to harden your resolve.
Step 5. Update Your Professional Assets
Changing your line of work from teaching will require you to change and fine-tune the way you present yourself professionally. Your professional assets are your CV, Linkedin profile, and personal websites.
In your CV, highlight your skills and experience on your resume in a way that fits the requirements of a Speech-Language Pathologist. Include your acquired education and qualifications. Use a functional CV that lists your relevant skills and shifts the focus to what you can offer the company and what they stand to benefit from having you fill that position.
Your CV is an effective way to show employers how you will be a great asset for the position you’re applying for.
87% of recruiters use LinkedIn to fill job vacancies. This means it’s important to match the information on your CV to that on your LinkedIn profile. As someone moving into a new career, it’s also important to let recruiters know that you’re open to hiring and looking for new opportunities.
Optimize the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession. Also, optimize the summary section of your profile by highlighting your work experience, certifications, technical skills, and expertise.
A personal website is a little extra, but it is great for helping you stand out. It also presents you as an expert and authoritative candidate.
Bonus Tip: Take Action
Changing careers will always be a scary and daunting thing to follow through, but the good news is that it is very doable. You are not the first; many others have done it ahead of you. But you still have to do your own part to make this work for you.
Now that you’ve decided that a traditional teaching career is no longer for you and you’re interested in pursuing a Speech-Language Pathology career, it’s time to follow all the tips listed in this guide.
Be committed to making this career change actual reality. Motivate yourself and surround yourself with like-minded people who are ready to support you.
After using this guide to draft your action plan, the only thing that’s left for you to do is to get up and start doing it.
Need to do more research into the speech pathology field? Start now. Need to decide the best program for you? Run it by your network and make a decision already. Connect with professionals in the field and start acquiring all the work experience you’ll need as soon as possible.
Be patient with yourself and give yourself a timeframe for achieving this dream of yours.
Changing careers can be difficult, but with the right tools and attitude, you can make it happen! The six tips in this article are tested and proven when making the action plan that’ll you’ll need to make this career change a successful one for you.
Do some research into how a speech pathology career best fits your experience, skills, personal needs, and wants. Network with professionals who have a similar teaching background to you, and build on your foundational knowledge by acquiring more work experience, skills, technical degrees, and qualifications you’ll need for your new role.
Update your professional brand assets to align with the requirements for speech pathologists and market yourself as a perfect candidate for opportunities in your new career path.
Finally, take action and treat your career change as a job in itself. Make sure to invest your time, energy, and any other resources you require into turning this dream of yours into a whole reality.
Speech-Language Pathology is a great career choice for previous teachers. Equipping yourself with all the experience, skills, and qualifications that are needed to succeed will help you do things right and will make the transition much smoother for you.