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SLP Grad School Questions


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Hello all,

This is my first post in this forum.  I was hoping to gain some feedback from those currently in an SLP grad program, or those already in the field.  I'm 35, married, have children, and currently work full-time in a government job that pays a modest salary with benefits, but ultimately is not in my area of interest or skills, and is hard to find personally rewarding.  I have a strong undergrad record (B.A. English, minor Spanish), have scored well on the GRE in the past, and have been taking SLP pre-requisite courses online this past year.  My chief concern moving forward is finances.  I am trying to figure out how my wife and I would be able to manage me going through a 2 or more year grad program without my current income.  My wife currently is a stay at home mom.  She wants to return to work once our youngest (age 3) goes to school in a few years.  I have friends who have completed longer, PhD programs while raising a young family, and I know at least one family that got through on welfare and food stamps, so i know it can be done.  What I'm wondering though is, would it make sense were I to become an SLPA first, and then work toward the grad degree part-time while already in the field?  This way, I could maintain a salary and gain experience at the same time.  Or, is it be better to complete an SLP grad program from the get-go?  From what I have read, SLPA jobs are in short supply in my state, so I'm leaning toward the latter, but we might be flexible in moving to a nearby state if they're in higher supply elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Advice is appreciated.  Thanks!      

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I would look into SLPA opportunities in whatever state you're thinking first. I'm in the Mid Atlantic and looked into that job right out of undergrad and couldn't find anything. I'm not saying there aren't any, but for 6 months I looked for the job I found nothing. I can't say what states still have the position, but it seems like there aren't many states left that use them. Honestly the closest I could find was Maine and that's 700 miles away from me lol. If you DO find a position as an SLP-A, make sure you find a program that is PT and will work with your SLPA schedule. Also, not to sound rude or anything, but SLP programs are not easy to get into, so the program you want to go to might not be the one you end up at. So you need to really think it out and plan for the various schools you apply to just in case you don't get into the one(s) in your state. I'm  sure you've looked into this already, but just in case you didn't, I figured I share this!

As far as what you should do, that's a tough call. You should talk to the friends you know that went to school while having children, to see how they managed their finances. Were both parents not working, or just the PhD student? That makes a huge difference, because even a small salary is better than nothing...especially when you have a family. If you went FT to school, you could work PT on weekends or something. Just know it might be hectic being in 3-5 grad classes a semester (including clinical and prepping for them), working, and having a family. Grad students take out extra loans when they have to, but they usually don't have a spouse and kids to support on the loan, too. If you have a great savings, or have time to start one, that would definitely help as well. Look into how food stamps work too, since you'd be quitting your job voluntarily. 

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Hi there!

First off, congratulations on making such a big, important decisions. I think parents who go back to school for more education set really awesome examples for their kids. I have several classmates in their 40's who have children. I know it is way harder for them, but I also really admire them. 

As for your question: If you get into a program that is willing to work with you on a part-time basis, I think it would be great to work as an SLP-A while in school. Why? 1) The financial benefits are probably obvious. Some agencies pay their SLP-A's pretty well too! 2) The experience will be invaluable. When you're in class discussing teaching literacy to children with ASD or discussing how Prader Willi syndrom affects language, you will have real experiences to draw on that will enrich and deeply contextualize your education. 3) Connections: You'll be ahead of the curve in terms of networking, getting to know potential employers and settings 4) Reality. School is often pretty disconnected from clinical reality and learning to bridge that gap is hard. You'll be ahead of the game on taking theoretical concepts and applying them to the demands of real practice. 

Some other things that might be useful to think about: 1) Scheduling is hard. As an SLP student, you'll have a clinical case load and oftentimes they won't be able to work around your work schedule 2) When I started working as an SLPA during my program, my mentor-profess gave me this advice: because you're a student and just learning, you'll be making a lot of mistakes along the way. At best, you get to learn from your own mistakes even if you're hard on yourself. At worst, you can earn a (potentially unfair) reputation as someone who doesn't know what they're doing which may make it harder to get a job later. Personally, I think this really depends on how honest you are and the expectations your employer sets. Try to get someone who is used to working with in-experience SLP-A's and someone who understands and supports your education. 

Other ideas:

  • Is there anyway you can save enough to live on during grad school? I know that sounds crazy, but if you think creatively and are willing to make some big sacrifices maybe it could work? 
  • Can your spouse get a PT or FT job now or while you're in the program to help ease your finances? If not, what about waiting until your kids are in school FT? 
  • Assistantships are amazing, but also super hard to get. Look at the schools you're applying to and find out about opportunities. Sometimes you can get one in a different department. I have SLP classmates who teach for the Spanish department, work for the scholarship office, etc, etc
  • Student loans (yea, I know this option sucks)
  • Go to the most affordable school you can 

 

Well, I hope this helps! Good luck and let us know how it works out! 

 

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I would say if its possible to look into some online SLP programs in addition to being an SLPA. From my understanding, ASHA allows you to obtain your clinical hours during your graduate program from working as an SLPA so that way you could still have an income in addition to getting your SLP degree! Best of luck to you. :)

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I come from a low-income family and I actually worked throughout my undergraduate studies until I could no longer work anymore. It took me 8 years to receive my bachelors degree. The last 1.5 years of my undergrad, my brother had to look for a job to support me and my family so that I can finish school. Is it possible that your spouse find a job for the two years that you'll be in graduate school? As a graduate student now, two years is not long at all. I have a feeling that even if you were to go the SLP-A route, you'll end up back at this decision again. In graduate school, maintaining a job is tough and it's even harder when you have a family. The other option is applying to an online program. A few of my friends did that and was able to maintain there "normal" life. Good luck on whatever route you choose ?

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Another tip I thought of based on @Louly's reply, if you're used to now working a 9-5 job (which it sounds like you are), grad school won't be bad if you keep that same mindset. Instead of letting studying and clinical prep invading every moment of your life, see if you can manage to confine it to 9-5, 3-4 days per week. I came back to grad school after working full-time for a few years and with that mindset, grad school hasn't felt overwhelming and I have enough time that I could probably work 2 full days (maybe Fri & Sat) and be okay still. Does that make sense?

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