The District of Columbia has the unique distinction of being the fourth-highest paying area in the US for speech-language pathologists. This high paying, high growth field is expected to see a job growth rate of 16% over the ten-year period leading up to 2024 according to a 2015 report published by the DC Department of Employment Services.
DC is home to a thriving community of practitioners, including SLPs who are doing critical research for the field:
- A. Wade Boykin, Ph.D., who has done extensive work in the research of the interface of culture, context, motivation and cognition, and African American child development
- Daphney Denerville-David, Ph.D., who has researched language and dialectal variations, autism, and evidence-based early intervention practices
- Linda Slegfriedt, who works as a director of the transgender and traditional clinical voice programs at George Washington University
At the center of this community is the District of Columbia Speech-Language-Hearing Association (DCSHA), which holds an annual conference that in the past has included keynote speakers delivering talks on pediatric dysphasia, integrating social media for a clinical experience, transgender voice therapy, and vernacular features among African Americans.
To become licensed as an SLP in DC, you’ll need to earn a master’s degree at minimum in the field of communicative sciences and disorders, pass the Speech-Language Pathology Praxis Exam, and apply for licensing through the DC Board of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
Follow the steps in the guide below to begin your career as an SLP in DC:
Step 1. Complete a Qualifying Master’s Degree Program in Speech-Language Pathology
SLP licensure through the DC Board requires a master’s or doctoral degree in speech-language pathology from a program that has been accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) or other accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education.
While conventional campus-based programs are available in the greater DC area, CAA-accredited online programs offer an unmatched level of flexibility and convenience. The practicum component of online programs will allow you to gain experience in assessing and treating patients in a clinical setting close to home.
Admissions and Undergraduate Requirements
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.
If you don’t have a speech-language pathology undergraduate degree, you’ll be given an opportunity to complete foundational courses through your school before beginning the graduate program.
Standard prerequisite courses include:
- Neuroanatomy 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 and Intervention Strategies
- Science of Language
Admissions departments also look for undergraduate GPAs of 3.5 and above and high GRE scores.
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.
Core courses typically include:
- Language Development and Disorders
- Speech Science
- Audiology & Educational Implications
- Clinical Statistics
- Clinical Applications of Sign Communication
- Voice and Resonance Disorders
- Language Development and Disorders
- Hearing Assistive and AAC Technologies
- Clinical Procedures
- Swallowing Disorders
- Speech Sound Disorders
- Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders
Electives can include:
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
- Interdisciplinary Case-Based Dysphasia Management
- Approaches to Natural Language
- Therapeutic Procedures in Speech Pathology: Voice Disorders
- Craniofacial Anomalies
- Neurogenic Speech Disorders in Children
- Language and Communication in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Communicative Science and Disorders Research Colloquium
In DC, earning the CCC-SLP (Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology) certification through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is optional. 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 DC board will require you to complete a nine-month clinical fellowship.
There are two options for your clinical fellowship:
- Full-time option involves nine months of at least 30 hours of work per week that must be completed within 2 years of earning your graduate degree
- Part-time equivalent must be completed within 3.5 years of earning your graduate degree
If you’re unsure of where to get started looking for a clinical fellowship provider, you may browse opportunities here.
The board also accepts a CCC-SLP credential as meeting the requirements for a clinical fellowship. You may choose to apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) credential through ASHA. The CCC is not a requirement for licensure, but many SLPs choose to pursue the nationally recognized credential. It usually takes about six weeks for the application to be processed and to receive your credential.
Step 3. Pass the National SLP Praxis Examination
To become licensed in DC, you’ll need to pass the National Speech and Pathology Exam. You can register online through Praxis.
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 will cover feeding and swallowing, augmentative and alternative communicative, social and cognitive aspects of communicative, receptive and expressive language, and topics of voice, resonance, fluency, and speech production.
You may take the National exam at any one of the four Praxis test centers in the greater DC area.
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 DC license application and mail it to the DC Board at:
DC Board of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology
P.O. Box 37802
Washington, DC 20013
You must hand deliver the supervised practice form, signed by your clinical fellowship supervisor, to the DC Board at the address listed above.
You’ll also need to send to the board:
- Application fee of $264
- Results of a criminal background check
- Official graduate transcript
Now that you’re a licensed SLP in DC, 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
If you enjoyed your clinical fellowship and worked well with your CF supervisor, you may choose to stay on with the clinic. Many clinics prefer to hire SLPs who have completed a CF with them.
If you wish to pursue this path, contact your CF supervisor to inquire about job opportunities.
Start an Independent Practice or Partnership
Some licensed SLPs choose to start their own, independent practices, while others go into business with a partner.
As an independent practitioner, you may set your own workflow, take on as many clients as you wish, or advertise to specific patient populations.
Pursue Job Openings
You might also consider hundreds of other SLP employers around the DC area: hospitals, clinics, and school systems.
Some of these employers include:
- Flagship Rehabilitation
- Medstar Georgetown University Hospital
- Kennedy Krieger Institute
- Therapeutic Outreach
- Sibley Memorial Hospital
- NMS Healthcare
- Friendship Public Charter Schools
- KIPP DC
- The Treatment and Learning Centers
- The Episcopal Center for Children
- Epic Developmental Services
- The HSC Health Care System
Once you’re licensed as an SLP, you can also gain 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
To maintain your SLP licensure, you’ll need to renew your license every two years and submit proof of completion of 20 hours of continuing education during that time.
One hour of the continuing education must be in ethics.
Approved CE providers include:
- The District of Columbia Speech-Language-Hearing Association or a similar speech-language hearing association of another state
- The American Academy of Audiology
- The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) or its approved continuing education providers
- An accredited provider of The Accreditation Council on Continuing Medical Education of the American Medical Association
- The International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET) or its authorized providers
- A health care organization accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)