How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist in Arkansas

The speech-language pathology (SLP) field is growing is Arkansas, which the job market projected to increase by 24.9% over the ten years leading up to 2024 according to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Report for 2015.

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The first step to SLP licensure is to earn a qualifying graduate degree, and with Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)-accredited online programs widely available and five universities located in the state, Arkansas is an excellent place to pursue an advanced degree. Among them is Arkansas State University (ASU), which houses a state-of-the-art speech and hearing center that functions as a clinic and laboratory where students are able to gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting.

The Arkansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ArkSHA) is another important member of the professional community in Arkansas, presenting annual awards to  SLPs who have made notable contributions to the field. ArkSHA holds an annual convention for SLPs to network and share new research findings and innovative strategies.

Your SLP license will be issued by the Arkansas Board of Examiners of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (ABESPA). To work your way towards a career in SLP, follow the steps in the guide below:

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 in Speech-Language Pathology
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

In order to apply to a master’s program in speech-language pathology, you’ll need to either have a bachelor’s degree in communicative sciences and disorders or complete fundamental prerequisites before beginning master’s coursework (if you have an unrelated bachelor’s degree).

If you don’t have a background in speech-language pathology, you’ll need to complete the following prerequisites:

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

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

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology accredits SLP programs in the US. Five SLP programs in Arkansas hold accreditation, with many more options offered online.

Whether online or traditional, a graduate SLP program will involve a combination of linguistics, psychology, physiology, and physical science. Near the end of the program, you will be required to complete a practicum, which will involve supervised clinical experience at an approved clinic. After completing the program and before being eligible for licensure, you’ll have to complete a clinical fellowship, which also involves supervised clinical experiences.

Core courses typically include:

  • Voice & Resonance Disorders
  • Fluency Disorders
  • Motor Speech Disorders
  • Language Disorders in Adults
  • Feeding & Swallowing Disorders
  • Language, Learning, & Literacy
  • Critical Evaluation of Research Communicative Sciences and Disorders
  • Adult Language Disorders
  • Fluency Disorders
  • Language Development and Disorders in School-Aged Children
  • Voice Disorders
  • Language Disorders in Children
  • 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:

  • Aural Rehabilitation
  • Voice Disorders
  • Dysphagia
  • Stuttering
  • Research and Evidence-Based Practice
  • Motor Speech Disorders
  • Language Literacy

 


 

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

The ABESPA requires that graduates of SLP master’s programs complete thirty-six weeks of supervised full-time, paid professional experience, referred to as a clinical fellowship. You can find sponsors and open clinical fellowship opportunities here.

In order to begin a clinical fellowship, you’ll need to apply for a provisional license. You’ll need to mail the following documents to the ABESPA:

  • A completed application
  • A clinical fellowship year plan
  • $140.00 application fee
  • Official graduate transcript
  • Proof of clinical practicum hours, signed by your university supervisor

You’ll need to mail it to:

Arkansas Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
101 East Capitol, Ste. 103
Little Rock, AR 72201

After reviewing all the information, the board will issue a provisional license after about two months.

After completing a clinical fellowship, you must submit proof of completion to the ABESPA within thirty days to gain your SLP license.

During the clinical fellowship, you’ll gain experience assessing and diagnosing patients, performing administrative work related to clients, and meeting with clients’ family to discuss progress. You’ll also meet with your supervisor for performance feedback.

 


 

Step 3. Pass the National Examination in Speech-Language Pathology

You can register through Praxis for the Speech-Language Pathology Exam at any time during your clinical fellowship.

After passing the exam, you may apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) credential. Although it is not a requirement for state licensure, some employers prefer to hire SLPs who hold the certification.

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.

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

You might choose to prepare by purchasing a study guide or reviewing free practice questions.

You may take the exam at a Praxis test center in one of the following cities:

  • Arkadelphia
  • Conway
  • El Dorado
  • Fayetteville
  • Fort Smith
  • Harrison
  • Hot Springs
  • Jonesboro
  • Little Rock
  • Magnolia
  • Monticello
  • Newport
  • Russellville
  • Searcy

 


 

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

Once you have passed the national exam, you’ll need to apply for licensure through the ABESPA. You’ll need to mail:

  • Completed application
  • $140.00 fee
  • Official undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Proof of clinical practicum hours, signed by the university director
  • Proof of completion of nine months of a clinical fellowship
  • National Exam score

You can mail the documents to the ABESPA at:

Arkansas Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
101 East Capitol, Ste. 103
Little Rock, AR 72201

There are several ways to begin your career as an SLP:

Join the Clinic that Provided RPE

In many cases, SLPs are hired on with the employer who provided their required professional experience through a clinical fellowship. There are many benefits to working for your RPE provider, including that you have already built relationships with clients and co-workers.

Working for the clinic that provided RPE is also a good way to build credibility and references for the future if you decide to start your own clinic or work for another entity.

To pursue this path, contact your RPE provider to inquire about job openings.

Start an Independent Practice or Partnership

As a licensed SLP, you are eligible to start your own independent practice or partnership in Arkansas. Independent SLPs report benefits such as choosing their own schedule, taking on as many clients as they feel comfortable with, and serving a specific patient population.

Pursue Job Openings

You may also work for employers in Arkansas such as public or private schools, healthcare systems, or private clinics. Some examples include:

  • Fusion Medical
  • Baptist Health
  • Southwest Arkansas Homecare
  • Silver Lining Rehabilitation
  • Jefferson Homecare
  • West Arkansas Homecare
  • Elite Home Health
  • Pediatric Therapy
  • Genesis Rehab Services
  • Sparks Health System
  • Aegis Therapies
  • Creekside Health and Rehabilitation
  • Acadia Healthcare Facilities
  • Health South
  • Washington Regional Healthcare

 


 

Step 5. Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements

You’ll need to renew your license yearly, and the renewal process is online. Each renewal period, you’ll need to complete at least ten hours of continuing education. You’ll need to provide proof by completing the report of continuing professional education hours through the online renewal application each renewal period.

At least five of these hours must deal with the following:

  • Anatomic and physiologic bases for the normal development and use of speech, language, communication, swallowing, and hearing and balance
  • Physical bases and processes of the production and perception of speech, language, communication, swallowing, and hearing and balance
  • Linguistic and psycho-linguistic variables related to normal development and use of speech, language and hearing
  • Technological, biomedical, engineering and instrumentation information related to basic communication processes and swallowing
  • Various types of disorders of communication, their manifestations, classification and cause
  • Evaluation skills, including procedures, techniques, and instrumentation for assessment
  • Principles and procedures in habilitation and rehabilitation of communication disorders and swallowing
  • Principles in diagnosis and rehabilitation/treatment of balance, vestibular disorders, and cerumen

You can complete continuing education hours through ASHA.

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