How To Become a Speech Therapist

December 23, 2023
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Speech therapy, also known as speech-language pathology, is a rewarding and dynamic field dedicated to supporting individuals with communication, feeding, and swallowing disorders.  If you have a passion for helping others and a keen interest in language, communication, and human development, a career as a speech therapist might be the perfect fit for you. In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you through the steps to become a speech therapist, from education and training to licensure and career options.

Understand the Role of a Speech Therapist

Before embarking on the journey to become a speech therapist, it's crucial to clearly understand the profession. Speech therapists work with individuals of all ages, from children to the elderly, who face speech, language, fluency, voice, and swallowing challenges. These professionals assess, diagnose, and treat various communication disorders, helping clients enhance their verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

The first step on your path to becoming a speech therapist is to earn a bachelor's degree. While specific undergraduate majors may vary, it's common for aspiring speech therapists to pursue degrees in communication sciences and disorders, speech-language pathology, or a related field. During your undergraduate studies, focus on courses that cover anatomy, physiology, linguistics, psychology, and communication disorders.

Complete Prerequisite Courses

Many graduate programs in speech-language pathology have specific prerequisite coursework requirements. These courses often include phonetics, language development, audiology, and speech science. Ensure that you research and fulfill these prerequisites during your undergraduate studies to qualify for admission to a master's program later on.

Pursue a Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology

To practice as a speech therapist, you must obtain a master's degree in speech-language pathology from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). These programs typically take around two years to complete, including classroom instruction and clinical practicum experiences.

During your master's program, you will delve into advanced coursework covering neuroanatomy, language disorders, voice disorders, and augmentative and alternative communication. The clinical practicum component is essential for gaining hands-on experience in diagnosing and treating individuals with communication disorders.

Gain Clinical Experience

Hands-on clinical experience is a vital aspect of becoming a proficient speech therapist. Most master's programs require a certain number of supervised clinical hours, but seeking additional opportunities for clinical experience is beneficial. This can include internships, externships, or volunteer work in various settings, such as hospitals, schools, clinics, or rehabilitation centers.

Engaging in diverse clinical experiences allows you to work with individuals of different ages and backgrounds, broadening your skill set and preparing you for the challenges you may encounter in your future career.

Obtain Professional Certification

After completing your master's degree and required clinical hours, the next step is to obtain professional certification. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) offers the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). While certification is not mandatory in all regions, it is highly valued by employers and may be required for specific job opportunities.

To earn the CCC-SLP, you must pass the Praxis examination in speech-language pathology, which assesses your knowledge and skills in the field. Additionally, you'll need to complete a supervised clinical fellowship, during which you will work under the guidance of a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist.

Obtain a State License 

In addition to national certification, most states require speech therapists to obtain a state license to practice independently. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally include a master's degree in speech-language pathology, completing supervised clinical hours, and passing a state-specific licensing examination.

Be sure to research the licensure requirements in the state where you plan to practice and fulfill all necessary criteria. Maintaining both national certification and state licensure ensures that you meet the highest standards of professionalism and competence in the field.

Explore Specialization Opportunities

Speech therapists can specialize in various areas within the field, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, neurogenic disorders, voice disorders,  fluency disorders, sensitive technology, and so on. Consider your interests and passions within the field and explore opportunities for specialization through additional training, certifications, or continuing education courses.

Specializing can enhance your expertise in a particular area and open up new career paths, allowing you to work with specific populations or specialized settings.

Stay Informed and Engage in Professional Development

The field of speech-language pathology is continually evolving with advancements in research, technology, and therapeutic techniques. Stay informed about the latest developments by regularly attending conferences, workshops, and seminars. Engaging in professional development activities enhances your knowledge and skills and demonstrates your commitment to providing the best possible care for your clients.

Build a Professional Network

Networking is a valuable aspect of any career, and speech therapy is no exception. Connect with fellow speech therapists, educators, healthcare professionals, and potential employers through professional organizations, online forums, and social media. Building a strong professional network can provide support, mentorship, and potential job opportunities throughout your career.

Becoming a speech therapist is a fulfilling journey that requires dedication, education, and hands-on experience. By following these steps and staying committed to your professional development, you can embark on a rewarding career helping individuals overcome communication challenges and improving their quality of life. Whether you choose to work in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or private practices, your role as a speech therapist will make a meaningful impact on the lives of those you serve.

Apply Online To Join the Care Options for Kids Team!

Our home health care nurses, clinicians, and therapists work one-on-one with clients in the comfort of their own homes. We are always looking for loving and competent professionals to provide customized pediatric care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. We value our nurses’ health and well-being and understand your vital role in caring for our clients. PPE is provided in each home – including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. We follow CDC guidelines to ensure you, your client, and your family stay healthy.

Applying for a position with Care Options for Kids is quick and simple. Our online application process is straightforward and effortless and eliminates the need to come into a local office. Our approach is virtual and can be completed at your convenience. Until you are ready to meet virtually with our Talent Acquisition Specialist and a member of our Clinical Services team, your application, resumé, license, CPR card, and other credentials can all be quickly uploaded online. We can match you with a family in as little as 24 hours. Care Options for Kids provides services throughout the nation, and we make it as easy as possible to join our team. Call today at (888) 592-5855