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SLP as a Profession

What Does It Take to be a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Speech-Language Pathologist

There are several requirements to become a certified and licensed speech-language pathologist:

  1. Earn a master's degree in communication sciences and disorders or speech-language pathology from an accredited college or university program
  2. Pass a national examination in speech-language pathology
  3. Complete an internship (the Clinical Fellowship Year, or CF)
  4. Earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in speech-language pathology
  5. Obtain licensure in the state in which to plan to practice (if that state has a licensure law)
  6. Obtain public school (teacher) certification, if you desire to work in the public schools and the state has a teacher certification requirement such as Pennsylvania.

Taking care of (1) through (3) above will usually allow you to meet the requirements of (4) and (5) above, and in many states, will put you in a position to take care of (6) above as well. Numbers (2) through (5) above are satisfied after an individual graduates from college, although many students meet (2) above while still enrolled in college.

Upon graduating from college, the new graduate finds a job. He or she will be looking specifically for a work setting that offers a Clinical Fellowship Year (CF) position, which is essentially a supervised internship. The CF is actually completed on a full-time basis for a period of 9-months and on a part-time basis up to 36 months.

Once you successfully complete the CF, you will apply to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) for certification (the CCC). ASHA is the body that governs the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology in the United States. ASHA sets the standards for accreditation of professional programs, and also sets the standards for professional certification. Your credentials are reviewed by ASHA, and if acceptable, you will be awarded the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology. Certification is a mechanism by which ASHA assures the public that you have met the minimum requirements for engaging in competent and ethical practice.

Upon earning the CCC, you would then apply to your state licensing agency (if your state has a licensure law regulating the profession of speech-language pathology) for a professional license. In most cases, evidence of having earned the CCC is sufficient to earn a professional license. In some states, however, other requirements may exist. You should become familiar with the licensure laws in the state in which you plan to practice. Licensure is a means by which the State assures the public that you are competent in your knowledge and skills to provide the services under which you have gained licensure.

Many states have additional requirements for individuals desiring to provide speech-language pathology services in the public schools. Typically referred to as public school—or teacher—certification, you should be aware of what the requirements might be for the state in which you plan to practice. Most states will accept the CCC as evidence of the ability to work in the public schools, but some states have specific pre-professional requirements (e.g., specific courses in the field of education, and a student teaching assignment) students must complete while enrolled in college. If your particular state (the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of them!) requires additional documentation besides the CCC, you should be sure that the college program you attend is equipped to offer a curriculum that will make you eligible for teacher certification. Otherwise, you will have to go back to college to complete the requirements, or you won't be allowed to work in the public schools in that state.

Hopefully, the information provided here will clarify the criteria to become a certified and licensed speech-language pathologist.