Working in the School Setting: A Guide to Begin or Reignite Your Career in Schools

This information is for SLPs who are returning to or entering the school setting for the first time. Working in schools can be a unique and rewarding career for a speech-language pathologist. While there are many options available to SLPs, working in schools offers exposure to one of the most diverse client populations: a school caseload has an array of students with a variety of disorders and range of severity. By working in schools, SLPs gain a unique view into the role communication plays in social interaction and classroom performance of students. There is no paucity of teaming possibilities-with teachers, administrators, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other related professionals.

What other setting will allow the SLP to follow a student's growth from early elementary to graduation and on to work or university? There is nothing more fulfilling than to see your students' progress over time and to witness the value of your work as a SLP.

Key Issues

  • The Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists in Schools professional issues statement outlines the critical roles, range of responsibilities, collaboration, and leadership fundamental to school-based practice.
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that governs special education and related services to all children with disabilities. This includes children with speech and communication disorders. It is important for SLPs to become familiar with the law and regulations in order to better understand the special education process in schools.
  • Documentation requirements are driven by IDEA and other federal or state laws and regulations, including the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
  • IDEA requires that all students who receive special education have an Individual Education Program or IEP. The IEP is the blueprint for the services that each child receives and should include a statement of the child's present level of performance and measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals that will help the child to benefit from the educational curriculum. IEP progress reports are completed at each grading period, typically about 4 times a year.
  • Eligibility criteria for speech-language services in schools differ from criteria for clinical settings. It's important for SLPs to know that not every child assessed for speech and communication disorders in schools will qualify for and receive speech-language services. Check with your state or local district for guidelines.
  • Service delivery in schools is typically conducted through individual or small-group sessions and/or in the classroom, in collaboration with teachers and other education professionals. Tracking goals and collecting data for multiple students in one session is accomplished with pre-planning and organization. It is important to develop a method of tracking data for each student's goals in order to report progress throughout the year.
  • Caseload refers to the number of children you serve in a school. Workload is the amount of work generated by the students that make up your caseload. According the ASHA 2012 Schools Survey, the median caseload size is 47. Variable service delivery options allow for more students to be served in schools than in clinical settings.
  • Response to Intervention (RTI) is a process in which struggling students are provided with alternative interventions in areas of need in order to determine if their performance is due learning difficulties or inadequate instruction. Some schools fully embrace the RTI model, while others do not. IDEA allows for RTI, but does not require it. SLPs often play a role in the RTI process in their schools.
  • The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by most states as part of an initiative to prepare students for college programs or to enter the workforce. The standards encompass the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and mathematics. SLPs should be familiar with the standards in their respective states so that they can develop IEP goals that complement and integrate the Common Core curriculum for the students they serve.
  • Speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs) typically work in the school setting under the supervision of an SLP. The scope of practice for an SLPA is narrower than that of an SLP and is designed to support, not supplant, the work of the SLP. ASHA recommends that SLPs supervise no more than two SLPAs at a time.
  • ASHA's State by State page features information specific to school-based practice. Learn in advance what you'll need to work in the public schools in your state.
  • Salaries in schools vary widely across the country. ASHA's School Survey provides salary data for public-school SLPs in each state. Opportunities to earn additional income may be available by working in after school or summer school programs. Some states offer salary supplements to SLPs who hold the CCC credential. Schools also offer excellent retirement plans, health benefits, and favorable schedules.
  • In most schools, SLPs are required to be involved in Medicaid reimbursement and to have a  National Provider Identification number in order to bill for Medicaid services.


  • ASHA's School Setting webpage offers clinical and professional information and resources specific to school-based practice.
  • ASHA's School Survey is updated every 2 years and informs members on the latest trends including caseloads, work conditions, and salaries in schools.
  • Special Interest Group (SIG) 16, School-Based Issues gives its affiliates the opportunity to connect with other school-based professionals and read about key professional and clinical issues in the online Perspectives publication. By joining SIG 16, you can also earn ASHA CEUs from every issue of its Perspectives. 
  • Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools (LSHSS) is an ASHA online, peer-reviewed journal, featuring research articles and scholarly manuscripts on topics of interest to CSD professionals working in schools; 
  • ASHA Now e-newsletter, ASHA's customizable, bimonthly newsletter.
  • ASHA's annual Schools Connect conference is dedicated to the interests and needs of school-based professionals; this conference offering ASHA CEUs features invited speakers from across the country.

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