How to Become a Certified Speech-Language Pathologist

Four steps to a rewarding, in-demand healthcare profession.

What does a speech-language pathologist do?

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) evaluates and diagnoses speech, language, voice, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders. Speech-language pathologists work with all ages in a wide range of settings, including schools, healthcare facilities, in-home care, nursing homes, and more.

The necessary skills to be a successful speech-language pathologist include compassion and communication skills for working with patients and families. They also include critical-thinking and analytical skills for accurate diagnosis, designing treatment plans, and analyzing results and progress.

What are the job and salary prospects?

As the Baby Boomer generation grows older, and an increasing number of children are diagnosed with autism, the need for speech pathologists continues to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that speech-language pathologist jobs will grow 25 percent from 2019 to 2029 – much faster than the average for all occupations.

Speech-language pathology can also be a lucrative career path. According to the BLS, in 2019 the average annual salary for a school speech-language pathologist was $79,120.

How do I become a certified speech-language pathologist?

If you think this career path might be right for you, here are the four steps you’ll need to take to become a certified speech-language pathologist:

1) Complete a bachelor’s degree program

First, you will need to earn an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. A related major is not required, but certain coursework may be necessary before applying to graduate school. At UVA, majoring in Speech Communication Disorders will provide tailored coursework and pre-professional experiences to prepare you for a smooth transition into most master’s degree programs.

If you majored in something other than communication disorders, our master’s degree program also offers a track designed specifically for you. It integrates all the necessary coursework into the program – so you can begin graduate school right away.

2) Complete a master’s degree program in speech-language pathology

Next, you must complete a graduate program in speech-language pathology that is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). Our M.Ed. in Communication Sciences and Disorders is a full-time clinical degree program with a long history of producing successful speech-language pathologists. In addition to high-quality academic course work, our program emphasizes hands-on experience through supervised internships and clinical practice.

3) Obtain your state license and begin working

Depending on the state that you plan to work in, you may need to complete certain state-specific requirements, like testing, to obtain your state license and begin working as a speech-language pathologist. In Virginia, state licensure is managed by the Virginia Board of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. You should always consult your state’s governing body for up-to-date information on state regulations. At UVA, as you complete your graduate degree program, our program leaders will help counsel you through the process and prepare you to begin work after graduation.

4) Earn your CCC-SLP certification

Finally, you will need to apply for your Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This certificate is a nationally recognized professional credential that signals the holder has met a certain level of academic and professional standards.

At UVA, we have been training and graduating successful speech-language pathologists for decades. If you have questions about the process or the career path, we are happy to help guide you. Contact us anytime at [email protected] for more information.

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