Communication is one of the most critical life skills since it is the basis for all interaction. It allows you to pass information, express your thoughts, and build strong relationships in personal and professional settings. Developing practical communication skills also helps you understand yourself better, ultimately building self-confidence.
So if you want to help empower individuals to communicate with ease, speech-language pathology may just be the right path. Get to know more about this career and how you can pursue it.
What is an SLP?
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a healthcare professional who assesses, diagnoses, and treats:
- Speech Disorders (stuttering, articulation disorders, apraxia)
- Language Disorders (aphasia, auditory processing disorder)
- Social Communication Disorders (difficulty communicating socially)
- Cognitive-communication Disorders (difficulty communicating due to a traumatic brain injury that led to cognitive deficits)
- Swallowing Disorders (difficulty eating and swallowing)
Given the field’s broad scope, SLPs work with patients of all ages, from babies to seniors. Some examples are infants with feeding issues, children with developmental delays, or individuals recovering from a stroke. But the list goes on and on, given that SLPs can work in various settings like hospitals, rehab centers, and educational facilities.
Steps to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist
If you’re interested in becoming an SLP, it’s essential to consider your career timeline; here are some critical steps to take:
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field
The first step is to earn your bachelor’s degree in SLP or a related field. While there’s no fixed requirement on what degree you should take, you must complete prerequisite courses in speech science, language development, and phonetics. Thus, some popular undergraduate courses for aspiring SLPs include:
- Communication Sciences and Disorders
If you take a course that’s not related to speech therapy and suddenly decide to pursue this path, you can still do this. If ever, you’ll likely need to take additional courses before proceeding to your master’s program.
Earn a Master’s Degree in SLP
After acquiring your bachelor’s degree and fulfilling your observation hours, you can now enroll in a master’s program in SLP. Make sure you find an institution accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), which you can verify with their EdFind tool.
Before starting your master’s program, you need to finish 25 hours of clinical observation with a certified SLP. While you can do this in local hospitals or clinics, you’ll reap more benefits abroad as a speech pathology volunteer. The beauty in volunteering abroad is that you’re not just getting your observation hours but also gaining hands-on experience in SLP.
Study-abroad opportunities expose you to a cross-cultural setting, allowing you to learn new healthcare practices and develop global awareness. Another of the leading slp volunteer abroad benefits you can get is a competitive advantage over other students since universities value international experience.
Complete Your Clinical Fellowship
Once you acquire your master’s degree, you must complete a post-graduate clinical fellowship (CF), which is required for state licensure. For this step, you’ll need to find a CF mentor—a certified SLP who’s been practicing for at least nine months since getting their certification. Your CF should also run for at least 1,260 hours and 36 weeks.
The CF is designed to be a “transitional work experience” that helps you apply your academic learnings to a real clinical setting. You can consider it your first step into the professional SLP world since you’ll already be treating patients—but still under supervision. At the end of your CF, you should ideally be ready for independent practice.
Pass the Praxis Examination
Another essential requirement for certification and licensing is the Praxis Exam. The Praxis is a 150-minute exam that tests your competency on different SLP domains like screening, diagnosis, and treatment. You should score at least 162 out of 200, so taking this during your CF. is recommended
Apply for Certification and State Licensing
Finally, the last step in your SLP journey is to obtain your Certificate of Clinical Competence in SLP (CCC-SLP) and state license. The requirements for your CCC-SLP include the following:
- Official transcript from graduate school
- Praxis score from the Education Testing Service (ETS)
- CF report documenting competition of hours and weeks
- Proof of 400 hours of supervised clinical experience
On the other hand, licensing requirements may vary per state, so it’ll be best to check with your SLP board.
Becoming an SLP is not easy, but it will surely be worth it. If you’re serious about pursuing this career, grab any opportunity to gain experience and build your skills. One of the best options will be to volunteer abroad, as this will broaden your perspective and teach you things you won’t learn in a classroom.