Pediatric Physical and Occupational Therapists and Assistants, as well as Speech Language Pathologists, are blessed with multiple employment options, such as the following: children’s hospitals, specialty pediatric outpatient clinics, pediatric home health services (for example, Easter Seals), and schools. Since every community has a school or two, schools are by far the largest employers of pediatric therapists. Many school therapists provide coverage for multiple schools within a district, as well as making home health visits for students in that district. A pediatric therapist’s job may involve providing coverage in inpatient, outpatient or home settings.
myPTsolutions recently surveyed School administrators to find out what their biggest challenges were in finding and hiring physical, occupational and speech professionals to work in their schools. 22% of them said that it is “very difficult” to find Speech Language Pathologists, 11% have difficulty finding Physical Therapists, and 9.5% have difficulty finding Occupational Therapists. One source of their difficulty is finding therapists who want to work with children, and who are good at working with children. So, there is a great need for physical, occupational and speech therapists to come alongside schools and provide services in this setting.
To help those of you who might be considering working as a pediatric therapist in the school setting, we asked some school therapists who are currently working in a school what advice they would give someone who might be considering taking a job as a school therapist.
Here’s what experienced school therapists had to say about working in a school setting:
- “You need to like working with children.”
- “Make sure you enjoy working with children and understand the role of a therapist in the educational setting.”
- “Know that your salary will not be as high in this setting as it is in other settings. “
- “Since I don’t work with any other PTs make sure to reach out and connect with other PTs in similar practice setting.”
- “Get experience with pediatrics.”
- “Have flexibility!”
- “Go for it!”
- “Look at the school district’s web site.”
- “Start as part-time.”
- “Talking to other therapists that work within a setting often can give you the best information about what it is like to work in that setting or with a particular employer.”
- “Must love pediatrics and be flexible.”
- “Before you specialize, it may be best to get a broad range of experiences.”
- “You will need advanced certification or skills.”
- “Go for it!”
- “Do what you love – never settle! “
- “It can be very helpful to familiarize yourself with working in a variety of settings to better discover what diagnoses, ages, and settings are of interest to you. I personally was set on getting an outpatient neuro position as an entry-level therapist. Now, I am so thankful I have had the opportunity to work in rural health where I see primarily orthopedic patients but also some neurological patients in the outpatient, inpatient, and school settings.”
- “Be Flexible.”
For more information about working as a school therapist, check out this Spotlight on School Therapy article, or listen in as one of our contract occupational therapists shares what she loves about working in a school setting.