I am not an expert in the field of Speech- Language Pathology but, as an educator, I do have some next steps that you might find useful as you explore this pathway.
To get you started, it is important to distinguish between the levels of degrees by explaining their purpose and outcome. An undergraduate degree prepares you to be an educated thinker. It prepares you with general education and liberal arts classes along with general classes in your major and is very different from a master’s degree. A master’s degree is focused on you building mastery knowledge and skills in a specific area of focus. Here’s an analogy to help you understand the differences between them a bit more: The undergraduate degree is like the Library if Congress or wide forest of information that you could pull on at anytime or apply to any field. The graduate degree focuses on a specific section of books or trees in that forest that you are interested in learning everything about. I hope this helps clarify these differences!
The information below assumes you will have a bachelor’s degree with prerequisites completed before starting a master’s program for SLP. It also assumes you have a general idea of what degrees, licenses and exams you’ll need to become an SLP and what’s your area of focus within the SLP field might be.
Step1: Peterson’s college search is an excellent tool to research any degree program and potential schools near you.
For example, there’s a Western Illinois University (in Chicago) that offers an MS program for SLPs. Peterson‘s website provides a great snapshot of that institution’s admissions requirements and processes, cost of the application and tuition, financial aid and graduate assistantships process, and much more. This online resource also allows you to establish contact with that institution directly. So please use this resource as a first step to determine your options and to weed out schools that do not meet your needs. As an educational consultant, I use this resource as a step one for clients to help them formulate a list of potential schools.
Step 2: Review the master’s programs, see if any of them provide job placement upon graduation (beyond the clinical practicum requirement), and programs meet the current needs in the field. Many schools may not offer this placement option but the ones who do may be helpful to you later on. Many of these programs require science, social science and communication classes and prerequisites and an undergraduate degree. Also, you may want to see which schools are using technology, simulations and other virtual spaces as part of their cutting edge therapy process.
Step 3: Once you have narrowed down your list of schools, then look to see if they specialize in your area of interest within SLP, such as research, working with children or adults, etc. This is the real process of elimination and this is the cool part. However, if you don’t know your focus area, then be sure to pick a school that provides a substantial garden variety of options or tracks available. Also, consider looking for schools that will pay your tuition and fees (and housing-if applicable) through scholarships and graduate assistants or researchers positions, etc. Please pay attention to the application deadline dates and processes for such positions- they are usually limited and can go rather quickly.
Finally, you may also find it helpful to create a sheet with all the things you would want and need in a degree program. For example, see if these institutions have day and evening (Online) classes, only a 2yr program from start to end, courses that can be applied to a doctorate, internships, clinical placement, job placement, research opportunities,etc. Once you have a list of all your must haves, wants and likes, see how your top 3-5 schools measure up. Then apply when ready.
I hope this answers some of your questions, Zamantha! All the best; you’ve chosen a growing and noble career path!