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(Geez people! I started writing this and I realized it was getting really freaking long and no one wants to stare at and/or slog through a post that long in one sitting. Not that you have to read anything in one sitting. But, for my own sanity as well, I thought I would break it up into two parts. [Although part of me is thinking it might morph into 3 parts. I just can’t shut up.] So this is Part 1 and the other part[s] will follow in a few days.)
Time to talk money. Yes, it’s very exciting to think of earning money after paying it all out and/or racking up ungodly amounts of debt over the past two years, but how do you know what to suggest for your starting salary? You want this job. You don’t want to scare them away because you accidentally priced yourself too high. On the other hand, you have loans to pay off and would prefer to not continue eating ramen every night like you have for the past two years.
Disclaimer: What follows below are some tools I was provided to make this…educated (more or less) guess about salary. I am a first-time professional job searcher and am certainly not an expert on these matters. I’m learning this as I go along too. Nevertheless, I hope these tools are useful for people trying to determine a fair salary for themselves given their experience and geographic location. At best, I think these tools gave me enough information to not over-price myself, but I still worry that I may be under-pricing myself.
There are several things to consider when preparing an estimate to provide to a potential employer. First, you need to consider what are your services worth? You as a clinician. In my case, a newly graduated clinician. Things I have taken into consideration include:
- My level of experience
- Demand for SLP services
- Geographic location/cost of living
- Employment setting (i.e. nursing home vs. school vs. hospital vs. skilled nursing facility [SNF] vs. for-profit vs. not-for-profit [NPO])
- Size of the organization
- What is the compensation package?
Obviously the level of experience plays an important role for SLPs. As I have mentioned in the past, at least in hospital settings, there is frequently not a path for promotion (unless the organization you are working for has a career ladder) for SLPs. Increase in salary is frequently based on years of experience and performance within a particular job setting. In the school setting, SLP salaries are generally advanced with years of experience, similar to teacher pay.
From my research, I have very little information about starting pay for SLPs fresh out of grad school. However, ASHA publishes a study every year about SLP salaries, the Annual Salary Report. (Download this document STAT!) Unfortunately, our peers who are freshly minted CCCs have not seen fit to share this information with ASHA so that they can provide actual data for SLPs with 1 to 3 years experience. (Folks, let’s help out our future graduate students by responding to this Annual Salary Report survey if ASHA sends it to those of us with 1 to 3 years experience. And when we are elderly SLPs we can shake our canes and talk about how we negotiated our first salaries blindfolded, with our hands tied behind our backs, with minimal information, and in the middle of a snowstorm and how easy kids have it nowadays.)
Brief rant over. Now, although this (otherwise helpful) document does not provide specific information for those SLPs with 0 years on-the-job experience (although we certainly have plenty of clinic hours), generating an adequate salary based on 1 to 3 years experience is, I think, easier than trying to extrapolate backwards from 4+ years of experience. However, the document does give a new grad an overall picture of how salaries vary across setting, geographic location, experience, and other variables. This is helpful. As a person looking for jobs in multiple geographic locations all across the USA, I liked knowing that the median income for a SLP in the West was higher than an SLP in the Midwest or South (likely due, I imagine, to cost of living differences). This document provides a big picture for the new grad, as well as some possible variables s/he may want to consider her/himself when doing the research for her/his own salary negotiations.
Note: Please note that the Annual Salary Report provides median salaries, NOT mean salaries. Take a moment to review the difference if it’s not clear in your head and consider the strengths and weaknesses of median data reporting and the range of salary numbers a median number obscures.
I think most of us know that SLPs are pretty high in demand. Based on my own search for a job, I would say if you are looking to work in the schools, a nursing home, or a SNF, you will be gobbled up. If you are looking for work in a hospital acute inpatient, inpatient rehab, or outpatient setting, they tend to be looking for people with experience (i.e. NOT CFs). I am searching really hard for a hospital job nonetheless due to my own personal preference for working in a hospital and my skepticism of getting appropriate supervision/support in a nursing home or SNF setting during my CF. A hospital job fresh out of grad school is not impossible, I would just say harder to find than the other settings I mentioned.
Cost of Living
So, in that earlier paragraph, I mentioned that ASHA document provides information based on geographic location. Giant pieces of geographic location. A useful, but blunt tool. For something more fine-grained, I recommend checking out the Salary Calculator, which provides median salary information for a specific zip code based on job title. Pretty cool, huh? Keep in mind here, again, that this is the median salary for all people with the title SLP, regardless of their experience and job setting. Nevertheless, you can look at this and think, Okay the median salary for City is $$. As a brand new clinician, I would probably be in the lower end of that bell curve. But based on the Annual Salary Report, it should be a little higher/lower within the left tail of the bell curve because I want to work in a SNF/school. (See how looking at the Annual Salary Report was kinda helpful after all?) Now the trick will be not to underestimate your worth.
Cost of living (how much it costs for housing, groceries, utilities, etc.) in a particular place should also factor in. For example, you would make much more as a starting clinician in Los Angeles, CA than you would in a small town in Arkansas just because how much it costs for you to buy things is more in one place than it is in another. If you are looking for a job in an area you are already familiar with, you may not need to look into this. You probably have an idea in your head of how much you money is needed to pay for housing and groceries and so forth. If not, check out the Cost of Living Comparison calculator.
A couple other factors to consider in your cost of living (and your salary negotiation) is how much money do you need to sustain your lifestyle. Essentials such as shelter and food are important, but obviously each person has different ideas about what constitutes as important in their standard of living. Don’t get crazy, though. They’re not going to fund your standard of living that includes flying to Paris and staying for a week in 5-star hotels 3 times a year. If you name a price too high, the people offering the job are probably not going to agree with that. On the other hand, don’t be unfair to yourself. It’s a tricky balance, and I have no doubt it takes some experience just like everything else about SLPing. Another important factor to take into account, especially as a new grad is: Are you making enough to cover the essentials and start paying off loans? Those monthly payments are not cheap and a valid factor to point out during salary negotiations. You did two additional years of school after a bachelor’s degree after all.
Questions? Comments? Feedback? Input? This is definitely an area where my knowledge is shaky at best, so if anyone has further insight into the salary negotiation process, comment away! We would all benefit from your knowledge.
(To be continued in a second post as explained at the beginning!)
Here is a list and summary of cool books, guides, and/or other bound (non-digital) resources I encountered and liked in my stint as an intern. This list will be update periodically as I come into contact with more and more materials. (The link to this entry is available in the sidebar under General Resources.)
- All ASHA Journals. Review: The reason should be obvious.
- Cicerone, K. et al. (2005). Evidence-Based cognitive rehabilitation: Updated of review of the literature from 1998-2002. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 86(8), 1681-1692.
- Seminars in Speech and Language. Review: A periodical I love. Each edition of this periodical (published quarterly) covers a different topic using the top researchers in the field on that disorder area with the most up-to-date information on assessment and treatment. It’s worthwhile to check out the most recent titles in your area of interest (or the area you’re writing your paper on-haha!) and keep checking periodically if they’ve done a new one. Once I have a job, I plan to buy the ones related to my areas of interest/specialty, unless I miraculously find myself affiliated with a university. Great stuff.
- The Entire World of ‘R’ – from Say It Right. Review: If you are a student who has had almost any clinic experience, you have probably heard of The World of ‘R’. It’s great because it teaches /r/ is all its many different contexts (e.g. ‘ar,’ ‘ire’), provides assessment procedures, treatment materials, and many suggestions for how to stimulate and treat /r/. I particularly recommend it for kids who are working on /r/ only, or /r/ and a couple other sounds.
- Webber’s Jumbo Articulation Drill Book by Thomas and Sharon Webber. 2000. SuperDuper Publications. Review: This book had a lot of great worksheets for homework, if the SLP is inclined to give homework. I myself wouldn’t give homework until the kid’s productions were pretty consistent in therapy. Some of the worksheets might work in the session, but I’m not a worksheet kind of girl for articulation/phonology drills.
- Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities by Mark L. Sundberg and James W. Partington. 1998. Behavioral Analysts, Inc. Review: This is the book B, the SLP who works with the children with severe disabilities uses to help her both evaluate and find ideas for where to begin. Giving standardized tests to any of the children B works with would be largely futile beyond having a standard score that tells you the child is 2+ standard deviations below the norm. This provides quite a detailed method of how to track changes in development and if nothing else, can give the busy SLP ideas of what they might look for during assessment and then setting goals. I think it must be a great challenge to work with these kids, but a very interesting one, and I’m glad to know at least one resource that could provide ideas for both evaluation and the types of goals that might be created for that child.
- Handbook of Exercises for Language Processing (HELP)-1: Auditory Discrimination, Question Comprehention, Association, Auditory Memory. LinguiSystems. Review: Anything I have said below applies. And since there are so many, it apparently covers pretty much any language problem you can think of!
- HELP-2: Specific Word Finding, Categorization, WH-Questions, Grammar. LinguiSystems. Review: There is a whole series of these and they are GREAT. Loads of worksheets for all the language areas mentioned above. The tasks even get progressively harder within each language category.
- HELP-3: Concepts, Paraphrasing, Critical Thinking, Social Language. LinguiSystems. Review: Again, this book has worksheets for all the concepts listed in the title with increasingly more complex tasks. So useful, especially for older children who are working on more complex language skills. Note that this one also includes worksheets on associated words, synonyms, and idioms, something which is not exactly apparent in the title.
- HELP-4: Defining and Describing, Written Language, Talking About Language, Word Play and Humor. Review: This one has a lot on writing that I plan to use in my language groups. Again, another book that focuses on more complex aspects of language for older kids. I love these. If I planned on working with kids, especially in a school, I would have these on hand since they cover such a wide range of language skills.
- HELP-5: Processing Information, Comparing and Contrasting, Math Language, Self-Expression. LinguiSystems. Review: Same awesomeness discussed above. As a note, the “self-expression” covers both identifying and discussing emotions, as well as some social language and pragmatics.
- Sounds Abound: Listening, Rhyming, and Reading, by Hugh Catts & Tina Vartiainen. 1993. LinguaSystems, Inc. Review: This is a really handy book for clinic materials for phonological awareness, including rhyming, beginning and ending sound identification in words, segmenting and blending, and putting sounds with letters. It includes a lot of pictures, really encouraging children to say the word out loud and hear the rhymes/sounds (e.g. [the picture of] king rhymes with [the picture of] ring). It’s very basic, beginning stuff for each level of phonological awareness. I mean, once I taught the children rhyme using single words (or blending and segmenting words), I would want to put it into a context they are more likely to see in class (i.e. reading a book, listening to nursery rhymes) and make sure they can continue to do it.
- Books are for Talking Too! A Source Book for Using Children’s Literature in Speech-Language Remediation. by Jane L. Gerbers, M.A. 1990. Communication Skill Builders. Review: This book provides a list of books, divided by age range, that can be used for everything from articulation to different language goals. It gives a handy source for SLPs who are looking for books to use with their language goals in therapy, or which can be used as suggestions for extra-stimulation and exposure for parents at home. I just googled it, and thankfully, there’s a newer edition (2002) than what my supervisor currently has. I wish I had known about this book when I was a graduate clinician in our language preschool and spent hours scouring the library for books related to my kids’ therapy goals that I could suggest in the weekly note home to the parents.
- Room 14: A Social Language Program, by Carolyn C. Wilson. 1993, LinguiSystems. Review: I really liked this resource because it covered a lot of aspects of social language, including how to start a conversation, how to say ‘no’ politely, etc. It gives many scenarios that the clinician to use and allows for the brainstorming of answers. It could be used individually or with a group.
- Language Intervention Strategies in Aphasia and Related Nerogenic Communication Disorders, Roberta Chapey, Ed. 2008, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Review: I know it has “related neurogenic communication disorders” in the title, but since it mostly covers aphasia, I put it here anyway. I love this book. It pretty much gives an overview of all the latest research related to knowledge of and treatment for various language modalities affected by aphasia. One of my supervisors had the previous edition of this book, and I can’t tell you how often people were asking to borrow it, and how many girls who planned on working with adults (including me) just bought a copy for ourselves (or got it for Christmas.) It’s great.