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Well, yes... life IS good (for Speech-Language Pathologists)

Oh magic 8 ball... where were you when we needed you to help us pick out careers? I can only imagine a 20-year-old me asking, "Will I have a good life if I become a speech therapist?" If I'm being honest, the question probably would have been more like, "Will I make enough money to support myself with this profession?" The reality of the situation is that most of us leap into a career without really knowing how it will impact our lives. We find a desire, interest or passion, and then form a hypothesis about what the outcome of the associated career will be, then cross our fingers (or say some prayers) and hope for the best. But never fear, if you are asking this question about becoming a speech therapist yourself, I'm here to lend an answer! Obviously, take my personal opinion with a grain of salt, but I will give you an overview of the good, the bad and the ugly, from my point of view.

Let's get started with the "good". Being a speech therapist is in fact, "good". So much "good", actually, it's going to be hard for me to condense this list down. Helping others makes you feel "good", the therapy helps your clients and patients feel "good" about themselves, and it usually gives you a "good" salary, and "good" benefits. There is a "good" chance you will always be able to find employment, and the outlook on your career earning potential is also "good". The really great part that surpasses just "good", is that you have the ability to work with clients throughout the entire lifespan, which serves well to an individual who is looking for variety in their day-to-day routines! You will never, ever, possibly be bored in your line of work. Anyways, my mom always used to say, "Only boring people get bored", so I'm sure that would not apply to any of you. Are you tired of all the "goods" yet? Good, let's move on. :)

Moving on to the bad and the ugly. There are some challenging career aspects (like every job), and since I pride myself on being authentic and transparent, I'll share. I feel that a "bad" part of being a speech therapist is that the pay is not as high as other Master's degree level jobs. Another "bad" part of this line of work, depending on your setting, you may have to work weekends and holidays. Also, you will spend a lot of your career explaining to others what a speech therapist does, which can be frustratingly "bad". "Oh, so you teach kids to make their sounds correctly?", when in fact, it's so much more than that! The one aspect that I personally find worse than bad, so we'll call it "ugly", depending on your setting again, caseloads and productivity expectations can be overwhelming and unrealistic. This in turn can lead to burnout and general dissatisfaction with your work.

Now that you have a brief overview of some of the "goods" and "bads", I want to highlight a little about my career so you can see just how versatile and fulfilling it can be. Most speech therapists are drawn to the profession, because they have, what I like to call, a helper's heart. As a speech therapist, I have been blessed to help so many people, and meeting them has had a profound impact on shaping my life, and outlook, on everyday blessings we take for granted. I am more patient because of my job, and I can appreciate the small things that make up our mundane.

I have had the privilege of working at ALL THREE top hospital systems in Cleveland, Ohio (Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth). I worked at a skilled nursing facility for a short period of time, and spent several years as a Modified Barium Swallow Study provider (you might have to google that one, ;) ...cliff notes = speech therapists are also the professionals who diagnose and treat swallowing disorders. I have worked with babies that are only a few days old, to people at the end of their life (I think my oldest patient was 103 years old)! I have had the pleasure of helping people with diagnoses such as a speech and language delay, Autism, Stroke, Guillan Barre, Head and neck cancer, Apraxia, Parkinson's disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Covid, Spinal cord injuries... the list is never ending. I've also had the honor of helping them through some of their darkest moments (learning of a new diagnosis/prognosis, receiving test results), and celebrating their biggest victories (learning to eat again, speaking for the first time, etc).

As you can see, you can do just about ANYTHING YOU WANT as a speech therapist. My list is extensive as I've been at this for a while (ahem, 17 years to be exact). I didn't even mention how you can become a school-based speech therapist, and many people do this for their whole career. My newest chapter is over here at Buckeye Speech Path, which is where my blog is being posted. Yes, you're on MY website for MY private practice. Now, I can officially add, business owner, to my list of titles. I got tired of the corporate hospital world and decided to branch out on my own to do what makes my heart happy. Running a private practice MY way and helping people on a more personal level. I am working with any patient I feel comfortable treating, and I am in charge of MY schedule, MY salary and MY time off. This, by far, is my favorite job yet! Whether you go into Speech therapy for kids or adults, medical or non-medical, schools or private practice, one thing is for sure. This profession will, without a doubt, afford you a GOOD life. It's up to you if you want it to just be "good", or perhaps, go a step farther and make it "great".

~Nikki, Owner and Lead SLP at Buckeye Speech Path, LLC

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