Meet Erica Hayes

Speech-language pathologist

1. When did you first know you wanted to work in speech pathology?

I knew very little about what a speech-language pathologist did until my father had a stroke. During his rehabilitation, I took him to his therapy sessions and through that learned a little about what speech therapy entailed. I then began talking to people about the profession and enrolled in an introductory communication disorders class in college.

2. What classes/activities/clubs did you take in high school that you think were helpful in preparing you for your career?

I’m glad I paid attention in my English classes!

3. In what activities or clubs did you participate in college that helped you achieve your goals?

I participated in an honor seminar that gave me the opportunity to be involved in research in the field of language development.

4. What courses/programs of study did you take in college to work toward your career?

I took the required classes for a speech-language-hearing degree: language development, phonetics, audiology, and anatomy of the speech mechanism. In addition, I chose a minor concentration in psychology and took some classes that were relevant to my major such as child psychology and the psychology of language. I also took a sign language class that I really enjoyed, and I have had many opportunities to use sign language in therapy.

5. Did you participate in an internship/cooperative education program?

My program offered a variety of hands-on experiences through the University of Kansas’s speech-language clinic and internships. I was able to work with adults and children in different settings. It was through this experience that I was able to determine that I wanted to work with children in a school setting.

6. What was your first job out of college?

I worked as a speech-language pathologist in a public school serving preschool and middle school children.

7. What are the required skills that are needed in your field?

This profession requires a desire to work with and help people. Good oral and written communication skills are also a necessity.

8. Was there any kind of special training involved for your career after college?

A master’s degree is required to become certified as a speech-language pathologist. These programs are typically two years in length. Following completion of a master’s degree, a clinical fellowship year is required for certification.

9. What kind(s) of compensation can a new graduate expect in the field of speech pathology? What about after five years? Ten years?

The compensation a new graduate can expect depends upon the setting that he or she chooses to work in. In the schools, most speech-language pathologists are paid the same as a teacher with a master’s degree. This beginning salary could range from $25,000 to $40,000 per year depending on the district. Hospitals, rehabs, and nursing homes generally pay more (but without the summer vacations) with salaries starting around $30,000-$35,000 per year.

10. What kind(s) of personalities work best in this field?

I have found that most speech-language pathologists are pretty outgoing and enjoy being around and working with people.

11. What are the three most important pieces of advice you would give someone who is interested in the field?

  • When choosing any career, I feel that it is a good idea to talk to people in the profession to find out what they like and dislike about what they do.
  • Find out about scope of practice of speech-language pathology because it is pretty broad. Areas of study include speech, language, voice, stuttering, swallowing and hearing impairments. You could work with children or adults with autism, Down Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, cleft lip and palate, dementia, cancer of the mouth, neck or throat, and speech/language disorders following a stroke just to name a few. 3. Spend some time volunteering and working with people with disabilities.

12. What do you wish you would have known about the field before you entered your current occupation?

The size of the caseloads in many schools.


This article was written by Hannah Purnell

Hannah Purnell is a staff writer for Hannah writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.

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