How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist in Alabama

You’ll be in good company among Alabama’s SLP professionals. Each year, the Speech and Hearing Association of Alabama (SHAA) recognizes exemplary individuals who have contributed to the discipline of communication sciences through clinical practice, teaching, research, administration and legislative activity.

NYU Steinhardt's online MS in Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Speech@NYU, offers a comprehensive curriculum that combines research and evidence-based clinical practice in a flexible online format. Speech@NYU prepares students across the country to become creative, collaborative, and effective speech-language pathologists. Students of this program will gain the experience needed to provide care to diverse populations across the life span. Request information.

Some of Alabama’s most influential and inspiring SLPs include:

  • Jan Enstrom, the SHAA’s liaison with the State of Alabama Department of Education, who serves as the state specialist for speech and language impairments
  • Libby Pittman, who developed a social curriculum to meet the needs of special needs children in the Alabama school system
  • David Savage, who developed state-wide clinics to serve children with cleft palates and to help with augmentative communication technology

As a licensed SLP, you will likely have the opportunity to work with autistic children at some point in your career.  The state took a major step forward in 2012 when the Alabama Legislature passed the Riley Ward Insurance Reform Act, compelling private insurance companies servicing families in the state to cover autism-focused speech therapy.

To become licensed as an SLP in Alabama, you’ll need to earn  your master’s degree in the field, pass the National Examination in Speech-Language Pathology, and apply for licensing through the Alabama Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (ABESPA):

Complete a Qualifying Master’s Degree Program in Speech-Language Pathology
Gain Required Professional Experience (RPE) Through a Clinical Fellowship Program
Pass the National Examination and Consider Applying for the CCC-SLP Credential
Become Licensed and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist
Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements

 


 

Step 1. Complete a Qualifying Master’s Degree Program in Speech-Language Pathology

A master’s degree in communicative sciences and disorders will involve studying linguistics, psychology, physiology, and physical science. The curriculum would also involve supervised clinical experiences through a practicum. The practicum must be completed during your graduate program and will allow you to gain experience in assessing and treating patients.

In order to apply to a master’s program in communicative sciences and disorders, you’ll need to complete certain prerequisite courses that are fundamental to the field. Though it is helpful to have a bachelor’s degree in communicative sciences and disorders, you may also apply to most programs with an unrelated bachelor’s degree in the sciences or liberal arts.

In addition to a wider variety of online programs that hold accreditation through the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) hosted by universities throughout the country, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association publishes a list of approved schools located in Alabama.

While some SLP candidates in Alabama will seek traditional programs, online programs are a highly respected option. Students of these programs would complete traditional coursework online and complete clinical hours in hospitals and clinics in their area.

Undergraduate Prerequisites 

If you don’t have an undergraduate degree related to speech-language pathology, you’ll find many schools will give you the opportunity to complete prerequisite courses online before beginning graduate-level courses.

Standard prerequisite courses include:

  • Neuroanatomy and Physiology of Communication
  • Phonetics and Phonemics of American English
  • Introduction to Audiology
  • Speech and Language Development in Children
  • Anatomy and Physiology of Speech and Hearing Mechanism
  • Audiology: Intervention Strategies across the Lifespan
  • Science of Language

To apply to a graduate program, you’ll need to submit:

  • A resume/CV of your experience
  • A statement of purpose explaining your goals
  • Two letters of recommendation written by academic references
  • An official transcript from your undergraduate program
  • GRE scores

Graduate Courses

Core courses typically include:

  • Speech Science: Instrumentation
  • Critical Evaluation of Research Communicative Sciences and Disorders
  • Motor Speech Disorders
  • Adult Language Disorders
  • Fluency Disorders
  • Language Development and Disorders in School-Aged Children
  • Voice Disorders
  • Language Disorders in Children
  • Dysphagia in Adults and Children
  • Principles of Intervention with Speech-Language Disorders
  • Phonological Analysis of Normal and Disordered Speech
  • Multi-Cultural Issues in Communicative Sciences and Disorders
  • Professional Issues in Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Electives can include:

  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication
  • Therapeutic Procedures in Speech Pathology: Voice Disorders
  • Craniofacial Anomalies
  • Neurogenic Speech Disorders in Children
  • Language and Communication in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Voices and Listeners
  • Interdisciplinary Case-Based Dysphagia Management
  • Approaches to Natural Language
  • Communicative Science and Disorders Research Colloquium

After completing your graduate program, you will have fundamental knowledge of the biological, physical, and social/behavioral aspects of speech pathology. You’ll also possess knowledge of basic human communication and swallowing processes and the nature of speech, language, hearing, and communication disorders, including etiologies, characteristics, anatomical/physiological, acoustic, psychological, developmental, and linguistic and cultural correlates.

At the conclusion of the program, you’ll be able to apply principles of prevention, assessment, and intervention for patients. By completing a practicum, you’ll gain experience with differing populations and individuals with various communication disorders.

Qualifying for Licensure with the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP)

Earning the CCC-SLP (Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology) professional certification through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) meets all ABESPA requirements for education, experience and demonstrated competency through examination. The board accepts evidence of the CCC-SLP or an equivalent certification in lieu of providing evidence of completing the individual education, experience and exam requirements.

To be eligible for ASHA certification, you’ll need to complete 12 units of coursework in social/behavioral science, biological science, physical science and statistics, which is covered in the core curriculum listed above.


 

Step 2. Gain Required Professional Experience (RPE) Through a Clinical Fellowship Program

The ABESPA’s required professional experience involves a nine-month long clinical fellowship program. You can find sponsors and open clinical fellowship opportunities here.

Candidates must apply for CF registration with the board by submitting payment, a fellowship plan and supporting documents:

  • Registration application
  • $200 application fee
  • Notarized statement from the applicant’s supervisor, including:
    • Beginning date of CF and expected completion date
    • Number of hours to be worked each week
    • Place of employment
    • Supervisor’s name and Alabama license number
    • All undergraduate and graduate transcripts

Once you’ve been approved by the board, you’ll receive a registration certificate. After completing the supervised clinical experience, you’ll have thirty days to complete the SLP licensing application.

The clinical fellowship must be completed within a maximum of 36 months. In most cases, you would follow a schedule consistent with what you see here:

  • 30 hours or more per week for 9 months
  • 25-29 hours per week for 12 months
  • 20-24 hours per week for 15 months
  • 15-19 hours per week for 18 months

Any less than 15 hours a week will not count toward the requirements.

Each CF is broken into three segments. During each of the three segments, you will be required to complete at least six hours of activities under direct supervision and at least six hours of activities under indirect monitoring. These activities will include assessing and diagnosing patients, performing administrative work related to clients, and meeting with clients’ family to discuss progress.

At the end of each segment, you will have a performance feedback session with your supervisor.

 


 

Step 3. Pass the National Examination and Consider Applying for the CCC-SLP Credential

At any time during or immediately following your clinical fellowship, you must register through Praxis for the Speech-Language Pathology Exam, which is required to become a licensed speech and language pathologist in Alabama.

When registering for the national exam, you’ll be required to send an official graduate transcript and provide proof of completion of a clinical fellowship by submitting the speech-language pathology clinical fellowship report and rating form.

The test is scored on a 100-200 score scale, and the required minimum score is 162.

For preparation, you may review the Praxis Information Bulletin or purchase Praxis’ interactive practice test. You may also review practice questions in the Speech-Language Pathology Praxis Study Companion.

The computer-based speech-language pathology test has 132 questions that are to be completed over 150 minutes. The questions fall into the following categories:

  • Foundation and professional practice—44 questions
  • Screening, assessment, evaluation, and diagnosis—44 questions
  • Planning, implementation, and evaluation of treatment—44 questions

The questions test knowledge in the areas of:

  • Speech and production
  • Fluency
  • Voice
  • Resonance
  • Motor speech
  • Receptive and expressive language
  • Social aspects of communication, including pragmatics
  • Cognitive aspects of communication
  • Augmentative and alternative communication
  • Hearing
  • Feeding and swallowing

In Alabama, you may take the exam at a Praxis test center in one of the following cities:

  • Athens
  • Auburn
  • Birmingham
  • Dothan
  • Florence
  • Huntsville
  • Mobile
  • Montgomery
  • Tuscaloosa

If you are electing to qualify for licensure by earning the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP), you’ll also need to apply for the credential through ASHA after passing the exam. It usually takes about six weeks for the application to be processed and to receive your credential. Once you hear back from ASHA, you’ll be able to move forward and seek licensing from the ABESPA.


 

Step 4. Become Licensed and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist

Once you’ve passed the national exam, you’ll need to fill out the application for licensure and mail it to the ABESPA at: P.O. Box 304760, Montgomery, AL 36130-4760.

You’ll also need to send to the board:

  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Results of the national examination
  • A letter from the director of the training program verifying that you have completed the required clinical fellowship experience

Now that you’re a licensed SLP in Alabama, there are three traditional ways to start your career:

  • Join the Clinic that Provided RPE
  • Start an Independent Practice or Partnership
  • Pursue Job Openings

Join the Clinic that Provided RPE

In many cases, SLPs are hired on with the employer that they worked under to gain their professional experience.

To follow this path, you’ll need to contact the supervisor of your clinical fellowship to inquire about job openings. Often, clinics prefer to hire SLPs who have worked under them to gain required professional experience because they already have internal references and knowledge of the clients.

Start an Independent Practice or Partnership

Once licensed, you may also consider starting your own business in order to practice independently.

Some SLPs choose to work under a more experienced SLP for a period of time to gain experience and a reference for future clients. Other SLPs use their clinical fellowship provider as a reference while they are getting started.

Pursue Job Openings

If you don’t wish to work under your RPE provider or start your own practice, there are still plenty of options for you in Alabama. From clinics to hospitals to rehab centers, there are hundreds of employers in the state who hire SLPs to treat patients.

Some of these employers include:

  • Alacare Home Health & Hospice in Tuscaloosa
  • Genesis Rehab Services in Florence
  • Regional Medical Center of Anniston in Anniston
  • Keller Home Care in Muscle Shoals
  • Cullman Regional Medical Center in Cullman
  • Partners in Rehab in Daphne
  • Restore Therapy Jobs in Birmingham
  • Baptist Healthcare of Alabama in Prattville
  • Save Senior Care in Selma
  • Tara Therapy in Enterprise
  • Riley Behavioral and Educational Center in Huntsville
  • Restore Therapy Jobs in Cordova
  • DCH Health System in Northport
  • Dynamic Rehab in Daphne
  • Helping Hands Therapy in Livingston

Depending on your career goals, you may also choose to seek specialty certifications through ASHA. SLPs who wish to serve a specific patient population often pursue specialty certification to become more prepared.

 


 

Step 5. Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements

In order to maintain SLP licensure, you’ll need to complete 12 continuing education hours each year and renew your license yearly through the ABESPA.

There are two content areas that continuing education must focus on:

  • Content area I: content that improves the professional competency of the licensee in the area of licensure
  • Content area II: content that is related to the professional competency of speech-language pathology.

Only two CE hours from content II will be allowed each year.

You’ll be able to complete all of your CEs through the Speech and Hearing Association of Alabama.

To renew your license, you’ll need to fill out the renewal form and mail it to the ABESPA.

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