How to Make a Career Change from Teaching to Speech Pathology

Teachers and speech language pathologists (SLPs), also known as speech therapists, share many characteristics and skills. Individuals in each profession are typically compassionate and have a desire to help others. Because of an existing overlap in traits, teachers can become effective SLPs.

Making this mid-life career change to speech pathology often requires additional coursework. But for SLPs like Kristin Immicke, who works at a special ed co-op in Texas, switching her career to speech pathology was worth it.

“I have never once regretted my decision to leave teaching to become an SLP,” Immicke shared via email.

Why Would Teachers Switch to a Speech Therapy Career?

Teachers decide to switch from teaching to speech pathology for many reasons. Compared to teaching, speech language pathologists typically have more steady hours. They don’t have to stay after school grading student papers. This position reduces stress and pressure surrounding standardized test scores. Additionally, remote work options are growing, as some SLPs provide virtual services through telepractice.

Kristin Immicke thought she’d teach forever. But after her first five years in the classroom, she began rethinking her career choice. It wasn’t the actual teaching of lessons or the students that led to her desire for change. Those were aspects of teaching she enjoyed. The lack of time to get everything done in the classroom, and the constant emphasis on test performance caused burn out. Teaching to the test is not what she envisioned.

Because of her passion for helping students, Kristin knew she wanted to stay in the school setting. She started researching what other options were available. This led her to investigate speech therapy. The more she learned about speech pathology, the more she felt like it was what she wanted to do. After doing more research, she began moving into a career in speech therapy, a decision she believes was a rewarding one.

“I love being a part of the school setting. I love helping students and being a part of their education. I get to work with students of all ages and abilities,” Immicke said.

The Role of Speech Language Pathologists in Schools

School-based speech language pathologists like Immicke focus on speech and language disorders in children. In general, SLPs evaluate students for speech, language, or swallowing difficulties, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). After evaluation, SLPs develop appropriate treatment plans for students who need extra help. Then the SLP works with classroom teachers and other school staff members to implement the plan. They also communicate with parents, working as a team to support the student.

An SLP’s job varies throughout the day as they meet with individual students or small groups. Their work could include helping students with speech impediments such as a lisp, stuttering, or dyslexia. They may help students adjust to speaking after getting braces or overcome challenges due to an overbite or underbite. They spend time completing required paperwork and preparing for upcoming sessions.

Speech language pathologists help students succeed. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association emphasizes that SLPs try to prevent academic failure for students with communication disorders. As a part of their role, they must gather and interpret data about the treatment plans so they can make data-driven decisions.

School-Based SLP Jobs

In 2018, there were about 153,700 SLP jobs. These included speech therapists in schools, medical facilities, and private clinics, along with self-employed speech therapists. Altogether, 40% of SLP jobs in 2018 were based in educational settings. These include jobs in state, local, and private school settings. Some SLPs must travel between multiple schools or facilities. While larger districts may have both an elementary school-based speech pathologist and a high school speech therapist, many smaller districts do not.

School-Based Speech Pathologist Salary Outlook

The BLS reports that speech language pathologist employment is growing much faster than average for all occupations. This field is projected to grow 27% between 2018 and 2028. Because of the projected growth, speech pathology is a wise career choice.

In 2018, SLPs earned a median salary of $77,510, according to 2018 BLS data. The BLSfurther breaks this down by placement. Speech language pathologists in residential care facilities top the chart. They have an average annual salary of $94,680. Child speech therapists in the school setting are at the other end of the scale, earning a median salary of $68,270 a year.

Do Speech Pathologists Make More than Teachers?

The average annual salary of speech pathologists is more than the average annual salary of teachers. SLPs often earn about $10,000 more each year than the teachers they work with. However, this pay can vary depending on the salary schedule of a specific location.

Speech therapists who leave the school setting have the potential to earn even more.

Making the Transition to Speech Language Pathologist

The path from teacher to speech language pathologist will take some time. Here are five key steps to consider taking throughout your journey.

  1. Talk to speech-language pathologists

    Before enrolling in any coursework, take the time to talk to local speech language pathologists. Schedule a meeting with the SLP in your district or from a neighboring school. Before you meet, make a list of questions to ask.
    The goal of this meeting is to gain insight. Try to determine some pros and cons of this potential new field. Ask about hours worked, the number of students on the caseload, and favorite parts of the job. Also ask about the challenges faced. You want a clearer picture of the good and the bad that come with this career change.

  2. Find an SLP program that fits your needs

    Speech and language pathologists come from a variety of backgrounds, but they all need a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. You need this degree to legally practice as an SLP. There are plenty of SLP programs for working adults, so find the one that best meets your needs. You can attend on-campus classes or earn an online master’s in speech pathology.
    While you can enroll in SLP school while working full-time, it will take longer to complete the degree compared to someone who is in a program full-time. Melisa Yar, an SLP who works at Bound Brook School District in New Jersey, taught full-time and took evening courses to complete her degree. It took her six years to complete the requirements, participating in part-time speech pathology programs.

  3. Complete prerequisites for graduate school

    Once you choose a school, you must complete any SLP graduate school requirements. You may need to complete prerequisite courses before getting accepted.

  4. Earn a master’s in speech pathology

    To complete your online speech pathology master’s program, you will likely need to complete a clinical practicum. This will provide you the opportunity to put your new knowledge into practice. Typically, online SLP programs will help you find local placements for these practicums.

  5. Complete SLP licensure requirements

    Your path from being a teacher to an SLP will not be complete until you earn your SLP license. This process varies by state, so take the time to look into the requirements where you live. Typically, you will need field experience, an active teacher certification, and completion of the SLP licensing requirements.