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How To Become a Speech Language Pathologist

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The resources below contain a comprehensive guide to becoming a speech-language pathologist. Its purpose is to be a veritable guide for individuals looking to kick-start their speech-language pathology career on the best possible foundation.

We have made sure to include critical details such as the steps involved in the entire process, licensure and certification requirements, and, of course, some of the top speech-language pathology schools in the country.

Who is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists provide evaluation and diagnosis for individuals with communication disorders. After evaluation and making a diagnosis, they can either prevent the condition in those who don’t already have it or treat patients whose results are positive.

During a day’s work, speech-language pathologists may also find themselves providing training and education for the families and caregivers of their patients and even to other professionals around them.

Typically, speech-language pathologists can work in several facilities, including children’s hospitals, private practice, colleges and universities, and even k12 schools, among others. There are also a handful of speech-language pathologists working with local, state, and federal governments.

Steps to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

The following are all the steps to starting a successful career as a speech-language pathologist.

Step 1: Graduate from a Bachelor’s Degree Program

More than a bachelor’s degree is required to start a career as a Speech-Language pathologist. All Speech-Language pathologists must have a master’s degree from an accredited program.

But of course, before they can earn a master’s degree, interested individuals must first complete an undergraduate program.

Now, the exact undergraduate program that they need to complete is usually based on the master’s program that they hope to apply for. For example, while some programs insist that candidates graduate from a bachelor’s program in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), others are more flexible.

It is also possible for master’s programs to have some sort of prerequisite course requirements as part of the program to serve as a starting point for those without prior experience in communication sciences and disorders.

Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology

As mentioned above, all Speech-Language pathologists must have a master’s degree from an accredited program. The Council primarily carries out accreditation for Speech-Language pathology programs on academic accreditation in Audiology and speech-language pathology.

Candidates are advised to attend only accredited programs because they guarantee a standard of education not only academically but also in terms of clinical experience. Additionally, this can also be very important when it comes to becoming certified.

During a training program, candidates must also find a way to acquire clinical experience. For this reason, high-quality programs tend to include such provisions as part of the curriculum.

Step 3: Become Certified

The most relevant certification for Speech-Language pathologists is the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). As the name implies, this credential proves that the Speech-Language pathologist in question has received a high level of education and possesses the required skills to carry out their duties at a very high level.

To obtain this certification, candidates must complete their graduate program and earn a master’s degree. They must also meet the clinical experience requirements before qualifying for the National exam.

Once they pass this exam, they will officially become certified.

Step 4: Earn a PhD (Optional)

Obtaining a master’s degree and passing the certification exam is necessary for an aspiring speech-language pathologist. Getting a PhD, however, is not compulsory.

Still, doing so has a lot of advantages. On a general level, however, speech-language pathologists who wish to work in research and academia are the ones who often seek a doctorate to consolidate and improve upon their master’s degree.

Professionals in the field who work in private practice also often pursue a PhD.

Step 5: Secure Employment

Candidates who have earned their master’s degree in speech-language pathology and have fulfilled all the certification requirements, including obtaining clinical experience, may proceed to secure employment and start working as professional Speech-Language pathologists.

As mentioned earlier, Speech-Language pathologists can work in various environments ranging from healthcare settings to academia and research.

Top Speech-Language Pathology Schools

The following are some of the most prominent schools to study as a future speech-language pathologist.

Purdue University

Purdue University’s Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology program focuses on language disorders, motor disorders, and school clinical methods. Regarded as being one of the best in the entire country, candidates must provide multiple letters of recommendation and face huge competition to secure admission.

University of Washington

At the University of Washington in Seattle, interested candidates can enroll in a world-class Speech-Language pathology program boasting a graduation rate of 84%.

The school also boasts a comprehensive curriculum, providing hands-on training through 500 hours of internships and practicums.

Northeastern University

Aspiring speech-language pathologists in and around Massachusetts may consider the top-class program Northeastern University offers. With a completion rate of 98.3% and a 100% employment rate, graduates can be sure of proper placement upon graduation.

The school also boasts modern technology and software.

University of Utah

Lastly, the University of Utah is another extraordinary institution on our list that is widely regarded as being one of the best in the country for high-quality speech-language pathology training. The program has an acceptance rate of 79% and a graduation rate of 66%.

Accepted applicants should be prepared to study for 5 semesters that can last between 2 to 5 years. In total, candidates must acquire 55 credit hours of training, with 19 hours spent in clinical practicums.

License & Certification

As mentioned above, the most popular certification for Speech-Language pathologists is the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology. However, it is also possible for different states to have their own unique, additional licensure requirements for professionals in this field.

For this reason, aspiring speech-language pathologists should consult appropriate state boards before starting their careers.