How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist
Some speech-language pathologists specialize in working with specific age groups, such as children.
Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. All states require that speech-language pathologists be licensed. Requirements for licensure vary by state.
Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master's degree in speech-language pathology. These programs usually take 2 years of postbaccalaureate study. Although master's degree programs may not require a particular bachelor's degree for admission, they frequently require applicants to have completed coursework in biology, social science, or certain healthcare and related fields. Requirements vary by program.
Graduate programs often include courses in speech and language development, age-specific speech disorders, alternative and augmentative communication, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical experience.
Graduation from an accredited program is required for certification and, often, for state licensure. The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), accredits education programs in speech-language pathology.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed. Licensure typically requires at least a master’s degree from an accredited program, supervised clinical experience gained both during and after completing the program, and passing an exam. For specific requirements, contact your state’s medical or health licensure board.
Speech-language pathologists may earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Certification typically satisfies some or all of the requirements for state licensure and may be required by some employers. To earn CCC-SLP certification, candidates must graduate from an accredited program, pass an exam, and complete a fellowship that lasts several months and is supervised by a certified speech-language pathologist. To maintain the CCC-SLP credential, speech-language pathologists must complete a specified number of hours of continuing education.
Speech-language pathologists who work in schools may need a teaching certification. For specific requirements, contact your state’s department of education or the school district or private institution in which you are interested.
Speech language pathologists may choose to earn specialty certifications in child language, fluency, or swallowing. Candidates who hold the CCC-SLP, meet work experience requirements, complete continuing education hours, and pass a specialty certification exam may use the title Board Certified Specialist. Three organizations offer specialty certifications: American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders, American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders, and American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders.
Some employers prefer to hire candidates with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS) certification.
Candidates may gain hands-on experience through supervised clinical work, which is typically referred to as a fellowship. Prospective speech-language pathologists train under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist to refine their skills after the completion of the graduate degree.
Analytical skills. Speech-language pathologists must select appropriate diagnostic tools and evaluate results to identify goals and develop a treatment plan.
Communication skills. Speech-language pathologists need to explain test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments in a way that individuals and their families can understand. They also must be clear and concise in written reports.
Compassion. Speech-language pathologists may work with people who are frustrated by their communication difficulties. They must understand and be supportive of these clients and their families.
Critical-thinking skills. Speech-language pathologists must be deliberate in making assessments to create treatment plans tailored to individual needs.
Detail oriented. Speech-language pathologists must comprehensive notes on clients' progress to ensure that they continue receiving proper treatment.
Listening skills. Speech-language pathologists must pay attention to hear the clients' communication difficulties and determine a course of action.