MedicalSpeech-Language Pathology

Tips for Speech Pathology Graduate Students

Embarking on an educational journey that explores all forms of communication sciences and disorders is a decision that typically involves an innate desire to help and serve individuals who have undergone a life changing health event, or who simply need specialized expertise regarding how to effectively utilize language. No doubt the decision to pursue a career within some aspect of speech-language pathology has an underlying and individualized foundation. Whether the choice was prompted by a personal speech disorder, a family member who chose to obtain a speech degree or simply an interest in the dynamic world of language and how we communicate, you have made a rewarding decision. As you have started to learn, the fundamentals of how language is acquired and communicated will be the primary focus during graduate studies. Speech and language pathology can range from the fascinating world of linguistics, neuroanatomy, phonetics, and the impact of hearing loss on speech production, to cultural dialects, stuttering, aphasia and the significant importance of nonverbal signals in communication.
The world of speech and language pathology affords the opportunity to explore many different professional angles within the field. This can be overwhelming for any graduate student who is already in the midst of learning an enormous amount of information. One aspect to consider involves which population to serve (pediatrics, geriatrics, neonatal/infants, school aged children) and the disorders that will be prevalent among those populations (voice, speech, dysphagia, language and articulation). How does one narrow down which avenue to pursue in speech and language pathology? Some helpful hints include, paying close attention to the graduate classes that seem to truly capture your interest, when starting your clinical internship sites writing down all positive and negative experiences with the population being served, taking note of any special skills that you possess that may aide in effectively treating a specific speech or language delay, and researching to find conferences in your location that may provide venues to network with professionals with various specialties. In addition, joining or attending student/professional events that provide informative and up to date research on changes that are occurring within the field of speech and language pathology is also beneficial.
Another important aspect to consider during your graduate studies is an ideal setting to complete your 9 month CFY (Clinical Fellowship Year). Remember, this will be the first experience where you are able to actually work with the population that you have narrowed down during your graduate studies, sharpen your clinical skills, develop a comfortable therapeutic style with your clients, and learn as much as possible from your supervisor. Please keep in mind that the field of speech pathology, like any other healthcare field, is constantly evolving with research that promotes more in-depth understanding of the disorders that you are studying and technology that will influence the therapy techniques that are utilized during your clinical treatment sessions. Regardless of the population or specialty that you choose during your speech-language pathology graduate and post graduate experience, being well rounded with your clinical experience, connected with peers and professionals within your community, and informed on the latest research and techniques will provide the edge that is needed to be a success in the field.

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Tracy Carr-Marcel, Ph.D., MS CCC-SLP attended Howard University in Washington, DC for undergraduate and graduate school. She received her Master's deg...