Speech-language pathologists play an important role in helping others overcome speech and language-related problems. It’s a deeply rewarding career, as you can provide your patients with the tools and skills needed to use their voices with confidence.
Now is a great time to become an SLP, as the national job outlook is very promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 28.7% between 2020 and 2030, with an estimated 15,200 job openings each year.
If you are interested in a career as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), this guide covers everything you need to know about the path to becoming an SLP.
Steps to Becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national credentialing association for SLPs, and the organization outlines all the requirements for each step in the SLP certification process.
To become a speech-language pathologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. You will also need to pass an examination, receive state licensure, and complete a clinical fellowship year (CFY). The timeline of becoming an SLP can look different for everyone. However, here are the steps you need to take to ensure you’re on the right track.
1. Bachelor’s Degree
The first step to becoming a speech-language pathologist is receiving your undergraduate degree. It’s recommended that you receive a degree in a relevant area of study, such as speech-language pathology, communication sciences or linguistics. In addition, taking relevant courses to complete an undergraduate minor can also help prepare you for your studies in a graduate program.
2. SLP Grad School
Once you’ve been awarded your bachelor’s degree, you will need to enroll in a graduate program to receive your master’s degree in speech-language pathology. Before applying to grad school for speech-language pathology, it’s important to ensure that the program is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). The CAA reviews and publishes a directory of accredited graduate programs so that students are best prepared to become a certified SLP.
How Long is Grad School for Speech-Language Pathology?
The amount of time it takes to complete a speech-language pathology program depends on the course load a student takes and how many hours they can devote to the program and clinical exposure. Generally speaking, it takes about 2-3 years to earn an SLP master’s degree. If you complete a program accredited by the CAA, the program incorporates courses that help you reach the number of clinical hours needed to obtain national certification requirements.
SLP Grad School Requirements
The requirements for acceptance into a speech-language pathology master’s program will vary from institution to institution. However, the general grad school requirements for prospective SLPs are as follows:
- Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field
- GPA of 3.0+
- Recommendation letters from relevant work experience
- Entry essay
- Strong GRE General Test scores
3. Post-Graduate Clinical Fellowship
Once you have your master’s degree in SLP, it is required to complete a clinical fellowship year (CFY). This year is when SLPs can gain practical experience under a mentor before practicing independently. In this program, you will need to obtain 1,260 working hours under supervision in either part-time or full-time work.
To pass the program, your mentor will conduct an evaluation of your performance based on the following four categories on a scale from 1-5. You must obtain a score of three or higher on these core competencies:
- Supervisory guidance
If you are a graduate looking to start your CFY, the ProCare Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship Program is a great way to find the right fellowship opportunities for you with added support and guidance throughout the CFY.
CFY SLP Licensing Process
National licensure is not required for the CFY. However, some states require clinical fellows to obtain a state-specific SLP CFY license, sometimes referred to as an intern SLP license. ASHA requires fellows to contact their state regulatory agency or licensing board to ensure they meet the requirements outlined by their state before starting the CFY.
While not a requirement, clinical fellows have the opportunity to initiate the ASHA application process for the national Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) at any time before, during, or after the CFY. If you choose to start the application process for ASHA certification before or during your CFY, you must:
- Begin the CFY experience within 2 years of initiating the ASHA certification process.
- Complete the CFY experience within 4 years of initiating the ASHA certification process.
4. Pass the Praxis Examination in Speech-Language Pathology
SLPs must take and pass the Praxis Examinations in speech-language pathology, and this is usually accomplished during the CFY. The Praxis exam is used to assess an SLP’s understanding of the practice and is a requirement before applying for state licensure and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certification.
According to the ASHA, the current passing score needed on a Praxis speech-language pathology exam (5331) for ASHA certification is 162.
5. Obtain State Licensure and ASHA Certification
Once the SLP has acquired their bachelor’s and master’s degree, finished the CFY and passed the Praxis speech-language pathology examination, they can apply for an ASHA certification and the state licensure required for the state they want to practice in.
The exact certifications and licensure requirements vary by state. In addition, different certifications may need to be obtained depending on where you want to practice, such as in schools or in a specialty. For the specific guidelines, certifications and requirements of each state, visit the ASHA state guide.
What Licenses Do You Need to Work as an SLP?
Here’s a checklist of the specific licenses, degrees, and certifications you will need to work as an SLP, ordered chronologically:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Master’s degree
- State licensure for CFY (if applicable)
- ASHA Certification: Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP)
- State licensure for SLP
6. Find a Job as an SLP
Congratulations—you’ve made it to the final step in the SLP career path! Once you’ve met all the requirements, you can begin applying for SLP jobs!
If you’re looking for opportunities in the speech-language pathology field, we invite you to explore ProCare’s various SLP job openings for talented SLPs nationwide! Our wide selection of SLP jobs—from school SLPs to remote SLP openings—is sure to have the perfect match for you.
Resources for SLPs
Whether you’re on track to becoming an SLP or simply interested in the role, below are some helpful resources for all things speech-language pathology:
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
- Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
- National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA)
- ProCare Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship Program
- SLP CFY Resume Template & Examples
- Best Colleges for Speech-Language Pathology
Speech-Language Pathology | FAQs
Explore some frequently asked questions about pursuing higher education to become an SLP below.
What is an SLP Grad School?
An SLP grad school offers a graduate program accredited by the CAA for prospective SLPs. The SLP graduate program typically lasts two years, and students will earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology upon competition. In addition, accredited SLP graduate programs help students by incorporating required clinical work within their courses.
What Degree is Best for SLPs?
A master’s degree in speech-language pathology is required if you want to be an SLP. If you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree and aren’t sure which area of study to enroll in, it’s recommended to pursue a degree in a relevant area of study if speech-language pathology is not offered. Choosing a major such as communication sciences, linguistics, psychology or education can best set you up for success in your graduate program.
How Many Grad Schools Should I Apply to for SLP?
The number of grad schools you should apply to for SLP greatly depends on your personal preferences. Before applying to a program, you should consider your personal geographical and financial preferences. It’s typically recommended to submit 5-10 applications for grad school SLP programs, as this number ensures you have plenty of options to choose from once you receive your admission status.
Do You Need a Degree to Become a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant?
The ASHA also sets the educational requirements for speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs). As opposed to a bachelor’s and master’s degree required to be an SLP, an SLPA can satisfy the requirements with either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, as long as the program is accomplished through an accredited institution.