When I was in grad school, I made the classic Type-A SLP mistake: I started looking for clinical fellowships way, way, way too early. I was scouring job search websites for months before I actually graduated, applying to positions and never getting called back. It was ridiculously discouraging.
This was silly. Why? Most facilities don’t want to hire a speech pathologist to start in six months. They need someone NOW…. or at least close to now.
The timing of your CF search depends on the sort of clinical fellowship you want. Are you interested in a structured, CF-specific position? A school district? A hospital?
Medical SLP Positions
Start Looking: About 3 months before graduation
Start Applying: 1-2 months before you want to start the job
Many large medical systems have “talent pools”. You can get on their email list and be notified if they post a job that matches your search terms. This can be a large weight off your shoulders.
Sign up for emails a few months early, but don’t apply for anything until you’re about 1-2 months out. Some facilities will be willing to wait. Many won’t, and that just gets discouraging.
School SLP Positions
Start Looking: February/March
Start Applying: March/April/May
Schools work on much more of a cyclical calendar. Use your time to determine what school districts you’re interested in, but don’t expect them to post jobs until the spring. Many districts require their employees to renew their contracts around March or April, so they won’t know what positions they need to fill until then.
Many small pediatric private practices work with school districts to help them fill their needs, so be looking for private practices to open positions around this time too.
Staffing Agency Positions
Start Looking: Late spring
Start Applying: Near graduation
Large staffing agencies are typically constantly looking for SLPs. If you are set on a staffing agency, you can often apply at any time during your second year of graduate school. However, be aware that once you apply, they may hire you, and once you’re hired, you may be required to sign a contract. If this sounds wonderful to you, apply when you’re ready. If you were hoping to use this as a backup option, though, wait to see whether your first choice positions pan out. It can be difficult to get out of these contracts (and not great professional practice either).
Clinical Fellowship Specialty Positions
Start Looking: Your first year of graduate school
Start Applying: Cyclically
Specialty CF positions are just for clinical fellows (see the “Just for CFs” page for more information). Many of these cycle yearly, and they have variable application deadlines. Some are very early (e.g. December of the year before), and some have a very fast turn-around (e.g. are posted 2 weeks before the application is due).
TIP: If you can, get letters of recommendation in advance. These positions almost always need letters of rec. Many professors won’t be able to turn a letter of recommendation around in a week! If the position is posted a week or 2 before it’s due, it’ll almost be too late.
If you’re in your first year of grad school, check them out to get an idea of when the application may be due next year. It used to be that you’d have to google “clinical fellowship” at random throughout the year to find these things. Our website helps you have one place to look. Check out the “Just for CFs” page and follow it to see when new additions have been made.