I've officially become a traveling SLP!
And now that I've packed up my entire life, moved across 6 states, and started a brand new job, I finally have time to answer some of the many questions I've received!
Let me give you a quick overview of my process with acquiring a travel SLP job:
-I began researching about this career avenue in February/March when I started thinking about how much I just couldn't stand winter up north any longer (sorry, mom!)
-Throughout my research, I learned there were MANY opportunities for school based therapy as a traveling therapist (I LOVE working with the kiddos, and really didn't want to be in a hospital or SNF setting. Just not my personal preference right now!)
-I started searching around Facebook for groups for traveling SLPs and therapists. I found an awesome community and started posting some questions! I also did lots of research within the group on various companies, pros and cons, companies who have multiple school placements, etc. This helped me A TON. Probably more than any Google search I could've done!
-I began chatting with some school based travel SLPs, and was really open about how I was interested in this career choice but really wanted to learn more. Every single person I interacted with was SO NICE and so eager to help me!!! I encourage you to reach out and ask... what's the worst that could happen?!
-I found an AWESOME recruiter! But not on the first try... it took me about 3 recruiters before I found one that I felt was REALLY responsive and helpful. I wanted someone who texted or emailed me back immediately, who didn't make me feel dumb for asking a million questions, who viewed me as someone that she wanted to create a relationship with (not just a paycheck!). Once I found her, I stuck with her! I still talk to her often, and she still answers all my annoying questions lol. Having an extremely responsive recruiter is HUGE!
-After a super informative phone call with my recruiter, where she asked lots of questions and really got to know me and learn my preferences, I explained to her which areas of the United State we were interested in. She ran through all the logistics with me, and said she'd send me job listings that night for the states I preferred (I'll preface this with the fact that we wanted to stay on the east coast to easily fly home!). I couldn't believe how fast the process was! All of a sudden, two hours later, I had over 2 dozen jobs at my fingertips that I could apply for! I picked a few, chatted with my recruiter some more, and we decided which to submit my application to.
-24 hours later: I got a request for my first interview! I'm not kidding when I say this process moves FAST. That's why I encourage you to do AMPLE research before finding a recruiter. Learn as much as you can about travel jobs. Everything will make so much more sense to you if you've already got your background knowledge built!
-I interviewed two days later, and was offered the job (gasp!!). I had about 4-5 days to decide to take the job. It was honestly really stressful! I had to decide if I wanted to quit my permanent job, pick up my entire life, and move to a brand new city that I've never even visited! But.... it was also SO THRILLING! I made a lot of pro and con lists with my fiance, and the cons list remained so much smaller than the pros list.
-I decided to take the leap! I accepted the job!! It was the scariest and most exciting thing I've ever done in my life. I was very secure and happy at my previous perm job, and I adored my school and coworkers. However, I also knew I was meant to do more. I knew I would regret never moving out of my small town, and I knew I wanted traveling to be a bigger part of my life. I also knew that my longggg hour commute (one way!) was taking a huge toll on my life. Everything pointed to GO and I jumped in. I haven't regretted it ONCE! (Despite the many tears as I said goodbye to all my family members)
Common Questions about Traveling Therapy:
1. How long are you in one place?
This answer will vary based on the type of traveling SLP that you are! I personally chose a school year contract, meaning I'm at school for the full school years length of time (August to May). I could do various contracts, such as a leave of absence, maternity leave, etc if I find one that I liked. For this one, we wanted to be in Atlanta for a bit longer so we took the ten month contract! If you're interested in SNF, acute care, hospital settings etc, those are often shorter lengths of time, as short as 16 weeks!
2. How often will your placement change?
This is another one that is kind of just up to my preference! I could take another contract right way in May when I finish in Atlanta, but I will likely take the summer "off" to focus on some other things. I will interview in April/May to determine my next placement! The flexibility is great-- I could decide to take off longer than just the summer and start later in the school year! If I'm really set on a certain area, I can jump on it and interview. I LOVE how in control I am during the hiring process.
3. How do you set up your next position/location?
Starting next spring-ish, I'll begin researching locations with my fiance. I have no idea where we'd want to go next, so I think we'll wait and talk in March and see how things are going! Once we pick some areas/states, I'll contact my recruiter (or she'll remind me when it's time to start applying!) and we'll go from there. We like to research the area FULLY once she sends us listings. We have some "must have" items on our list for locations (i.e. within hour to major airport) so we make sure the area fits us before I submit applications.
4. Does each state require a license?
YES!!! But... your travel company takes care of all this! All I had to do was submit documents to my company, and they paid for and took care of sending everything. It was so easy (**ease of this varies state by state, but make sure your recruiting company does the busywork and payment on their end regardless of the state you choose/accept!)
5. How does pay compare to permanent positions? Does it outweigh costs of travel?
I'm going to dive more into the money benefits of travel in question 6, but I'll answer the first part here. I'll be an open book with this one: I'm paid three times more per month in this travel job as compared to my perm position back home in the school setting. There's a lot of variance with this because I'm coming from a super small rural district. Cost of living is much much lower. Etc etc etc... I'll say it again: do your research!
6. Are you given some type of living stipend since you uproot so often?
Yes! This took some lengthy research and discussion with travel therapists for me to figure out. You have two options: you can either take a living stipend from your company, OR have them pay your rent which comes right out of your paycheck. After researching, I learned it's usually better for them to give you the living stipend IN your paycheck, especially if you can find housing for less than what they predict (it's usually based on cost of living in that area). This stipend is non-taxed, and I receive a stipend for housing and a stipend for food. This accounts for the fact that I still am paying rent at my home-base location (for me, that means I'm paying rent in NY). This is required in order to receive a non-taxed stipend. If I'm ever audited by the state, I have to prove that I was paying rent in both locations. This sounds crazy, but for my fiance and I, it works out great because despite each paying rent, we're still saving tons of money and paying off student loans with the extra funds. I could see this being a little trickier for those traveling solo. I advise you to really research this area of the job, talk with a tax person from your state if you need more in depth information. Just a tip!
Okay, I'll stop there before this becomes the longest blog post in the speechie world lol. I think I've covered most of the logistic type questions for you! I'll be back with personal/specific questions I've been asked regarding the type of school, caseload, relationships, etc.
I'm so glad you're here for this journey!