Young boy sitting on mint chair focusing on speech lessons with friendly speech therapist

Speech Pathologist Job Description: What is a Speech Pathologist?

Speech pathologists help adults and or children who have speech, communication, swallowing, and language disorders by evaluating, diagnosing, and treating these disorders. A speech pathologist may specialize in certain types of speech disorders or help people with a wide variety of speech and communication issues. For example, some work exclusively with children in the school setting, helping with speech and language development, while others work at medical facilities helping those with swallowing disorders or aphasia. Still others open up a private practice, offering a wide variety of speech and communication services. Whatever they choose to do, speech-language pathologists always help improve others’ ability to communicate.

Explore Online Speech Pathologist Degrees

Earn your Speech Pathologist Degree from Emerson College

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Earn your Speech Pathologist Degree from Baylor University

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Complete your Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders in as few as 20 months.

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Earn your Speech Pathologist Degree from NYU

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Steps to Becoming a Speech Pathologist

Becoming a speech pathologist requires navigating master’s in speech language pathology (SLP) programs, examinations, licensure, and more. To help make the process easier, we have compiled a resource to help guide you through these steps. Below, you will learn what you need to do to complete the following:

       Step 1: Meet Requirements for a Speech Pathology Program Application

       Step 2: Earn your Speech Pathologist Degree

       Step 3: Complete your Clinical Fellowship Year

       Step 4: Pass the Praxis Exam

       Step 5: Apply for Licensure and Certification (if needed)

       Step 6: Maintain Licensure and Certification

Step 1: Meet Requirements for Speech Pathology Program Application

 

Prerequisite Coursework for Speech Pathology Degree Programs

If your bachelor’s degree was in an area other than Communicative Science and Disorders (CSD), you will 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 often 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
  • Transcripts
  • Resume
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Personal Statement

Once you are ready to fulfill these requirements, you can apply to programs and work on completing your master’s in speech pathology.


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Step 2: Earn your Master’s in Speech Pathology Degree

A graduate degree in speech 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.

Coursework

Speech pathology graduate programs typically cover the following topics:

  • Fluency
  • Voice and resonance
  • Articulation
  • Receptive and expressive language
  • Swallowing
  • 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.

 

Speech Pathology 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.

 

Step 3: Complete your Clinical Fellowship Year

After finishing a speech pathology graduate program, you are usually required to complete a clinical fellowship year to obtain licensure, depending on your state. 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. 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 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.

 

Step 4: Pass the Praxis Exam

It is recommended by ASHA that you take the exam during your clinical fellowship, 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.

 

Step 5: 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.

Requirements for licensure by examination as a speech pathologist in each state are as follows:

State Minimum Degree  Need  CCC? Practicum  Need  Fellowship? Other
Alabama Graduate degree No Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
Alaska CAA accredited master’s No Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal Obtain business license if independent practice
Arizona Accredited master’s No Supervised clinical practicum  1080 clock hours N/A
Arkansas Recognized master’s or CCC No Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
California Approved Graduate degree with 60 credit units No 300 supervised hours in multiple clinical settings Meets ASHA requirement or equal Special license required for fellowship
Colorado CAA accredited master’s No Unspecified, but required by accredited programs Clinical fellowship Professional liability insurance if providing services to patients
Connecticut CAA accredited master’s No Unspecified, but required by accredited programs 36 full time or 48 part time weeks  supervised  N/A
Delaware CAA accredited master’s Yes Meets ASHA requirement  Meets ASHA requirement  N/A
District of Columbia CAA accredited master’s No Unspecified, but required by accredited programs 9 month 30 hour weeks  or part time equivalent N/A
Florida Graduate degree,  75 credits related to speech pathology (36 at the graduate level). No 300 supervised clinical hours, 200 of which are SLP specific At least 9 months Course on HIV/AIDS, 2 hr CE on medical error prevention
Georgia Accredited graduate degree. 75 credits (36 at graduate level) No Meets ASHA requirement or equal 9-18 month experience Demonstrate recency of study with 2 CEUs within 2 years of applying
Hawaii Board recognized graduate degree No Meets ASHA requirement Meets ASHA requirement  Three letters recommendation
Idaho Accredited master’s No Board approved practicum Board approved experience N/A
Illinois Department approved graduate degree with 60 credits No 375 hour clinical practicum 9-18 month supervised experience N/A
Indiana Board recognized graduate degree or equivalent No 400 hours 9 months full time or equal Disciplinary proceedings statement, jurisprudence exam passage
Iowa Accredited master’s No 400 hour practicum 9 months full time  or equal N/A
Kansas Master’s  consistent with Kansas State University standards or CAA accredited No 400 hour practicum, 325 hours must be at graduate level 9 months full time  or equal N/A
Kentucky CAA accredited master’s or equivalent No Unspecified, but required by accredited programs 9 months full time or equal US Citizen
Louisiana Accredited master’s with 75 semester hours (36 at  graduate level) No 400 hour practicum 9 months full time  or equal N/A
Maine CAA accredited master’s or equal No Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
Maryland Accredited master’s No Supervised clinical experience Supervised postgrad experience Jurisdictional exam
Massachusetts CAA accredited Master’s No Meets ASHA requirement Meets ASHA requirement N/A
Michigan Accredited master’s No Unspecified, but required by accredited programs Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
Minnesota CAA accredited master’s or equal No Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
Mississippi Accredited master’s No Unspecified, but required by accredited programs Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
Missouri CAA accredited master’s No Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal Jurisprudence exam passage
Montana CAA accredited master’s No Clinical practicum 36 week experience with mentor Jurisprudence exam passage
Nebraska CAA accredited master’s or equivalent No  Unspecified, but required by accredited programs 36 week professional experience N/A
Nevada Accredited master’s or equivalent No 300 hour practicum None required N/A
New Hampshire CAA accredited program No 400 hour practicum 9 month professional experience N/A
New Jersey CAA accredited master’s No 350 hour practicum 9 month professional experience Jurisprudence online orientation
New Mexico Graduate degree No N/A 9 month experience Jurisprudence exam passage
New York CAA accredited master’s or equivalent No Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
North Carolina Graduate degree No 400 hour practicum 9 month experience N/A
North Dakota Accredited master’s No Unspecified, but required by accredited programs None required N/A
Ohio Master’s degree or equivalent No 375 hour practicum,  250 hours at  graduate level 9 month  experience N/A
Oklahoma CAA accredited graduate degree or equal No Meets ASHA requirement or equal 9 month post grad experience N/A
Oregon Approved accredited master’s No 400 hour practicum 1260 hour professional experience N/A
Pennsylvania Accredited master’s No 375 hour practicum 1260 hour professional experience 3 hr child abuse recognition training
Rhode Island CAA accredited master’s Yes Meets ASHA requirement or equal 9 month full time experience or equal N/A
South Carolina CAA accredited post grad degree Yes Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
South Dakota CAA accredited master’s No Supervised clinical practicum Post grad professional experience N/A
Tennessee CAA accredited master’s No Meets ASHA requirement or equal Clinical fellowship Jurisprudence exam
Texas CAA accredited master’s No 400 hour practicum 9 month professional experience Jurisprudence exam
Utah Accredited graduate degree No Unspecified, but required by accredited programs One year supervised professional experience May require clinical skills demonstration
Vermont Director approved graduate degree No Supervised clinical practicum Post grad professional training N/A
Virginia CAA accredited degree Yes Meets ASHA requirement or equal Meets ASHA requirement or equal N/A
Washington Board approved graduate degree No Supervised clinical practicum 9 month graduate experience or equal 4 clock hours AIDS education and hearing.
West Virginia CAA accredited master’s No Supervised clinical practicum Post grad professional experience Jurisprudence exam
Wisconsin Board approved graduate degree No Board approved practicum Board approved post clinical fellowship N/A
Wyoming Board recognized Graduate degree No Board approved practicum Complete educational and clinical experience N/A

Information from ASHA, Last updated 1/10/20

 

In many states, proof of ASHA CCC replaces many of the requirements for becoming a speech pathologist, since they were requirements met when obtaining that certification. Often times, 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 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

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

 

Step 6: 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