The speech-language therapy community in Wisconsin is making significant strides. In Madison, the SLPs of the Children’s Therapy Network are using innovative play-based approaches to speech-language therapy, while the University of Wisconsin Health System’s pediatric rehabilitation specialists—a multidisciplinary staff that includes SLPs—are at the forefront of programs focused on cognitive retraining after traumatic brain injury, phonological impairment evaluation and treatment, and stuttering evaluation and treatment, to name just a few.
To join Wisconsin’s community of SLPs, you must become licensed through the Hearing and Speech Examining Board, which requires earning a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, completing a post-graduate clinical fellowship, and passing the national SLP exam.
Follow these steps to become a licensed speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin:
Step 1. Complete a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology
To become a licensed SLP in Wisconsin, you must complete a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from a college or university approved by the Board. Both online and campus-based SLP graduate programs earn accreditation through the American Speech-Language Hearing Association Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA).
Online graduate programs in speech-language pathology, offered by institutions throughout the U.S., provide the ultimate in flexibility for students, particularly for those with demanding schedules and professional responsibilities. For those that prefer a campus experience, there are seven CAA-accredited SLP programs housed in universities in Wisconsin.
Completing a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders or a similar field provides the most direct route to a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, you can still gain admission; however, you may need to first complete a number of prerequisite courses or a pre-professional program before you can begin your graduate studies.
Some of the typical undergraduate prerequisites you can expect to take include:
- Introduction to Communication Disorders
- Language AcquisitionPhonetics
- Anatomy and Physiology of the Speech and Swallowing Mechanism
- Diagnostic Audiology and Aural Rehabilitation
Graduate Program Requirements
A master’s degree program in speech-language pathology consists of approximately 48 graduate-level credits.
Some of the courses you can expect to take at the graduate level include:
- Language and Learning Disorders of Children
- Motor Speech Disorders and Augmentative & Alternative Communication
- Fluency and Phonological Disorders
- Neural Mechanisms of Speech, Hearing, and Language
- Voice Disorders
You would also complete a supervised practicum of at least 400 hour as part of your graduate program.
Step 2. Complete a Clinical Fellowship Program
Wisconsin follows the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) clinical fellowship recommendations, requiring at least 36 weeks of full time work (35 hours a week or more). You can also complete the clinical fellowship on a part-time basis, provided you work at least 5 hours a week.
Before commencing your clinical fellowship, you must receive a temporary license from the Board. To do so, you and the supervising SLP must complete the Application for Temporary License to Practice Speech-Language Pathology.
Your fellowship is a paid experience that will provide plenty of opportunities to gain exposure to a wide variety of situations that will prepare you for real-world practice in a setting that aligns with your career goals.
You are responsible for lining up your own fellowship by contacting prospective employers who may be interested in taking on a new fellow. Possible employers in Wisconsin that may help facilitate a paid fellowship include:
- Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin: Milwaukee
- Mayo Clinic Health System: La Crosse
- Communication Pathways, De Pere
- Affinity Health System, Appleton
Every practice has different demands, which makes the Scope of Practice for SLPs a helpful document to understand how to cultivate and apply a wide variety of skills, including teamwork, counseling, research, assessment, and advocacy.
Step 3. Pass the National SLP Examination
The Board requires that students take the national SLP while in their clinical fellowship program.
To register for the exam, follow the instructions on the Praxis registration page. You can take the exam at one of the Wisconsin testing centers located in:
- Green Bay
- Eau Claire
- La Crosse
- Stevens Point
The SLP exam includes 132 questions and a 150-minute time limit. You can prepare for the exam by reviewing the exam preparation materials. The exam is organized into the following categories:
- Foundations and Professional Practice – 1/3 of the exam
- Typical development and performance across the lifespan
- Factors that influence communication, feeding, and swallowing
- Characteristics of common communication and swallowing disorders
- Culturally and linguistically appropriate service delivery
- Screening, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis – 1/3 of the exam
- Screening for communication disorders
- Developing case histories
- Assessment procedures for fluency disorders
- Genetic and developmental disorders
- Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of Treatment – 1/3 of the exam
- Evaluating factors that can affect treatment
- Determining appropriate treatment details
- Establishing methods for monitoring treatment
To pass the exam, you need to score 162 on a scale of 100-200.
Optional CCC-SLP Certification
After passing the national SLP exam, you can apply for CCC-SLP certification, a professional certification that denotes a high level of skill and professional authority in speech-language pathology.
Although not a requirement for becoming licensed in Wisconsin, if you earn the CCC-SLP designation before you apply for state licensure, you can submit proof of certification in lieu of other documentation required for licensure.
To apply for the CCC-SLP, you must complete the Application for the CCC-SLP and send it to ASHA, along with the SLP Clinical Fellowship Report and Rating Form, and a copy of you graduate transcripts. Praxis will send exam scores to ASHA directly.
Step 4. Become Licensed to Practice in Wisconsin and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist
Once you have completed your clinical fellowship and passed the Praxis SLP exam, you would complete the Application for Licensure and submit a formal request to AHSA to send your Praxis exam score to the Board.
The institution where you attained your master’s degree in speech-language pathology must also complete and send the Board a Speech-Language Pathology Certificate of Professional Education Form.
Once you’ve earned your SLP license, you can transition to full-time employment with the employer through which you completed your fellowship or begin exploring other professional opportunities.
The Wisconsin Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Association (WSHA) Career Center provides a clearinghouse of job postings for area hospitals, schools, rehab centers, private practices, public health clinics and more.
ASHA offers several specialty certifications that complement the CCC-SLP for those interested in establishing a specialty practice or otherwise working in a specialized capacity for an established employer. These certifications allow you to demonstrate your expertise in three different areas of communicative sciences and disorders:
- Child language and language disorders
- Fluency and fluency disorders
- Swallowing and swallowing disorders
Step 5. Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements
You must maintain your SLP license in Wisconsin by renewing it every two years on the date of your initial application. You can renew it online.
License renewal requires the completion of at least 20 hours of continuing education.
The Wisconsin Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Association (WSHA) is an excellent resource for continuing education. Members of the WSHA also enjoy access to professional publications, legislative support, and discounts for the WSHA annual conference.