Speech-Language Pathology (sorry for the novel- I'm just really passionate about linguistics and SLP)
Hey, so I’ve seen some posts about jobs/applications of linguistics on a few different linguistics blogs now. One field I think many people don’t consider is speech-language pathology. Granted, it’s an entirely different degree; however, I was fortunate enough to attend a school that allowed me to get a bachelors in both linguistics and speech-language pathology. SLP deals a lot more with treating language and speech issues, but still requires a vast background knowing about language.
In undergrad, half of my linguistics courses and SLP courses were cross-listed/the exact same class. So getting an extra bachelors took just one extra semester and was very manageable. Often what I was learning in one class was reinforced in another. If I’m being 100% honest, linguistics is my passion. I could study nothing but languages for the rest of my life and be totally happy. However, another one of my passions is being able to help people and make a difference in their lives. And that’s where SLP comes in.
Almost everyone (that I’ve met) in the SLP field has pretty much stuck to SLP/communication sciences and disorders (aka CSD), and will know a lot about language acquisition, articulation, various disorders, etcetera. However, having a linguistics degree/background (like I do) has provided a whole different level of depth to my understanding of the SLP field. Having studied phonology, syntax, and language change in not only English (my native tongue), but in also other languages, has given me insight to working with my clients that a lot of my peers don’t have. Often, CSD focuses on the language you plan on working with (in my case, English) and doesn’t always look at language as a whole. Like, why does /t/ become a glottal stop at the end of the word? Well, when you’ve taken a semester of phonology as a linguistics major, it’s easier to see and notice subtle nuances that most individuals in the field just don’t recognize. Having a background in linguistics has been nothing but beneficial to me in this field.
Speech-language pathology is a growing field (it’s still relatively new, compared to a lot of other fields), and it offers a TON of different opportunities. As a clinician, a speech pathologist can literally work with a person from the time they’re born (literally as an infant) all the way up until a person is on their deathbed. Granted, most people pick a certain specialty to focus on (e.g., stuttering, aphasia, autism, accent reduction, etc.), there’s always the opportunity to change things up and start working with a different population- that way, you never get bored. Currently, I’m working with a 3 year old and a 47 year old. So, as you can imagine, my therapy is very different. Not only is each day a new day with that client, but one day I’m crawling on the floor laughing and singing, and the next I’m working with a gentlemen on spelling his kids’ names.
With your bachelor degree in SLP, you can work as a speech-language pathology assistant (and it pays pretty well). With your masters degree (a couple more years of schooling and passing a national certification exam) you can do anything from work in a hospital, a school, or own your own private practice. Like I said, the possibilities are limitless.
All in all, I’ve seen such improvements in my clients. I’ve laughed with them, I’ve cried with them. I’ve had parents thank me while wiping the tears away from their eyes because their child has accomplished things they were once told they would never be able to accomplish something.
This field has been tremendously rewarding. I wake up every day looking forward to the differences I can make in another person’s life, another person’s language. As linguists, I’m sure we all recognize the vital role that language and communication plays in our day-to-day lives. As a speech pathologist, you get to help improve the quality of life for others via language and their communication.
I would highly, highly encourage anyone looking for a job/career path that’s passionate about languages to look more into speech-language pathology. Not only does one get to apply something they’re passionate about (i.e., language), but there’s an opportunity to make a difference- even if it’s just in one person’s life. And the field is constantly growing, with tons of different opportunities out there, across the entire spectrum of a person’s lifespan.
TL;DR- If you love linguistics and also want a nice paying job, you should really look into speech-language pathology.