How to Become a Speech Pathologist in Seven Steps
- Meet Requirements for Speech Pathology Program Application
Before you begin filling out your application, double check you meet all the requirements needed to be accepted into the program. Some programs require completed coursework, degrees, or even volunteer and work experience prior to being accepted. Read on to find out more.
Prerequisite Coursework for Speech Pathology Degree Programs
If your bachelor’s degree was in an area other than Communicative Science and Disorders (CSD), you may need to take CSD-related prerequisites before applying to graduate speech-language pathology programs. A few online master’s in speech pathology programs offer these as optional courses that can be taken during the student’s first semesters, but many speech pathology master’s programs require the completion of this coursework before applying to a graduate program. Schools with fully online master’s in speech programs often offer prerequisite programs, so you can get these requirements completed before applying to a speech pathology program.
Additionally, before applying to an online speech pathology graduate program, it is required that you complete undergraduate coursework in biology, physics, chemistry, statistics, social sciences and behavioral sciences if you haven’t already. This is always a requirement for schools accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), according to their course content standards. Check with the schools that you are applying to and see how many credits of these prerequisites you will need. Many schools include this coursework in their prerequisite programs.
Some programs also require 25 ASHA-Certified observation hours before applying, though typically these hours will be part of your master’s in SLP curriculum.
Speech Pathology Program Application Requirements
Speech Pathology graduate programs will often have the following application requirements:
• Bachelor’s degree
• Completion of necessary prerequisites
• Strong GPA: many online programs require a 3.0 GPA, and are competitive even if the requirement is less
• GRE test scores
• Letters of Recommendation
• Personal Statement
Once you are ready to fulfill these requirements, you can choose which is the best speech pathology school program for you and work on completing your master’s in speech pathology application.
- Earn your Master’s in Speech Pathology Degree
After getting into speech pathology school, a graduate degree in speech language pathology will typically take 3 or so years to complete, though some can be completed in less time. There are two main components of SLP programs: coursework and practicum or fieldwork requirements.
Speech Pathology Coursework
Speech pathology graduate programs typically cover the following topics:
• Voice and resonance
• Receptive and expressive language
• Hearing and its impact on language
• Cognitive and social aspects of communication
• Augmentative and alternative methods of communication
Your program may also require you to take other courses or a selection of electives. If you speak more than one language, you may wish to attend a speech pathology program that offers a concentration in bilingual speech pathology. Make sure the program you attend offers the opportunity for you to pursue your special focus if you so choose.
Speech Therapy Master’s Programs Clinical Practicum and Field Placement Components
All ASHA accredited programs require 400 hours of supervised clinical experience, according to ASHA’s clinical practicum information. Three hundred and seventy-five hours must be dedicated to direct client contact, and the other 25 must be clinical observation hours. Of the 400 hours, 325 must be completed at the graduate level. Supervision must occur at least 25% of the time that you work with each client or patient. At times, programs will require that observation hours are completed before applying to the program.
Most speech pathology master’s programs will spread clinical experience out over several semesters. While many programs allow you to work while in school, you must have availability for various practicum requirements. Some programs will require you to be on campus to complete clinical hours, other programs will place you in clinical settings near to where you are located. Some programs will have you complete practicum hours for several weeks straight, others will require you to complete hours over a couple of days each week. Depending on the program, you may be required to spread hours out across a certain number of sites or a variety of populations.
Once you have your speech pathology degree and have completed the practicum, you are ready to complete your clinical fellowship year. To find ways to finance your education, check out our scholarships page.
- Apply for Temporary Licensure in your State (if required)
After earning your master’s in speech pathology, your state will most likely require you to complete a clinical fellowship year. In some states, you may need to apply for a temporary or intern license to do this. Learn more about SLP internship opportunities. Check your state’s requirements to see if this is a step you need to complete.
- Complete your Clinical Fellowship Year
You will need to complete a clinical fellowship year if your state requires you to do so in order to become an SLP. Although state requirements may vary, we will refer to the ASHA requirements since they are the basis of many state requirements. You will also need to meet these requirements if you decide to apply for an ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence– Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). A table further on in this page will specify licensure requirements on a state by state basis, so check that out to see if you need to meet a different set of requirements.
The fellowship typically consists of at least 1260 hours of professional experience (35 hours per week over 36 weeks or equivalent), completed under a supervisor holding an ASHA CCC. Specific requirements will vary in some states. At least 80% of your major responsibilities as a fellow should involve direct client contact and relate to the management of communication and swallowing disorders. Weeks where you work 5 or fewer hours will not contribute to the experience requirement in states that defer to ASHA requirements, and for ASHA certification you must complete your fellowship within 4 years of starting.
As a speech pathology clinical year (CY) fellow, you must continue to receive mentoring and evaluation throughout the speech pathology fellowship. Your mentor must complete at least 36 supervisory activities, including 18 one hour on-site observations (a maximum of 6 may be completed in one day). Six must be completed during each third of the fellowship experience. The other 18 monitoring activities are divided throughout the experience in the same fashion, and include evaluating reports that you write, holding conferences with you, or holding conferences with your colleagues.
At the end of the clinical fellowship, a report and rating form is submitted by your mentor that confirms that necessary skills have been acquired. This form will be submitted to ASHA if you decide to apply for your CCC.
- Pass the Praxis Exam
It is recommended by ASHA that you take the exam during your clinical fellowship, or within a year of beginning postgraduate clinical experience. A passing score is a 162 or above and is the score required by most states for licensure. Testing windows occur every month of the year.
- Apply for Licensure and Certification
All states require licensure to practice as a speech pathologist, but requirements for licensure will vary from state to state.
In many states, proof of ASHA CCC replaces many of the requirements for becoming a speech therapist, since requirements are met when obtaining that certification. Often, the same criteria as a CCC are the standard for state licensure, but a CCC is usually not needed to obtain state licensure. Requirements for state licensure may change if an applicant possesses a higher degree in the field. Also, there are sometimes exceptions for certain requirements and at times states will waive requirements for physicians, federal employees, and other types of professionals. You should always go to the state department website or talk to someone at the department to ensure that you meet all requirements or available exceptions.
Additionally, some states may require those for whom English is a second language to demonstrate proficiency. If you speak more than one language fluently, you may also want to explore becoming a bilingual speech pathologist.
If you need or want to obtain your CCC-SLP, you must submit an application with the following to ASHA:
• Passing praxis exam scores
• Graduate transcript
• Clinical fellowship report and rating form
• Disclosure documents
Fees by applicant type:
• NSSLHA Conversion: $286
• Recent Graduate: $461
• Certification and ASHA Membership: $511
• Certification without ASHA Membership: $455
• Dual Certification: $256
Data from ASHA, Last Updated 1/10/2020
- Maintain Speech Pathology Licensure and Certification
Once you are certified and licensed, you will need to maintain these credentials through continued education and renewal fees. You can look into state requirements for licensure maintenance on ASHA’s state overviews page. Below are the requirements for maintaining a CCC-SLP:
• 30 hours of certification maintenance each 3 year cycle, submitted via a compliance form, including 1 hour in ethics
• Continue to abide by the ASHA code of ethics
• Pay the annual dues, as shown below:
Annual Dues by Member Type
• Certified Member: $225
• Graduate Student Certified Member: $135
• Member without Certification: $84
• Certified Nonmember: $199
• Life Member: $64
• International Affiliate: $75
• Associate: $75
Data from ASHA, last updated 1/10/20