Why You Should Give Up on Hiring an SLP and Hire an SLPA Instead

July 7, 2022
Kelly C. Bawden, MS, CCC-SLP
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Generally speaking, we're big on perseverance and aren't inclined to advise folks to give up. However, we're here to make the case today that if you've not been successful in hiring an SLP for the upcoming school year, giving up might be the best thing you can do for yourself and your students. But who will serve the children, you say?? Never fear.

3 Reasons You Should Give Up on Hiring an SLP and Hire an SLPA Instead

Being the solutions-focused folks we are, we've got an answer for you! So, read on for three reasons why you should give up on hiring an SLP and consider bringing on an SLPA instead.

1. You want to check this off your list and enjoy the rest of your summer

It was a loooooooong school year. It felt more like a school decade, honestly. Returning to in-person learning, taking temperatures and hand sanitizing and maintaining distancing during lunch, rapid tests and school-wide outbreaks, staff out for multiple days waiting for PCR results, masks on and masks off, covid compensatory services . . . the list goes on and on. You deserve a break. You need a break. But it's hard to relax when you have nagging to-dos looming in the background. Deciding to try the SLP/SLPA service model will free up the "must find SLP" part of your brain to enjoy all of the wonders of summer.

2. You want what's best for kids, and what's best for kids is getting their services

Fall is dramatic enough without dealing with a giant hole in your staffing that results in students not receiving services. You know this, of course, and that's why you're stressing about it. When you decide to bring an SLPA into your district, you're adding a highly qualified, certified speech-language professional to your team. This is not just another para or EA! SLPAs can and will land on the ground on day one and start delivering services that will help students remediate and accelerate. For more information about how SLPAs differ from EAs, check out our downloadable resource on the topic.

3. You want to make data-driven decisions

We all like data, right? So, let's dive into the numbers around SLPs and staffing:

Twenty-seven universities grant master's degrees in speech-language pathology in Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado (source).

Those programs average 41 graduates per year, so we can extrapolate that there were approximately 1,080 new SLP grads this year (source).

Approximately 50.9% of current ASHA members practice in the schools, so we can further extrapolate that around 550 new SLPs entered the school workforce in these four states this spring (source).

Wow! You might say. That's a lot of new SLPs! And you'd be right. It is a lot. But here's the problem:

There are currently 835 active listings on EdJoin for school-based SLPs in Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado (source).

But wait! You might exclaim. What about all of the existing SLPs? Couldn't they move into those remaining 335 positions? Well, sure they could. But guess what that creates? That's right. A new job opening. And we haven't even touched on the double whammy of SLPs who leave the profession each year and leave a job opening behind. Here's the bottom line:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a need for 15,200 new SLPs each year to replace those who leave the profession. ASHA reports that 9,111 master's degrees were granted in speech-language pathology in 2020-21.

While your district is probably a lovely place for SLPs to work, these numbers make it pretty easy to see that the odds are not in your favor. Re-designing your staffing model to include SLPAs allows you to shift those odds substantially and puts you ahead of many of your 834 peers who also have openings right now.

When you consider that a full 89% of SLPs in the West reported that they feel comfortable supervising SLPAs, the case becomes even stronger for giving the SLPA service model a try. There is that adage that if you keep doing what you've always done, you will get the result you've always gotten. Want a different result? Gotta do something different. Embrace giving up and let SLPAs be your something different this year.