Florida has begun offering incentives to encourage aspiring speech-language pathologists to take jobs in the state’s school system. The Florida Department of Education’s Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services offers an SLP tuition support program to provide financial assistance to cover the cost of a master’s degree for those who agree to work in a Florida public school for a minimum of two years in exchange for every academic year of tuition support. For a two-year master’s program, this would mean committing to four years of practice within the school system.
Speech language pathologists are in not only in high demand in the states public school system, but they also fill critical roles in Pre-K early intervention, healthcare and rehabilitation centers. It’s no surprise that in 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Florida had the fourth highest employment level of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in the nation.
Your SLP license will be issued through the Florida Board of Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology once you have qualified through education, supervised professional experience and examination.
Follow these steps to become a licensed speech-language pathologist in Florida:
Step 1. Complete a Master’s Degree at Minimum in Speech-Language Pathology
To meet Board requirements for licensure, you must earn a master’s or doctoral degree with an emphasis in speech-language pathology through a program that includes a 300-hour clinical practicum.
While online programs accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) have become the preferred option for aspiring SLPs, Florida is also home to eight campus-based SLP graduate programs.
Admissions and Prerequisites
If you don’t already have an undergraduate degree in communicative sciences and disorders, you’ll be required to complete additional prerequisite courses before beginning the graduate program. Standard prerequisites that establish a foundation for graduate-level coursework would include:
- Neuroanatomy & Communication
- Clinical Phonetics
- Anatomy and Physiology of Speech and Hearing Mechanism
- Introduction to Audiology
- Science of Language
- Speech and Language Development in Children
SLP graduate programs tend to be highly selective, so make sure to put your best foot forward. Most graduate programs will require you to submit at least two letters of academic reference, and admissions departments look for exceptional undergraduate GPAs and high GRE scores.
Clinical Practicum and Graduate Courses
In Florida, you must complete a supervised clinical practicum of at least 300 clock hours, 200 of which must involve direct work in the area of speech-language pathology in order to qualify for licensure.
Effective January 2005, SLP license candidates in Florida are required to have an education in speech-language pathology that consists of at least 75 semester hours total, 36 of which must be in graduate-level courses.
Graduate-level core courses typically include:
- Speech Science
- Critical Evaluation of Research Communicative Sciences and Disorders
- School Aged Issues
- Articulation and Phonology Disorders
- Speech and Swallowing Disorders
- Alternative and Augmentative Communication
- Motor Speech Disorders
- Adult Language Disorders
- Fluency Disorders
- Language Development and Disorders in School-Aged Children
- Professional Issues in Communicative Sciences and Disorders
- Dysphagia in Adults and Children
- Phonological Analysis of Normal and Disordered Speech
- Multi-Cultural Issues in Communicative Sciences and Disorders
Electives can include:
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
- Voices and Listeners
- Interdisciplinary Case-Based Dysphagia Management
- Therapeutic Procedures in Speech Pathology: Voice Disorders
- Craniofacial Anomalies
- Neurogenic Speech Disorders in Children
- Language and Communication in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Approaches to Natural Language
- Communication in Autism
- Communicative Science and Disorders Research Colloquium
To be eligible for licensure through the Florida board, you’ll also need to complete one hour of HIV/AIDS education and two hours in Prevention of Medical Errors through Florida Board-approved providers.
Step 2. Complete 9 Months of Post-Graduate Professional Experience Through a Clinical Fellowship Program
The Florida Board requires SLP license candidates to complete 9 months of professional experience that involves direct supervision by a state-licensed SLP as part of a post-graduate clinical fellowship.
A full-time fellowship would consist of 30 hours per week for thirty-six 36 weeks while a part-time fellowship would consist of 15 hours per week for 72 weeks.
The period of supervised professional experience would involve:
- At least 18 hours of direct observations of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, with a maximum of 9 hours dedicated to the evaluation of clinical records
- At least six 6 on-site evaluations every three months in which the fellow is observed conducting evaluations, therapy
- Reviews of the follow’s diagnostic and treatment reports, clinical correspondence management plans and conference summaries
- 18 hours (6 every three months) conferring with the fellow regarding evaluations and management strategies, monitoring case conferences, and contributions to professional meetings and publications
If you choose to pursue the CCC-SLP (Certification of Clinical Competency in Speech-Language Pathology) through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), at the end of the clinical fellowship, you’ll need to submit a Clinical Fellowship Report and Rating Form directly to ASHA.
Step 3. Pass the Speech-Language Pathology Praxis Examination
As the final qualification for licensure through the Florida Board of Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology, you must pass the Speech-Language Pathology Praxis Exam
You can register for the National Speech and Pathology Exam through Praxis any time during your clinical fellowship and schedule to take it at test centers located throughout Florida:
- Boca Raton
- Fort Myers
- Fort Lauderdale
- Temple Terrace
- West Palm Beach
The computer-based speech-language pathology test covers the following topics:
- Speech and production
- Motor speech
- Cognitive aspects of communication
- Augmentative and alternative communication
- Feeding and swallowing
- Receptive and expressive language
- Social aspects of communication, including pragmatics
The test is scored on a 100-200 score scale, and the required minimum score is 162.
Considering CCC-SLP Certification
After passing the national exam, you may choose to apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) credential through American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). The CCC-SLP is NOT a requirement for licensure in Florida, but many SLPs find it helpful to have the credential when seeking employment or starting an independent practice.
When applying for the credential, you’ll be required to send ASHA an official graduate transcript and provide proof of completion of a clinical fellowship by submitting the Clinical Fellowship Report Rating Form.
Step 4. Become Licensed and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist in Florida
Once you’ve received your results from the national exam, you’ll be qualified to apply for licensure through the Florida Board.
You’ll need to fill out the application and mail it to the Board along with the following documents:
- Evaluation of Professional Experience, completed by the supervisor of your clinical fellowship
- Certification of a Master’s Degree, signed by your university director
- Official graduate transcript
- National Exam scores
Mail completed documents to:
Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
P. O. BOX 6330
Tallahassee, FL 32314-6330
It usually takes about thirty days to be notified of the status of your application and to be registered as licensed.
If you participated in the Florida SLP incentive program, your career will begin in a Florida public school, as per your agreement with the state.
Otherwise, you may begin your career by joining the clinic or hospital where your fellowship took place, pursuing other opportunities that may be available, or even by offering your services as an independent practitioner.
Did you have a good working relationship with your clinical fellowship provider? If so, the clinic may be interested in hiring you. Many clinics prefer to hire SLPs who have completed clinical fellowships with them.
Once licensed, you may also consider starting your own business in order to practice independently
As an independent practitioner, you may set your own schedule, develop a tailored approach to working with clients, or choose to serve a specialized population of patients.
There are hundreds of hospitals, clinics, and rehab centers in Florida that require the services of SLPs. A few of these employers include:
- Renewal Rehab
- Speech Rehab Services
- Bay Care
- In Search Medical
- Memorial Healthcare System
- Aegis Therapies
- Jupiter Medical Center
- Miami Children’s Hospital
- Health South
- Saint Mary’s Medical Center
- University of Florida
- Special Communications
- Dynamic Rehab
- Five Star Senior Living
- Kissimmee Charter Academy
- Good Samaritan Medical Center
- Life Care Centers
- UCP of Central Florida
- Catholic Health Services
Once you’re licensed, you may also seek specialty certifications through ASHA. These certifications can be extremely helpful, especially for positions in specialty clinics.
Step 5. Maintain SLP Licensure by Completing Continuing Education Requirements
In order to keep your license current, you must renew it every two years through the Florida Board. You’ll receive a mailed notice at least 90 days before your license expires, at which time you can renew it online. Each renewal requires an $80 fee.
During each two-year licensing period, you’ll be required to complete a total of 30 approved continuing education hours. The hours must include:
- 18 hours of clinical-related CEs
- 10 hours of non-clinical-related CEs
- 2 hours of CEs on medical error
Clinically courses are defined as those that involve learning new information, techniques, procedures, or protocols that can be applied in the direct assessment, treatment, diagnosis or counseling of patients.
You may also gain CEs through the following methods:
- A maximum of 5 hours per biennium for being a presenter or moderator of approved continuing education hours
- A maximum of 5 hours per biennium may be earned as an instructor of a graduate level course
- A maximum of 2 hours per biennium may be earned in a non-paid directed clinical experience
You’ll be responsible for tracking your CEs through this online system. The system also lists which courses the Florida Board approves.
The Florida Association of Speech Language Pathologists & Audiologists exists in order for SLPs in the state to network with each other and explore new educational opportunities. The Association holds annual conventions and provides continuing educational opportunities for SLPs. Some of the topics they’ve covered in conventions include feeding tubes, accommodating common core, boosting the development of emergent literacy, social communication strategies that integrate toys, morphological awareness, mindful communication, speech apps, and obstructive sleep apnea.