How to Become a Speech Therapist

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

A masters degree is the most common level of education among speech therapists. Licensure or certification requirements also exist, but vary by State. Most speech-language pathologist jobs require a master degree and more than 230 colleges and universities offer graduate programs in speech-language pathology accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. While graduation from an accredited program is not always required to become a speech-language pathologist, it may be helpful in obtaining a license or may be required to obtain a license in some States and 47 States regulate speech therapists through licensure or registration..

Speech-language pathology courses cover anatomy, physiology, and the development of the areas of the body involved in speech, language, and swallowing; the nature of disorders; principles of acoustics; and psychological aspects of communication. Graduate students also learn to evaluate and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders and receive supervised clinical training in communication disorders.

To become a speech therapist, a passing score on the national examination on speech-language pathology, offered through the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service, is required. Other usual requirements include 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and nine months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. Forty-one States have continuing education requirements for licensure renewal. Medicaid, Medicare, and private health insurers generally require a practitioner to be licensed to qualify for reimbursement.

Only 12 States require this same license to practice in the public schools. The other States issue a teaching license or certificate that typically requires a master degree from an approved college or university. Some States will grant a provisional teaching license or certificate to applicants with a bachelor degree, but a master degree must be earned within three to five years. A few States grant a full teacher certificate or license to bachelor degree applicants.

In some States, the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association meets some or all of the requirements for licensure. To earn a CCC, a person must have a graduate degree from an accredited university, 400 hours of supervised clinical experience, complete a 36-week postgraduate clinical fellowship, and pass the Praxis Series examination in speech-language pathology administered by the Educational Testing Service. You should contact your State Licensing Board for details on your State requirements.

Speech therapists should be able to effectively communicate diagnostic test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatment in a manner easily understood by their patients and their families. They must be able to approach problems objectively and be supportive. Because patient progress may be slow, patience, compassion, and good listening skills are necessary. As speech therapists gain clinical experience and engage in continuing professional education, many develop expertise with certain populations, such as preschoolers and adolescents, or disorders, such as aphasia and learning disabilities. Some may obtain board recognition in a specialty area, such as child language, fluency, or feeding and swallowing. Experienced clinicians may become mentors or supervisors of other therapists or be promoted to administrative positions.