Certification and Licensure for Speech-Language Pathologists

Certification and Licensure for Speech-Language Pathologists
Speech-language pathologists are granted licensure and certification to deliver diagnostic and remediation services to individuals with communication and swallowing disorders. When seeking the services of a speech-language pathologist make sure to ask if they are licensed and certified. In the US, speech-language pathologists should be certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and licensed in the states in which they practice. If you live outside the US, you should ask the speech-language professional if they are certified by your country's governing body for speech-language professionals.

In the US, ASHA grants certification to speech-language pathologists who have completed a master's degree (including 375 hours of supervised clinical practice), 36 weeks of full-time (35 hours per week) experience (or the equivalent part-time experience), totaling a minimum of 1260 hours. Part-time work can be completed, as long as the clinical fellow (CF) works more than 5 hours per week of clinical practice supervised by a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist and successfully passed the National Examination for Speech-Language Pathologists (NESPA). ASHA also requires certified speech-language pathologists to maintain a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education credits every three years.

Most private practice speech-language pathologists in the US will hold a license for each state they practice in. As of 2009, 47 states regulated speech-language pathologists through licensure or registration but the only states that required comprehensive licensure for a speech-language pathologists included: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Vermont. However, speech-language pathologists practicing in other states commonly hold licenses. For example, although comprehensive licensure is not required in the state of Florida, I am licensed in the state of Florida because that is where I practice.

Public school systems’ requirements for speech-language professionals also varies among states. Some public school systems may accept speech-language professionals with a bachelor’s degree (referred to as speech therapists) rather than a master’s degree because of shortages of master’s level professionals who are available to work in the public schools. While some states require a license to practice in the public schools, other states grant provisional teaching licenses to speech therapists with a bachelor’s degree with the agreement that a master’s degree must be earned within 3 to 5 years. Some states grant full teacher’s licenses to speech therapists that hold bachelor’s degrees.

When seeking speech therapy services outside of the public school setting, ask the speech-language pathologist about his or her level of education, licensure and certification. As if the variations in education and licensure weren’t confusing enough, it is common for speech-language pathologists (who hold master’s degrees) to refer to themselves as speech therapists (perhaps because it is a more conventional term). If you have questions about a therapist’s level of education, qualifications or areas of specialization be sure to ask for clarification.

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