Life-Changing Journey to Becoming a Travel SLP
I've Officially become a Traveling SLP!
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!
Quick Overview of My Process for Acquiring a Travel SLP Job
I began researching this career avenue in February or March when I started thinking about how I just couldn't stand winter up north any longer.
Throughout my research, I learned there were MANY opportunities for school-based therapy as a travel 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 Facebook for traveling SLP and therapist groups. 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 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 through MedTravelers! 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 silly for asking a million questions, and who viewed me as someone that she wanted to create a relationship with. Once I found her, I stuck with her! I still talk to her often, and she still answers all of my annoying questions. Having an extremely responsive recruiter is HUGE! MedTravelers was able to provide just that.
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 which areas of the United States 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 where to apply.
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 much more sense to you if you've already got your background knowledge built.
I interviewed two days later and was offered the job. I had about 4-5 days to decide to accept. 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'd never even visited. But it was also so thrilling! I made many pros and cons lists with my fiancé, and the cons remained so much smaller than the pros.
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, but 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. Not to mention, my long,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!
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 year (August to May). I could do various contracts, such as a leave of absence, maternity leave, etc., if I find one that I want to pursue. For this assignment, 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 all preference. I could take another contract immediately 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 or 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 fiancé. 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 an hour to a 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, AMN Healthcare, 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 the Costs of Travel?
I'm going to dive more into the money benefits of travel in my next response, 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. The cost of living is much lower...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 the cost of living in that area).
I receive a stipend for housing and a stipend for food and each stipend is non-taxable. This accounts for the fact that I still am paying rent at my home-base location. This is required in order to receive a non-taxable 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 fiancé and I, it works out great because despite each of us 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 or 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 traveling speech world! I think I've covered most of the logistic questions for you. Travel therapy has changed my life for the better, and I’m so glad I jumped in scared. It’s been one of the most amazing experiences in my career!
I'm so glad you're here for this journey!
Find me at @the.type.b.slp and follow along