Interview with Melissa Rhoode – UCT Speech Therapy graduate
I completed a BSc in Speech Language Pathology at UCT in 2013
It was a 4 year degree – 4th year being a thesis year, and community service thereafter for one year.
On Community Service
A year of community service is compulsory for all doing a course in health science. The process usually involves applying for 5 posts of your choice from a list of posts in South Africa. If you do not get 1 of your options, you are entered into a 2nd round of where you choose once again.
This is basically a year that assists in expanding your knowledge and growth as a health professional. It can be a challenging year as it puts you out of your comfort zone. But it is a rewarding year in that you learn new things about yourself (both personally and in your career). I am completing my community service year in Springbok, Northern Cape; where I visit various clinics in the surrounding areas and see patients of all ages with communication and swallowing difficulties. This is a semi-rural placement – when you are placed somewhere, it can be anywhere from the urban cities to the most rural parts of the country.
On Choosing a Degree in Speech Therapy
In high school, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career which involved people and health. I looked at various options like physiotherapy, radiography etc. I then decided to apply for Audiology at UCT. This is the study of hearing and looks at assisting individuals with various hearing difficulties. In my 1st year at university, I learned more about Speech Therapy as the course overlapped with what I was doing. I grew a strong interest in the subject matter and decided to change my course half way through the year. I would say it’s very important to look at yourself and what your strengths and interests are, explore many options that involve those strengths and if you do struggle in deciding what to study, don’t be afraid to go for career counselling. It’s a helpful tool that will benefit your future.
As for all courses at UCT (and most other universities), the marks you achieve within your matric year are converted in to “points”. The amount of points you have determines your eligibility to study a particular course. I wouldn’t say you need to be a top student to get into Speech Therapy, but it would definitely benefit you to aim for top marks in matric as it expands your options. Once you are provisionally accepted at a university, you then need to write an exam which further assesses your capabilities and aptitude. This means you can’t study for the test (no need to panic).
On Holding a Part-time job Through the Degree
I would say in the 1st year it might be difficult to have a part time job as the workload is an adjustment in comparison with high school. This does, however, depend on the individual. For me personally, I only began looking for a part time job in 2nd year as I had adjusted to the business of university life. The helpful thing about the health science faculty is that they have a very good structure for their scheduling of each academic year. This makes it easy to see whether you can fit in a job and which days are more flexible to work etc.
On Getting a job in Speech Therapy
Again, this depends on where you want to work! There are great job opportunities all over the country for speech therapy, both in the public and private sector. With more experience gained, you are also able to open your own practice. As a Capetonian, I would like to return home next year, however, job availability in Cape Town for speech therapy is minimal currently. So there will be certain graduates who will struggle to find work, depending on their preferences, but for others there is a vast array of options.
So to sum it all up, if your dream is to work in the medical field, not necessarily as a doctor, and you love helping people, then take a look into speech therapy. It opens doors to many different fields and areas. You could possibly work and study and you can still have a balanced social life. All of which are important for the student journey and experience.