The beautiful thing about becoming a speech-language pathologist is that you can take your career in so many different directions. Some SLPs choose to specialize in voice, a path our most recent guest on The Missing Link for SLPs podcast has taken. Kristie Knickerbocker, who initially hoped to turn singing into a career, is now a vocologist who helps others repair their voices.
Unfortunately, not all speech programs focus heavily on voice, nor do most SLPs start working in vocology right out of the gate. Even Kristie had to work her way up to what she’s doing now, treating voice patients in a private-practice setting.
If you’re a student or SLP hoping to work with voice patients one day, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success.
Research Grad Programs
For undergraduates interested in studying vocology, Kristie recommends paying attention to an institution’s research programs when applying for graduate school. If professors have dedicated their laboratories to studying voice, aspiring SLPs can count on learning more about vocology during their time in graduate school. Unfortunately, not every university offers a focus on this area.
To whatever extent is possible, undergraduates who want to study vocology should make sure the grad programs they’re applying to align with their goal. Whether they offer specific courses on the topic or have vocologists working and teaching there, gaining that knowledge and building those connections could be game-changing for an SLP’s career down the line.
Read as Much as You Can
Kristie is well known for writing blogs on her website (www.atempovoicecenter.com), something she initially began doing to teach herself more about vocology. Kristie used blogging to help herself break down the information in research papers, and she suggests anyone interested in specializing in voice find a way to stay up to date with research in the field.
Staying on top of research is especially important for those currently attending graduate programs that don’t place much emphasis on vocology. It’s also important for newer SLPs who are just starting to get hands-on experience in the field.
Attend Courses & Conferences
Beyond reading research, SLPs interested in voice can make an effort to attend events where they’ll learn more about the subject. Kristie attended a number of courses and conferences when she first began practicing, and they benefited her in multiple ways.
For one, SLPs can get more in-depth, hands-on experience taking courses specific to the vocology subjects they’re hoping to learn about. Professors may not spend much time on topics like videostroboscopy in the classroom, but a voice specialist teaching a course on that specific subject certainly will.
Of course, partaking in continuing-education courses and conferences can also help new SLPs build connections with voice specialists. This can prove a useful networking experience for finding mentors and opportunities in the field.