Case study

MSc speech and language sciences student — Naomi Proszynska

Discover how an MSc course at University College London is preparing Naomi for a career as a speech and language therapist

How did you get on your course?

In the final year of my linguistics degree at The University of Manchester, I began to research the possibility of becoming a speech and language therapist (SLT). I discovered that I needed some hands-on experience if I wanted a place on a postgraduate course, so I started volunteering with Afasic, a charity supporting children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).

Through this work, I discovered more about speech and language difficulties in children, and gained an understanding of the legal system surrounding special educational needs (SEN).

After completing my degree, I gained more experience through a voluntary position with the Stroke Association.

How relevant is your degree to your course?

The course is suitable for students with a relevant academic background, typically in linguistics, psychology or modern foreign languages.

I use my prior knowledge of a range of linguistic subject areas to inform my clinical work, such as using knowledge of phonetics to accurately transcribe speech, and using knowledge of syntax to target specific grammatical contexts in therapy.

I also use the research skills I developed during my degree to conduct thorough research and integrate theory into my clinical work.

What does your postgraduate study involve?

At the moment, I spend one day a week on clinical placement, three days a week in lectures and tutorials, and another day carrying out data collection and analysis for my research project.

During a placement day, I work under the supervision of a qualified SLT to manage a caseload. This involves planning, delivering and evaluating therapy for children or adults with communication and swallowing difficulties, as well as completing any associated administration.

Lectures cover a broad range of theoretical and clinical subject areas. Tutorials allow peer discussion on a particular clinical or professional area, such as involving family and carers in planning therapy.

How necessary is it to getting a job?

On completion of this course, I will be recommended for membership of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and will be eligible to apply to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which will allow me to practice as an SLT in the UK.

What do you enjoy about it?

I like the broad range of placements offered. I've already worked in a mainstream primary school with children with SLCN, in a pupil-referral unit with teenagers with social, emotional and mental health needs, in a community rehab setting with people who have had a stroke, and I am excited to start a placement at a voice clinic.

What are the most challenging parts?

As I have a full timetable of teaching, all reading and other preparation has to be done during the evenings and on weekends. Some weeks I feel like I don't have enough time to do my work, let alone do my washing, cook a good meal or have a social life.

Do you need work experience?

The MSc incorporates clinical placement as a central part of the teaching programme, so we're not required to find extra work experience.

However, it helps to take on extra work experience, especially if you have a clear idea of the kind of job you'd like once qualified.

What are your career plans?

Although I plan to qualify as an SLT, I'm still unsure which area I want to work in. At the moment, I'm drawn to working with adults in a neuro-rehab setting. I'm also interested in working within mental health or voice, so it depends on where the right job comes up.

My ultimate aim is to use my skills both as a researcher and as a clinician to build on the evidence-base of interventions to support people with speech, language and communication needs.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get onto this course?

You need to show that you've got the right skills and that you're passionate about doing the job. If you're studying linguistics, you're already part-way there - don't forget to embrace syntactic theory, phonetics and psycholinguistics.

Getting experience before your course isn't just an application requirement; it also helps you discover if you really want to be an SLT and allows you to develop your skills before you start the course.

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