Interview Tips


Photo by Javrsmith

This blog post will help you prepare for interviews and improve your chances of landing a great job. Please note, that while some of the advice offered here may seem obvious to you, it might not be obvious to everyone, and we would rather share things that sound basic rather than omit something that we assume you know.

These tips are provided for your consideration for both direct hire positions as well as contract assignments. Although a contract job is not a “commitment for life,” the employer conducting the phone or face to face interview will be looking for a strong indication that you are committed to the position you are being considered for and that you are truly interested in their district. Many interviews for contract jobs are done strictly by telephone, and as such are often perceived by the candidates as less important as an interview that takes place face to face. In fact, the opposite is actually true. A telephone interview may be your only chance to make your best impression. It is much more difficult to get the “real you” across by phone, so you need to make the most of every minute by preparing ahead of time.


Research the employer in advance. Learn specific details about the organization, the department, and specifics about the job so that you may be as informed as possible about them. Most of this information can be found on the organization’s website or by “Googling” them and reading articles you find online. If you are working with a recruiter they should be able to help you collect much of this information, but whatever else you can learn on your own will only serve to help you even more. For example:

  • Size – the number of clients served, and if it is a school based position, the number of schools, administrators or managers.
  • Recent awards and honors the company, district or organization has received.
  • Reputation – How is this employer or school district perceived in the city/town compared to others.
  • Administration – a visit to the school or company website will generally lead you to current news and information about the organization.
  • The makeup/census of the caseload – What are the economic, geographic, cultural and socioeconomic factors for the families that you will be serving. If the employer is a school district, is it growing or shrinking?
  • How big is the department? Number of therapists? Number of administrators?
  • Total number of clients/students served – Is the caseload growing or is there attrition?
  • If a school, how are the children served? Are the students served through a pullout model? Are therapy sessions done one on one or in groups?


  • Why is the job available?
  • Exactly where is the position located?
  • What will be the population and makeup of your particular caseload?
  • Is there a supervisor over your area or will you report directly to the Director or Assistant Director?
  • How many hours am I guaranteed (or can I expect) per week?
  • Is paperwork done by computer or manually, and will I be provided with all the tools I need to succeed?
  • Email address of the interviewer so you can send him/her a “thank you” note.

All of this will not only create a stronger image of you in the interview, but likewise will provide you with a better basis for evaluating the opportunity if an offer is made.


  • Schedule a time where you can give the interviewer your undivided attention.
  • Keep the interview “clinical” and focused on the job duties. Other, more general questions can be answered by your recruiter or through your research.
  • Don’t talk about money yet. If you are working with a recruiter, they will have that information for you. If you are interviewing on your own, get through the interview first and follow up with human resources for salary information.
  • Let the interviewer ask his or her questions first to ensure that the interviewer covers all that they want to learn about you. If there is time, feel free to ask job related questions.


  • Getting there: Have good directions and allow plenty of time to get there.
  • As a starting point, it is critical to understand that the impression you make in the first few minutes of the interview generally sets the tone for your success or failure for the entire interview.
  • Dress conservatively; avoid bright colors. Make sure hair is clean and neatly styled. Avoid perfume and cologne but make sure you wear deodorant to control perspiration and odor.
  • Be exceptionally courteous to everyone you meet.
  • Even if you’re having a bad day, put on a smile and show your enthusiasm for the job. Many hiring decisions involve more than one candidate. Personality and motivation are often tie-breakers.
  • If you want the job, ask for it. At the very end of the meeting say why you’re excited about working there and that you’d like to have the position.


Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.

Interview Questions for Pediatric SLPs on the Job Market


Photo by bpsusf

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  –Theodore Roosevelt

I’m moving out of state soon, and therefore recently engaged in the dreaded job search in a new city.  Because I’m an over-planner, I had a fourteen  interviews (yikes!) before I finally found my dream job.  I was recently telling my graduate student intern about the interview experience, and it occurred to me that maybe other grad students and job-seeking SLPs might be interested in the types of questions typically asked during job interviews.  I actually wrote down the questions I could remember just after each interview, so I could share them with my intern.  (Yup, I’m nerdy in so many ways, even job interviewing!)

So, here are the questions I could remember from all my interviews, combined.   Of course, I’m a pediatric SLP, so most of these questions apply to interviews with pediatric providers, but they might help you prepare in general for other interviews, as well.

Organizational Skills

1.  How do you keep up with due dates and important to-do items?

2.  How do you organize therapy data and session notes?

3.  How do you stay organized?

4.  How do you keep data during a therapy session with a busy client?


1.  What’s your philosophy for serving preschool students for speech/language?

2.  What model do you currently use to serve students?  (pull out, push in, inclusion, collaborative, coteaching, coaching, consultation?)

3.  What model do you use to serve students with autism?

4.  What program/model do you use to serve students with articulation/phonology disorders?

5.  How would you approach serving children with multiple special needs in a self-contained classroom setting?

6.  Do you think you can make change in the learning trajectory for a child even without parent involvement?

7.  What are the most important things you think teachers and parents need to know about language to make a difference for children?

8.  What do you think causes the achievement gap for minority students we serve?


1.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.

2.  Tell me about your current work setting.

3.  What social skills resources do you use for children with autism spectrum disorders?

4.   Tell me about the most difficult client you’ve ever had and how you worked through it.

5.  Tell me about the hardest therapy session you’ve ever had and how you made it work.

6.   What experience do you have with children with  __(whatever disorder the site specializes in serving)__?

7.   What AAC/Assistive Technology experience do you have?

8.  How do you involve parents and teachers in treatment?

9.  How would you deal with a parent who questions your therapy practices?

Personal Qualities

1.  What are your strengths?

2.  What are your weaknesses, and how do you overcome them?

3.  What prompted you to want a career in speech language pathology?

4.  Who are your mentors, and how have they guided you in your career path?

Goals/Job Outcome

1.  What are you looking for in a job?

2.  Describe your perfect/dream job.

3.  What’s most important to you in your job hunt?

4.  What are your favorite settings/special populations to work with?

5.  What age group do you most enjoy working with?

6.  Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Knowledge Base

1.  What continuing education courses have you taken in the past 2 years?

2.  Are you certified in any therapy program such as Hanen, Floortime, ABA, Lindamood Bell, etc?

3.  Do you regularly attend ASHA, and which courses do you typically go to?

4.  Tell me what you think the current events/issues are in speech-language pathology.

5.  How do you usually come up with goals/objectives for clients?

6.  Describe the steps you’d take to conduct an evaluation (both quantitative and qualitative).

7.  What do you see as your role in the Response to Intervention (RTI) process in a school system?

8.  How would you keep your caseload manageable?

9.  What do you see as your role in regard to reading/writing skills for elementary school students?

10.  What strategies/materials/activities do you use regularly for children with _______?  (autism, social skills deficits, Down Syndrome, apraxia, feeding disorders, etc.)

11.  Describe a typical activity you would use to address receptive and expressive language goals for a group of children.

12.  How do you typically coach a teacher or caregiver to help facilitate positive change in their teaching behavior?

Your Turn!

Also, I think it’s smart to have a list of a few questions you are going to ask your interviewers, so you don’t feel put on the spot when they ask you whether you have any questions.  Some basic ideas are:

1.  What’s the typical caseload?

2.  What are the typical hours?

3.  What paperwork/documentation am I expected to complete on a regular basis?

4.  What types of support for continuing education do you offer?

5.  What technology resources are available to me here?  (ex:  laptop, AAC devices, iTouch, iPad, etc.)

I think that preparing my responses to possible questions ahead of time, and actually saying them out loud to myself or someone else, really helps me reduce my stress level during actual interviews.   I hope this is helpful to other new or job-hunting SLPs, as well!

 Are there any questions I’ve left out?  Please leave a comment if you think of any others!

T.J. Ragan, MA, CCC – SLP
, is a speech language pathologist, wife, and mother who lives with her husband, their four year old daughter, and their two dachshunds in Durham, NC.  She works for Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools and The Cheshire Center and writes a blog about happiness.

Resume Preparation Tips


Photo by bpsusf

(This blog article has been adapted for ASHASphere from the “PediaStaff New Graduate Guide.”  Click here to download the entire guidebook.)

A resume is a “living” document that will grow with each new job and professional experience. That said, it should concisely and effectively describe and sell your most relevant credentials. An employer will spend very little time reviewing your resume, so it must be clear and targeted for the type of job you are applying for. You may have more than one resume with different objectives. Don’t be afraid to “toot your own horn” because if you don’t, nobody will!  Beware of typos and grammar errors as these will leap right off the page.  Remember, this may be the only time you get to make an impression on an employer!

Before Writing the Resume:

  • Compile your educational experience. This will include all degrees you have completed or are in the process of completing, as well as relevant courses and seminars.
  • Catalog all your work experience such as your clinicals, therapy-related jobs, and positions working with children (special needs as well as typical). Also include jobs which demonstrate your leadership and interpersonal skills whether they are speech related or not.
  • Make a list of your honors, scholarships, academic and community achievements.
  • Put together names of all of the professional and community organizations to which you belong.
  • Choose three references who will speak highly of you (check with them first). Get their full names, titles, phone numbers, and email addresses. Also ask them how they prefer to be contacted.
  • Create a record of publications and papers you have written and presentations you have given.

Writing the Resume

  • At the top of the resume put your name, address, phone number(s) and email address. Only include references to blogs or social networking sites if they are exclusively used for work. We also recommend that you open a free account just for your job search. Gmail or Yahoo are great for this.  Also, make sure the voicemail message on the phone number you have listed is clear, professional, and states your name.
  • Declare your objective, the type of job you are looking for, and the population you wish to serve. This should be short and general. Do not close the door on any type of job you might have an interest in. Create a second resume if you find that your possible career objectives don’t work well in one document.
  • Create your educational information section. Working with most recent first, list the schools, city, state, year of graduation and the degree earned (or expect to earn).
  • Write your experience/work history. List this experience in reverse chronological order. Include title of job and use descriptive action words to describe your duties and responsibilities. Examples are “achieved,” “communicated,” “recommended,” “provided,” etc. Avoid passive verbs like “have written” or “was selected.”
  • Add a section for publications or papers you have presented, if relevant.
  • Create a section for any honors you have achieved. These honors should include academic, civic, and any other awards you may have received in the community.

After Writing the Resume

  • Show the completed document to a trusted friend, professor, or peer who can proofread it, look for things you may have missed, and help you with any areas of confusion.

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.

The End is the Beginning

Graduation caps tossed in the air

Photo by Shiladsen

The end is the beginning.

Today is commencement. Our latest crop of graduate students will parade across the stage, after many photos filled with laughter and a few tears, and after a grueling gauntlet lasting two years or more.  I remember, quite sharply, how it felt to graduate with my master’s degree in communication disorders; as a member of the faculty, I now get to relive those feelings every May.  Some people hate to go to graduation, but not me.  I enjoy the yearly ritual, the pomp and circumstance, the excitement of the graduates.  This year is also a personal transition for me.  I have defended and deposited my dissertation at last, and will be attending commencement in my doctoral tam and hood for the first time.

The class of 2011 holds a special place in my heart, because the majority of them started their graduate studies at the same time that I started my position at Mercy.  I was a doctoral student at the time, and I was hoping the juggling act of professor/student/person with a private life was possible.  There was so much to learn!  Some of it was mundane, such as where the clinical supervision forms were kept, and some of it was fraught with meaning.  How many tests to give?  How many lab assignments?  What was the best way to measure true learning?  I can almost always find the clinical supervision forms these days, but the deeper pedagogical issues are continuously under revision.  By entering the academy, I am truly learning every day.

We call it graduation and we call it commencement and, of course, both are true at once.  My students are suddenly my newest colleagues, as they march off to varied and interesting Clinical Fellowships.  They are headed to California, and Arkansas, and right up the street, to work in schools, hospitals, home care and rehab. They leave having completed small-group original research projects, something I did not get to do until I was a doctoral student.  The adventure is just beginning for them.  I’m a little jealous.

I look at next week’s calendar.  We have orientation for the new graduate students.  I will meet most of them for the first time that day.  Some will have eyes as wide as saucers, still pinching themselves that they have finally made it to graduate school.  Some will look frozen in terror.  Some will have a veneer of confidence, although it might not take much to shatter it.  All will be eager to start on this path, the long, winding path to graduation.


Shari Salzhauer Berkowitz, PhD, CCC-SLP is an assistant professor at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY.  She teaches courses in speech science, voice disorders, behavioral feeding disorders and research design.  Her research interests include cross-language and bilingual speech perception, multi-modal speech perception and integrating technology and instrumentation into the communication disorders curriculum.  She has been a practicing SLP and feeding interventionist since 1998.

I Guess I’ll Need a Job

(This post originally appeared on the NSSLHA blog)

I’ve welcomed 2011 with open arms.  It seems, as a fourth year audiology student, that this year has been a distant mirage.  Here we are though — in just a few short months, many of us will be crossing stages, shaking hands, and even receiving hoods.   We’re prepared for the world ahead right?  Well, I guess our first stop is actually finding a job!

If you are anything like me, the thought of job searching seems daunting.  Where do you even start?  I’ve luckily had to go through the search for an externship that taught me some valuable lessons.  Others I have learned from those who have gone before me.  I’m going to share some of these with you in hopes that we will all enter our job search with a somewhat peaceful mind.

First, where do we even LOOK for jobs?  There are many websites, such as ASHA’s or AAA’S, that have sections dedicated to job postings.  Also, if you know of a particular state you are looking in, it may be wise to visit State Association websites.  You can also look in publications, like the ASHA Leader, where many employers advertise.  For audiology students, Audiology Online has a large job posting area.  Perhaps more importantly, ask your professors, friends, or former students.  Often word of mouth may be the ticket to your next job.  Just today, as I sat in a conference meeting, someone overheard me talking about my upcoming job search.  He was nice enough to lean over and tell me about a job opening he knew was about to be posted.  How do you narrow it down?  By this point, you hopefully have a good idea of what kind of job you want.  Take time to evaluate what you are seeking:  pediatrics? adults?  school setting?  hospital? cochlear implants?  autism?  Are you willing to go anywhere or are you looking in a particular geographical area?  These are all important things to think about — and are likely sometimes what causes a job search to be stressful.

Preparation is key.  Make sure you have a resume prepared as well as cover letters stating your intentions to supply to potential employers.  It’s crucial to have these reviewed by others.  I suggest at least 3 people.  It is wise to include professors and clinical supervisors in your reviewers.  They will be able to help you decide what to include and make sure it is prepared appropriately.  Your paperwork is not the only preparation key.  Ask professors, supervisors, and coworkers if they are willing to provide support for you as a reference.  You will want to include this information on your resume.  If you have not yet been through an interview experience, it will be a good idea to set up a mock interview.  Many academic programs will designate time for this; however, if your school does not, ask a supervisor or professor (or both as it would likely provide different interview styles) if they would help you by setting up a mock interview.  It’s also a great idea to do a mock phone interview, as many times, this may be the first step in the interview process.

Speaking of the interview process, lets discuss for that for a moment.  In today’s world, it is not uncommon for an interview to be in person, over the phone, or now, even over video conference (like Skype).  Be prepared for any of them.  You’ll also want to be sure that you have appropriate interview apparel and extra resumes/information on hand during the interview.   Research where you are applying — you wouldn’t want to show up somewhere and not know anything about the job/employer and their business.  Prepare questions to ask during your interview (easy to do if you research the business and cannot answer a question on your own from that research).   You can expect any type of question — it could be knowledge based or a question about how you work with others.  No matter what the question is, take a moment to answer thoughtfully.  Most importantly, be yourself and be honest during your interview.

Perhaps most of this you already knew, but if not,  I hope it helps.  Try to remember to remain positive.  Always look at any interview as good experience, even if the job doesn’t come through.

I wish you the best in your upcoming job search. Feel free to leave comments/questions/words of advice.  I will be walking the same road as you!  And because we can all use a little humor in our life…

Happy Hunting!

Sara Davis is NSSLHA’s is Region 3 Regional Councilor. She is a fourth year Doctoral Student in Audiology at the University of Memphis.

So you want to be a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist? Making Sense of (and Choosing) the Best Settings and Terms for You – Part Two of Two

(This article was adapted for ASHA from the the “PediaStaff New Graduate Guide” [PDF])

In my last article I reviewed some of the basic terminology that you need to know before starting your job search as a pediatric or school based SLP. We talked about ‘terms’ (‘direct hire’ vs. ‘contract’ and ‘travel’) as well as definitions of the different pediatric settings such as school-based, outpatient clinic, hospital or early intervention. The ‘term’ part isn’t too hard to decide if you sit down and make a list of your priorities. However, it is much more slippery for someone like me to suggest exactly which setting is best for you, because there are a variety of factors specific to your particular search that should have a far greater impact on your choice over just the setting. So we will chat more about those factors and other practical considerations, rather than the ‘pros and cons’ of each.

TERMS: Direct, Contract or Travel?

The advantages of direct hire placement often include opportunities for professional advancement. The size of the organization that you are joining will also determine whether and how quickly you can move into a supervisory role. Benefits may be better in a direct hire environment, especially with larger organizations. Generally school districts have excellent benefits; and although the pay is much lower for district employees vs. contracting, therapists with large families may find that the better benefits package outweighs the lower annual salary. Large hospital systems, as you might guess have better benefits than small privately run clinics, which might not offer any.

Travel or contract placement can be preferable for a therapist in several situations. For one, pay is generally much higher when contracting. If you are traveling in a state or city away from your permanent place of residence you may be eligible for tax-free per-diem to cover the costs of your housing and meals while working away from your primary residence. This can be a fantastic way of socking away some extra cash for later because the money that you are spending on your daily living is not taxed like it is when you are working at home. Traveling/contracting is also ideal if you are looking to explore new areas of the country for a while.

Depending on your personality, what your leadership potential is and the type of chemistry you are looking for will influence what type of direct hire position you should consider. Are you looking for a large team where you can share your experiences with peers on a daily basis and rise in the ranks to eventually manage, or are you looking for a tight knit group where you may have a chance to work with a wider variety of clients, with a range of populations and diagnoses.

Settings and the ‘Rest of the Story’!

So you say, “Ok, I understand the different terms. What can you tell me about the pros and cons of all of the different settings?” Well, for this one, the ‘devil is in the details.’ It is impossible to generalize (so I won’t even try) the advantages and disadvantages of one setting over another because every employment situation is going to be unique based on size, location, demographics of the client base, the clinical population, caseload, and most importantly the people who work there. The clinician with no roots and flexibility to move anywhere has the unique privilege of choosing his or her preferred setting in a vacuum, but most of us have to work within certain geographic parameters. If I live in a big city, I can’t work in a small country school house.

For most of us, it’s going to come down to the people. Do your homework. How often does the staff turnover? Are there long term employees you can talk to who can tell you why you should work there? What is the reputation of the company or organization? 99 times out of 100, the places that are ranked the best companies and organizations to work for get those rankings because of the people working there and the culture created by those people.

To be sure, there are also other practical considerations that will “trump” even the quality of the people. A new graduate in her Clinical Fellowship probably isn’t best served if she is working alone in home-health setting, even if the clinic with the contract is a wonderful employer. Better to work with babies in a hospital with someone who can mentor you first if you must work with babies.

On the travel/contract side, there are also practicalities that might fly in the face of what you might really want to do. The best candidate for a school-based, travel or contract position with peds is the SLP with his or her C’s. But just because you are experienced doesn’t mean the short-term jobs will be easy to find everywhere you might want to go. Competition for local short term pediatric positions can be fierce. Most hospitals, for example, will reward a current clinician who is working with adults in another part of their organization a temporary transfer to the pediatric unit before hiring someone from the outside. Additionally, would-be travelers to major cities must compete with local PRN pools. Short term openings in medical and home-based settings do exist, but the trick is finding the employer that will offer money for living and travel expenses. This is where working with a good agency that knows the ins and outs of the school and pediatrics market comes in.

And then, of course, there are the realities of being a new grad. If you are a new grad and need to complete your CFY you may be a bit more limited if you want to try contract or travel therapy, but the opportunities do exist if you know where to look. As you might imagine, it is fairly costly to bring on a CFY. So you will need to find an employer who a) will need you for the entire nine months; b) has the means and staff to supply you with supervision, and c) needs you badly enough to pay for your supervision despite the fact that they will essentially be training you to leave after the year is up. At PediaStaff, we place a large number of CFY’s in schools all over the country. The key is just knowing who has the critical need.

In Summary – Be Open Minded and Write it Down!

All this said, if you have a setting that you are particularly excited about, certainly check out all your options – but don’t get too emotionally attached to that choice, in case reality doesn’t jibe with your ideals for your ‘dream job.’ Sit down with pen and paper and answer questions that can help you prioritize which things will be most important to you. You might even call on a friend, loved one, or professional mentor to be a sounding board to help you answer questions like these:

  • How important are specifics about cash money and/or benefits?
  • Do you want to see the country or be closer to family and friends?
  • How much drive time or are you willing to have or are you willing to move across town?
  • How important are opportunities for advancement?
  • What is your ideal caseload size, population age and diagnosis?
  • What about the SLP staff? What is the quality of the supervision available if you need it? How about their experience and specialties?
  • Is it better to wait for a particular experience that I want later in my career in favor of something that needs to take higher priority in my current situation?

Remember too, much will depend on what job offers actually arrive on your table and whether you have the good fortune to have options. When you sit down and start to make your list of priorities, you will quickly realize that your choice will probably have a lot more to do with the people who are currently (and will be) in your life as well as the kinds of kids you want to treat, more than it will be about exactly what type of setting it is.

Happy searching and remember to stay relaxed and enjoy the journey!

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff New Graduate Guide [PDF], and the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.

Student Focus: Things To Consider When Choosing a Graduate School

Chairs in a classroom

Photo by alamosbasement

By this time next year, I will be one of thousands of graduate school applicants crossing my fingers and hoping to be accepted into the school of my choice. In the here and now, I need to focus on determining which graduate programs I will apply to. A little thought today could go a long way toward helping me make informed decisions in the future. As I narrow my graduate school prospects and begin the application process, I plan to take the following criteria into careful consideration:

Program Focus and Features

Some programs boast a broad education that prepares graduates to work in any setting, while others offer a medical or educational domain focus. One school might feature a clinic with an outstanding reputation in the community, while another might offer opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research. I need to be sure I understand the focus of each program in order to determine whether it would be a good fit for me.

Clinical Facilities

In our field, facilities are a huge concern since so much of our education revolves around clinical labs and service to our communities. I need to think about the populations served by the clinics connected to each program I consider, as well as the condition, quality, and modernity of clinic buildings and equipment.


If I am open to the possibility of relocating for a program, I need to consider moving and living costs as part of my decision. If were to relocate for a program under the assumption that I would come home when finished, I also need to consider the possibility that moving after grad school could mean turning down job opportunities and leaving newfound friends.


It would be nice if comparing the cost of various programs were as simple as comparing the price of tuition, but it is not. While some programs seem, at first glance, to be far more expensive than others, I need to consider opportunities for scholarships, grants, and assistantships. A program whose cost seems prohibitive to me now could turn out to be the most affordable program for me if I am lucky enough to be offered funding.

Surrounding Community

I need to be sure I’ll be happy spending at least three years living in the community my graduate school is a part of. Would I be comfortable moving to a city that is a different size than my own? Will I be able to find the comfort foods I am accustomed to in my new city? Will I fit in well with the general lifestyle?

I would like to encourage readers to comment and discuss additional criteria important in making graduate school choices. May we all find the perfect program and enjoy success in our future endeavors!

Jane Lapham is a student in the California State University, Dominguez Hills Post-Baccalaureate Communication Sciences and Disorders program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Language and Linguistics from Cal State Dominguez Hills, and looks forward to entering graduate school in the Fall of 2012.

So you want to be a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist? Making Sense of (and Choosing) the Best Settings and Terms for You – Part One of Two

kids holding hands walking in the street

Photo by fiskfisk

When we were at the ASHA convention in Philadelphia this past fall, our team met many enthusiastic clinicians who are excited to use their education and training in Communication Disorders to work with children. I was struck, however, by the fact that there is a fair amount of confusion with the terminology describing both the settings and the terms of employment for SLPs that work with young people. This post will be the first of a two-part article where I will clarify some of the basic terms, and then in the next part I will review some of the practical issues to consider as you choose a position as a pediatric or school-based SLP.

The biggest area of confusion is what the term “pediatric” means in the field of therapy. Most of the healthcare community considers the “pediatric” population to be the group of patients who are under the age of 21. In general, the medical settings (hospitals, rehab centers and outpatient clinics) use this broad-based definition.

When school and government subsidized therapy organizations talk about “pediatric,” however, they are talking about a different population – namely children aged ‘birth to five.’ These kiddos are actually separated into two additional sub-categories, Early Intervention and Pre-K.

Early-Intervention (also called EI) is the term used for home-based (or “natural setting”) services for the birth to five population. The employer of record for an SLP wanting to provide EI speech services varies widely by state. In most states independently contracted SLPs are hired directly by the government EI agencies themselves and through clinics that contract with the state. In a few states, EI services are provided by the public schools.

“Pre-School” or “Pre-K” are campus or clinic based services for children aged three-five. This one makes sense to pretty much everyone!

“School-Based” or “Education Based” services are those for children ages 6 to 18 taking place in a Kindergarten through twelfth grade setting. Of course, within the schools market there are public and private as well as charter schools – public schools with independence that feel more like private schools.

We also field a lot of questions about the different “terms” of employment – especially the difference between “travel” and “contract.” Lately too, the term “direct hire” has replaced the expression “permanent position.” So let’s sort it out.

  • Direct hire is the traditional employment situation where you work ‘directly’ for a hospital, school or pediatric clinic. Historically, this type of employment has also been called ‘permanent’ employment.
  • A “contractor” is generally a therapist who lives locally to the organization that is hiring but is compensated hourly and paid through a staffing agency or back office payroll company.
  • A “traveler,” like a contractor, is also paid hourly and paid by an agency or back office but has arrived from out of town for the duration of the assignment and usually qualifies for a tax-free per-diem to pay for the expenses associated with living out of town while maintaining a residence back home while on assignment.

Therapists living away from their permanent residence (defined as where you are currently paying rent or mortgage) are eligible for “per-diem.” The spirit of this allowance is to exempt from taxation any duplicate expenses affiliated with work that would not be necessary were you living at home. A traveler working for an agency will generally be a W-2 employee of the agency, not for the client where he or she works.

Contractors, because they are local, do not have these additional expenses and are not eligible for per-diem or housing. Contractors may be W-2 or if they are self-employed may receive a 1099 at tax time. IRS rules and regulations regarding 1099 employment are very tricky. This could be a whole different blog article. Suffice it to say, tread carefully if you are asked to work for someone else on a 1099.

Whether you are a seasoned therapist and are familiar with all these terms, or a new grad that is overwhelmed with all your options, there is a lot to think about before you choose a new position. Here are just a fraction of the questions you should ask yourself:

  • What type of kiddos with what types of diagnoses and issues are you looking to work with?
  • Are you a new graduate that needs to complete your CFY, or are you a seasoned practitioner?
  • What is more important to you right now in your situation: cash money or benefits?
  • Can you relocate?
  • Do you want to stay close to home or do you want to live somewhere else for a while?
  • Are you looking to do hands-on therapy or do you want to use or learn management skills?
  • Reward vs. Frustration: If you think a direct hire school-based position is your preference, are you willing to put up with some of the challenges that come with working for a government entity in exchange for the rewards of working with public school children?

In our next post we will talk about some of the practical issues to consider before deciding on a position. Relax! This really is a fun and exciting journey if you take your time and think about it.

Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.