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. Most states require that speech-language pathologists be licensed. Requirements vary by state.
Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master's degree. Although master's degree programs do not require a particular bachelor's degree for admission, they may require applicants to have taken certain courses in healthcare and related fields. Requirements vary by program.
Graduate programs often include courses in speech and language development, age-specific speech disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical experience.
The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, accredits education programs in speech-language pathology. Graduation from an accredited program is required for certification and, often, for state licensure.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states regulate speech-language pathologists. Most states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed; other states require registration. Licensure typically requires at least a master’s degree from an accredited program, supervised clinical experience, and passing an exam. For specific requirements, contact your state’s medical or health licensure board.
Speech-language pathologists can 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 under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist. To maintain the CCC-SLP credential, speech-language pathologists must complete 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years.
Speech-language pathologists who work in schools may need a specific teaching certification. For specific requirements, contact your state’s department of education or the 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, 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.
Candidates can gain hands-on experience through supervised clinical work, which is typically referred to as a fellowship. This training is a type of internship in that prospective speech-language pathologists apply and refine the skills learned during their academic program under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist. The CCC-SLP certification requires candidates to complete a fellowship lasting at least 36 weeks.
Analytical skills. Speech-language pathologists must select the most appropriate diagnostic tools and analyze results to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Communication skills. Speech-language pathologists need to communicate test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments in a way that individuals and their families can understand.
Compassion. Speech-language pathologists work with people who are often frustrated by their difficulties. Speech-language pathologists must support emotionally demanding individuals and their families.
Critical-thinking skills. Speech-language pathologists must adjust their treatment plans as needed, finding alternative ways to help.
Detail oriented. Speech-language pathologists must take detailed notes on progress and treatment.
Listening skills. Speech-language pathologists must listen to symptoms and concerns to decide on the appropriate course of treatment.