When discussing the career trajectory of speech-language pathologists, so many of us begin talking about graduate-level preparation. Whether its advice about applying to grad programs, discussing clinical fellowships, or something else entirely, the focus is typically on students who have already begun carving out a space for themselves in the SLP world. However, there are plenty of undergraduate students looking to prepare for careers in speech pathology, and there are ways they can push themselves ahead before even applying to grad programs.

Of course, those interested in speech pathology need an understanding of what to expect from grad programs and SLP careers. That’s why The Missing Link for SLPs podcast founder and host, Mattie Murrey, spoke with two undergraduate students from Texas Christian University during the most recent episode of the show. Jordyn Barber and Abbey Earl asked Mattie their biggest questions about the field. Not only did Mattie offer insight on what they can expect moving forward, but she offered advice on how to best prepare for their SLP careers. Read on to learn some of the takeaways, and then take a listen to the whole conversation.

Do Your Research!

Not every student knows what area of speech pathology they’d like to pursue as early as undergrad. However, if you do know what specialty you’re interested in, doing research on the subject can help you work toward that. Specifically, researching which graduate programs place an emphasis on your area of interest can ensure you’ll get a thorough education on the subject. You can also search for volunteer opportunities close to that area of interest, allowing yourself to gain experience prior to internships and clinical fellowships.

Even if you aren’t sure which area of speech pathology you’re interested in yet, doing research can also help you narrow your options. Even just listening to The Missing Link for SLPs podcast can shed light on the career paths available to future SLPs. You might hear about something that fits with your goals and dreams!

Get Whatever Experience You Can as Early as You Can

So many students don’t even consider getting in-depth experience in their field until they’re at the graduate level, but there are opportunities to learn about speech pathology earlier, assuming you know where to look. And showing initiative as early as your junior or senior year of undergrad can highlight your passion and drive heading into grad school — and in the working world as well.

For example, if you’re hoping to work in pediatric speech pathology, working at summer camps or seeking out volunteer opportunities working with kids can be a great way to boost your resume. If your university offers research opportunities, that can also add to your resume and portfolio before you even begin your graduate degree.

Start Networking

Although it may be harder to hone your skills as an SLP during undergrad, there are many chances to network with professionals in the field. If you’re currently in an SLP program, getting to know your professors and other students can help point you in the right direction. 

There are also plenty of Facebook groups and organizations worth looking into, many of which contain experienced SLPs who are more than willing to share their stories with those just entering the field. Building these relationships can lead to opportunities, resources, and perspective that even more experienced students don’t always have access too. In that way, networking is an invaluable asset in this field.

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