Do you want to know why I became a speech pathologist? Back in 1999, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Spanish and a minor in business. I interviewed through the business school for positions and I was able to find a job outside of Chicago working for Kraft Foods. I moved to the suburbs of Chicago and I ended up working there for more than four years. Although I had several promotions, my work at Kraft was ultimately unfulfilling.
Kraft Foods had a relationship with Junior Achievement, which is an organization that gets business professionals into the classroom. They teach kids once weekly over 6-8 weeks about business concepts. I was assigned a first grade classroom and I really liked being at a school and working with the kids. I wondered if teaching was something that I could do.
A speech pathologist what is that?
Then I read about the profession of speech pathologist in the newspaper. It sounded like a very interesting job. I remembered that my husband’s buddy’s ex-girlfriend (did you follow that?) who was a speech path back in college. I decided to investigate the profession through a series of job shadows.
Speech pathologists work with people who have communication disorders. Similar to how an occupational therapist works with people who have fine motor difficulties and a physical therapist works with people with gross motor deficits, speech-language pathologists work with people learning how to speak. Speech-language pathologists work with people who are infants through up until advanced aging.
ASHA Big 9
The nine major areas that speech pathologists target are:
- Speech sound articulation
- Dysphagia (swallowing disorders)
- Fluency also known as stuttering
- Language (receptive and expressive)
- Social communication
- Communication modalities
Speech therapy sounded like a way for me to make a difference in a tangible way. I mean, helping people communicate seemed like a great profession for me. I was also a language geek because I spoke fluent Spanish. Another aspect of speech pathology was I could have the flexibility of being able to choose your work setting. Speech-language pathologist can work in educational settings or hospital/clinical settings, depending on preference and needs. Over 50% of speech-language pathologists work in school-based settings under the umbrella of special education. However, other settings include Early Intervention, private practice, clinic-based, home health, rehab, acute care, teletherapy, and home-based setting just to name a few.
Career changing into speech therapy
Now, I didn’t have my undergraduate degree in speech-language pathology. I needed to take a year of “deficiency” undergraduate coursework at Northern Illinois University in 2003. Depending on the graduate program, deficiency coursework can be completed while enrolled in graduate school. The year of undergraduate courses was a way for me to find out if the profession was right for me. Before committing to an expensive masters program, I wanted to dip my toe in the water. That year was vital to figuring out if speech therapy was what I was looking for in a career.
The year at Northern Illinois University was awesome. So I applied to and was accepted at Northwestern University in Evanston in their masters program. I graduated in 2006 and haven’t looked back since!
So that’s my story! How did you hear about speech-language pathology as a profession?