Career changers and mature students

You might have heard about speech and language therapy in your current job, or a family member may have experienced speech and language therapy, and you became interested in it as a career. Or perhaps you are just finishing an English, science or linguistics degree and wondering how you can build those into a career?

If you would like a job that is varied, offers progression opportunities, is stimulating and rewarding, then speech and language therapy might be the new career for you.

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Changing direction?

Speech and language therapy is a profession that combines helping people with a communication or swallowing problem directly with an interest in language, communication and science.

You can work across the UK in a wide variety of locations, in the NHS, private practice, education or the justice system. Many SLTs work part time or have portfolio careers. Once qualified, SLTs can choose to specialise in particular areas and often decide to work either with adults or with children. It is also possible to follow an academic or research career. The degree covers all aspects of speech and language therapy.

There are over 30 clinical areas in speech and language therapy – which will you choose?

Just finished your degree?

If you are coming to the end of your first degree you are likely to be considering career options. You might consider applying for a two year master’s degree – see our information on entry requirements.

If your first degree isn’t relevant to speech and language therapy you could consider applying for another undergraduate degree or for the master’s – but ensure you consider finance first. Funding for second degrees is not available in every country of the UK.

Most courses are likely to want to see that you have undertaken some work experience prior to starting the degree.

Changing career and going back to learning

As someone who has already experienced the workplace you will already have some great skills to bring to speech and language therapy.

Around 60% of student SLTs are over 21 when they start their course, so you are unlikely to be the only one going back to learning.

Take the time to discuss expectations of students with universities and existing students, for example at open days.

Some prefer you to be able to show recent study experience in the last five years – this could be a short course or training you’ve completed.

Consider whether the undergraduate or postgraduate route (or apprenticeship, in future) is more likely to suit your personal circumstances. The master’s route (available if you have a degree already), in particular, can be a challenging time commitment, and most universities advise that it is not usually possible to also fit in part-time jobs alongside the course.

Take a look at our stories from SLTs who changed their career.

Funding your studies

The funding rules are different in each of the four UK nations. They also vary depending on whether you already have a degree and which career route you choose.

If you intend to study in a country different from the one in which you live, the rules are very complex so it is worth being very clear ahead of time what they are. Not all of the UK nations, for example, will fund you to do a second degree. See our funding information for more details.

One important thing to note is that in England, the master’s funding available for speech and language therapy degrees is not the usual master’s loan available in non-healthcare subjects. Instead it’s the same package available to undergraduates, which includes access to a £5,000 grant for each year of study, in addition to a student loan.

If you live in England, you might have concerns about taking on a student loan, or in some cases a second loan, and paying it back.

This article from Money Saving Expert looks at the facts, for example, did you know that the amount you pay back is related to how much you earn after graduating, not how big your loan is?

Traditional degree or apprenticeship?

The first speech and language therapy apprenticeships have started at the University of Essex, Birmingham City University. and University of Sheffield.

The main difference between an apprenticeship and the traditional university route is that as an apprentice, you will be an employee, not a student.

The academic degree element of the apprenticeship is funded by the government and you will earn an apprenticeship wage while you study.

You will be paid by your employer for both the time you are in the workplace and the time you are in academic learning. You will not have a student loan.

However, the apprenticeship is likely to take longer than a traditional course – around four years for an undergraduate apprenticeship.

If you think this is the route for you then the best option might be to seek an assistant SLT/support worker post and ask your employer if they are planning to be involved in the speech and language therapy apprenticeship scheme.

We hope that in due course more places will become available via this route.

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