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How To Become A Speech-Language Pathologist

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“How do you become a speech-language pathologist?” This is a question I’ve heard a lot as this website, The Traveling Traveler, has combined a lot of my passions. Particularly, working as a speech-language pathologist and traveling. If you’re wondering how to become a speech-language pathologist, here is the step-by-step guide.

The answer to this one is not simple. It’s also not cheap and not easy. The process to becoming an SLP takes a lot of time and money.

To become a licensed speech-language pathologist you need to be licensed in the state you are working in, and the nationwide gold standard is to have your Certification of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA).  

The steps I’m outlining in this piece detail what is required to get your CCC from ASHA. Please check your state regulations as well, because states can vary on their requirements.

Personally, it took me seven years to become a licensed speech-language pathologist.

Four of those were spent undergrad at Penn State University, two were in graduate school at Emerson College, and one year was as a clinical fellow.

The cost to get my degree in speech-language pathology, in total, with my mixed public and private education was almost 200k.

If you choose to take the path and become a speech-language pathologist, here are the steps to get your CCCs.

Again, please check with your state for any individual differences in requirements.

This blog is based upon the 2020 SLP Certification Standards by the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA).

How To Become A Speech-Language Pathologist

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree program
  • Earn a master’s degree from an accredited CAA program
  • Pass the Praxis
  • Complete a post-graduate fellowship
  • Apply for ASHA and state licenses

Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program

The true requirement to become a speech-language pathologist is to have a master’s degree from an accredited Council of Academic Accreditation (CAA) of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology program. However, to get into a master’s program, you need a bachelor’s degree.

To begin your speech coursework at the undergraduate level, you would major in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD). Here is a place where you can search for an accredited program for an undergraduate CSD major: https://www.asha.org/edfind/.

You do not need an undergraduate degree in CSD to become a speech-language pathologist. In fact, about half of my graduate school class majored in CSD and the other half majored in something different. I

f you did not major in CSD, you will have to take the required prerequisites prior to beginning your master’s degree coursework. Every master’s program handles the prereq coursework differently. Some require an extra semester, some an extra year, and/or online courses.

Please note that your prereq courses cover more than CSD courses. You also need a certain number of credits in sciences, math, etc.

Earn a Master’s Degree From a CAA Accredited University

There are 270 programs nationwide that offer accredited programs in speech-language pathology. You can find a program here: https://www.asha.org/edfind/.

Graduate programs in speech-language pathology must cover a minimum of 36 hours of semester credits that address the skills and knowledge needed for the ASHA scope of practice. The master’s degree program also includes supervised clinical experiences. To receive your ASHA CCCs, at least 325 of 400 clock hours of supervised clinical experiences must be completed while enrolled in graduate studies with an accredited program.

Clinical Fellowship year

When you graduate with a master’s degree from an accredited program, you still do not qualify to be a licensed speech-language pathologist.

You need to complete a postgraduate clinical fellowship. To apply for your ASHA CCCs, your clinical fellowship must be supervised by an accredited CCC-SLP and last 36 weeks and 1,260 hours.

When you begin working, you need to follow the ASHA rules to apply for your clinical fellowship year. Also, you need to follow your state-specific rules as well. Some states require a temporary license to practice as a fellow; others have different rules.

Pass the Praxis

To apply for licensure, you must take and pass the Praxis Exam.

The Praxis is essentially the national board exam for speech-language pathology and is administered via Educational Testing Service (ETS). Many clinicians take the Praxis at the end of graduate school since a lot of the information is still fresh in your mind. However, you can take it during your clinical fellowship year as well. You can register for the Praxis directly with ETS.

Get your ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence and State License

Yes, you made it this far! Once you have completed your master’s degree, taken the Praxis, and completed a clinical fellowship, you can now apply for licensure to officially become a speech-language pathologist. You want to complete the application and apply for licensure both at the state level and at the national level through ASHA.

Here is the information to submit for your ASHA CCCs: https://www.asha.org/certification/SLPCertification/

For state licensure (required), go directly to your state board for speech-language pathology.

Hopefully, this blog can help you map out the steps for becoming a speech-language pathologist.

If you have specific questions about the steps to becoming an SLP, I recommend contacting the ASHA Action Center.

If you are unsure if you want to enter the field or not, I recommend checking out my blog on the Pros and cons of being a speech-language pathologist.

7 thoughts on “How To Become A Speech-Language Pathologist”

  1. Julia,
    I am beginning my junior year of undergrad and I found this to be very informative. I now how more realistic expectations. Thank you for your honesty!

  2. Hi Julia, thank you for this informative post! I am an Australian graduating from an SLP masters in December, and I’m hoping to do a CFY in America. I’m having a hard time finding information on how to apply for a CFY, what requirements there are etc.
    Also just to confirm, I don’t need to take the PRAXIS or apply for ASHA certification until AFTER I’ve started CFY?

    1. Congrats! You begin your application for the CF once you start working. For the Praxis, ASHA says you can take it during your CF year. However, I don’t know if each state follows that guideline. To start working, you have to follow the regulations of the state you are in, which is the confusing part. Each state has different guidelines for how they handle CF licensure.

  3. Very informative post! And good to know that many aspiring SLPs majored in something different in undergrad- I’m in my undergrad junior year of studying Linguistics & Mathematics, and I thought I was “late”!

  4. Hello,
    Right now, I am getting my masters at an asha accredited school in New York State. I’ve heard that if you get certified in nys, you will basically be able to practice in any state? Is that true and if so, is it easy to switch states?

    1. You will have the skills needed to work in other states but you still need to apply for each license individually. Switching states depends on the state and their laws. Some are fairly easy (take a few weeks to get a license) while others take months and a lot of money.

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