How do I Become a Speech Pathologist?

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  • Written By: Hillary Flynn
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2019
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Speech pathologists work with people who have difficulty speaking due to speech, language, cognitive, or swallowing difficulties, as well as a variety of people suffering from different diseases and disorders. Speech difficulty can be caused by hearing impairment, brain injury, cerebral palsy, cleft palate, learning disability, degenerative disease, or many other causes. This means a speech pathologist may work in a number of different environments and many opportunities exist for selecting professional roles and activities.

A speech pathologist may work in a public school, hospital, private practice, research facility, university, or rehabilitation center. Whether a speech pathologist chooses to diagnose, treat, research, or educate determines the path that should be selected for becoming a speech pathologist. The minimum standard for licensing is usually a master's degree from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, but licensing and certification requirements vary by state.

Most bachelor's degree programs in speech pathology provide the theory behind the practice, as well as practical knowledge in anatomy, physiology, acoustics, speech and language development, and disorders of the body and mind that impact speech. Graduate programs should be selected based on the area of practice desired. It is while completing a master's degree in speech pathology that a student works with patients in a clinic, learning to diagnose and treat.


Those who wish to work in schools should be sure to select a program that allows working with children. Those who prefer a clinical setting in a hospital may want to complete a clinical program that focuses on the elderly. Jobs in nursing homes and hospitals are on the rise due to the large number of "baby boomers" reaching ages that are associated with medical disorders that cause speech issues. For those who want to teach, a PhD program should be pursued.

Almost every state requires a license. Common requirements to obtain a license include 300 - 375 clinical hours in addition to passing a national exam given by the Praxis® Series of the Educational Testing Service, and nine months of post-graduate professional clinical experience. For those wanting to work in schools, it is especially important to check state requirements. Only a few states require the standard speech pathologist license, and the rest require a teaching certificate or other criteria. Whether the teaching certificate or license requires a bachelor's or master's degree is completely dependent on the individual state's criteria.



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