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Programs for Speech Pathology
Graduating from a speech pathology degree program can open the door to a rewarding career. As a speech pathologist, you can work in a variety of settings to help others improve their speech, work on language skills, and assist those with hearing, swallowing, and other communication disorders.
If you know you want to become a speech pathologist (SP), also referred to as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or speech therapist, then your first step will be to get your bachelor’s degree. Your undergraduate studies will provide you with the necessary foundation that can allow you to move onto your master’s level education, ultimately preparing you to work as a professional SP.
You can click through the links below to jump to and learn about that specific section.
- Bachelor’s Degree
- How can I become a speech-language pathologist?
- Master’s Degree
- Licensing and Certifications
- Doctorate Degrees
- Similar Degree Programs
No matter where you are in your collegiate journey, or whether you are looking into an online or traditional speech pathology degree program, it is essential that your program is accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). ASHA is a federally approved, specialized accreditation organization, and their accreditation ensures that the degree program will give you a well-rounded, standardized education.
While you will need a master’s degree to work as a professional SLP, the right undergraduate education can ultimately save you time and money. A baccalaureate degree program takes about four years to complete. The time it takes for you to complete a degree program may vary, and depends upon the structure of the program and how much time you are able to commit to your studies.
You can earn a speech pathology or a related degree as part of a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program. The two different types of undergraduate programs are largely similar. However, a BA program is more for liberal arts studies (like linguistics) and is typically designed for students to take a few more electives, giving you the opportunity to learn about subjects outside of your major. On the other hand, a BS degree usually places more emphasis on research, and is structured for you to take fewer electives and more classes that pertain directly to your major. As long as the program can prepare you for what you want your career to be, there is no right or wrong choice between a BA and a BS.
Most speech pathology degrees will have courses that focus on the biological, physical, social, and psychological sciences as they pertain to hearing, speaking, and language. As a future SP, the goal of your undergraduate studies is to prepare you for the classes you will take during your master’s degree program. Most master’s level programs will have a list of courses that you must take prior to being accepted into their program, and some may also require a certain amount of clinical hours. While there are some differences between educational institutions, most speech pathology degree programs will offer classes in the subjects below that may also be required to enroll in an SLP master’s degree program.
- Language Science and Aquisition
- Diagnosis and Treatment of Speech, and Language Disorders
- Anatomy and Physiology of Speech
- Lifespan Health and Disability
- Aural Rehabilitation
There are a few bachelor degrees that can prepare you for a speech pathology graduate degree, and many of them (speech pathology included) fall under the communication science disorders (CSD) umbrella. It is important to do your research and make sure that your undergraduate curriculum can meet the prerequisites for a standard SLP graduate degree. We will discuss some of these speech pathology-related degrees in more detail later on in this guide. As long as you are able to take classes like the ones previously mentioned and any others that may be needed, you can earn your bachelor’s degree in the following subjects:
- Speech Pathology
- Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
- Behavioral Development
- Applied Linguistics
- Childhood and Adolescent Development
- Communication Science Disorders
- English Language Development, Curriculum, and Instruction
For those who already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-SLP field, there are educational institutions that have accredited post-baccalaureate programs. These programs take between one – two years to complete and will cover some of the courses that we previously listed.
To save you from having to spend that extra time and money in a post-baccalaureate program, the degree programs listed below can give you the courses you may need to apply to an SLP master’s degree program.
How can I become a speech-language pathologist?
If you are interested in becoming a SLP, the first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree in speech pathology or audiology. A master’s degree is typically the entry-level degree for employment in the field. There are many degree options that prospective students can choose from. The degrees below can help set you on the right path towards a career in speech-language pathology.
Grand Canyon University
Concordia University - Portland
New York University
A speech pathology graduate degree program takes about two years to complete, and the first year is primarily made of actual classes while the second year is typically clinical or research-based work. This program is designed to build upon what you learned during your undergrad, giving you the knowledge and skills you’ll need to become a SP. During a master’s degree program you can learn about or gain experience in the following areas:
- Scientific research training and application
- Observe and conduct diagnostic evaluations/therapeutic procedures
- Communication and cognitive disorders across the lifespan
- Leadership skills
Once you start comparing speech pathology master’s programs, you’ll notice that many schools offer a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and/or Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Speech Pathology. Generally speaking, there is virtually no difference in the educational content that you will receive in an MA, MS, or M.Ed. program, unless your school requires that you tailor your studies to a specific field of speech pathology. You can expect to take courses in these subjects during your graduate education:
- Craniofacial Anomalies
- Counseling and Effective Communication
- Phonological Disabilities
- Professional Issues
- Neurobiology of Communication
While there are minimal differences with what you learn in the classroom between MA, MS, or M.Ed. programs, your clinical experience can be different depending on the setting. Most employers do not care about which type of speech pathology master’s degree you have, but they may look at what kind of clinical experience you received.
If you would like to work in an acute care setting, like a hospital, then it would be wise for you to enroll in a master’s program that has more of a medical focus or gives you a greater chance of receiving the appropriate clinical hours. Also, if you want to continue your education and earn a doctoral degree, you will likely need to have completed a thesis or dissertation during your master’s program.
Licensing and Certification
Depending on which state you live in, you may not need to become certified or licensed after earning your master’s degree. However, many employers do prefer to hire a certified SLP. You can apply for ASHA’s Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) after you have earned your master’s degree. Below is ASHA’s step-by-step process to becoming a certified SLP.
There are other continuing education, licensure, and certification programs offered in-person and online by universities and communication science disorder (CSD) organizations that are usually optional for working SLPs. People choose to pursue these programs to stay informed with the latest general research and technological developments, and to become better acquainted with a specific sub-field of CSDs and SLP.
You do not necessarily need a doctoral degree to become a SLP, but it can help you advance your career and may increase your salary potential. Prior to applying to a doctoral program, you will need to have graduated from an accredited master’s program and completed clinical hours at an approved site. Depending on the licensing and certification requirements in your state, some graduate schools may also require you to be a CCC-SLP prior to applying to the program.
There are a few types doctoral degree programs that SLP graduate students can enroll in, and the one that is right for you depends on what your career goals are. These doctoral programs can take between three – four years, with one of those years counting as your clinical fellowship year (CFY). A doctoral degree allows you to become a specialized expert in your field, and your CFY is when you can get hands-on, paid training in your area of choice like acute care or pediatrics.
Common reasons why the program may take longer than three or four years to complete are if you are a part-time student, in a combined master’s and doctoral program, or are pursuing a dual doctoral degree. SLP graduate students may be able to enroll in the following doctorates:
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): For this field, you can earn a PhD in speech language pathology or communication science disorders. Those programs focus heavily on academia and teaching you how to advance the industry through research, and this degree required for those who wish to become SLP or CSD teachers, scholars, and researchers. While this considered a research doctoral degree, you will still likely need to complete a CFY during your studies.
- Doctor of Clinical Science and Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (CScD and SLPD): These are both clinical degrees, and can also be referred to as clinical PhDs. Those with a master’s in SLP who want to work in a clinical setting (with patients/clients) can pursue this degree to qualify for advanced leadership and specialty positions, and it is not needed for entry-level clinical work.
- Doctor of Audiology (AuD): If you would rather work as an audiologist rather than an SP, then you will need this doctoral degree. An AuD is designed to give you both an academic and clinical-based education, focusing on patient-centered care of those with hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders. As an audiologist, you may also need ASHA’s Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A).
Most doctoral programs are structured differently than an undergraduate or graduate program. For example, if you are in a four-year program, the first two years will typically consist of actual classes (both core to CSD/SLP and specific to your degree). After that, you may be evaluated by your school to determine if you are ready to work on your dissertation and begin your CFY.
Similar Degree Programs
We mentioned earlier that there are several different undergraduate degrees that, with the right curriculum, may be able to prepare you for an SLP master’s degree. The following is a list of degree programs that can help you with your SLP education, or propel you into the specific career of that degree program.
- Programs for Child Development You will study the biological and psychological progression of infants to adolescents. People who choose to advance their education or pursue a career in child development can work as psychologists, educators, or child care directors or consultants. This undergraduate degree can also serve as a foundation for SLP students who want to work with the pediatric population.
- Programs for Psychology This degree program can teach you what previous psychologists have discovered in terms of how and why humans think, behave, and feel. An undergraduate psychology degree can be the first step to prepare you to work in a variety of positions including a psychologist, counselor, or SLP. There are a several specialties within the field of psychology. If you continue your studies in psychology, you will also learn how to conduct scientific research, diagnostic testing, and therapy sessions.
- Programs for Behavioral Science Your studies will focus on how to understand and predict human behavior using theories and concepts from psychology and sociology. With an undergraduate degree in behavioral science, you could work or continue your education in psychology, consumer science, SLP, social work, or human services.
As an aspiring speech pathologist, there are a plethora of career and educational opportunities ahead of you that can prepare you to help those with speech, language, hearing, swallowing, and other communication disorders. Check out our guide, Best Websites for Speech Pathologists, and explore the rest of our website for more information about speech pathology.