How to Become a Speech Therapist in Illinois

Illinois is home to some of the most skilled and innovate speech-language pathology clinics and practitioners in the country, leading research efforts in communicative disorders while serving local families.

Featured Programs:

The number of speech-language pathology licenses being issued in Illinois is steadily increasing, but it is still hardly enough to keep pace with the growing demand. According to a projection from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, in the ten years leading up to 2024, a 7.5% increase in the number of licensed SLPs would be required to meet the growing demand for early intervention, school and hospital-based services.

Licensing for SLPs is administered through the Illinois Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, a branch of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

On your path to becoming a licensed speech therapist in Illinois, you will earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, complete nine months of postgraduate professional experience, and sit for an SLP competency exam.

Complete a Qualifying Master’s Degree Program in Speech-Language Pathology
Register for and Pass the Praxis Speech-Language Pathology Examination
Gain Required Professional Experience (RPE) Through a Clinical Fellowship Program
Apply for Your Illinois SLP License 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

The first major requirement for an Illinois SLP license is to complete an SLP master’s degree program through a school approved by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation that includes 60 credits of focused study in the field of communicative disorders and a 375-hour clinical practicum.

Online graduate programs through schools accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) provide working professionals with the unique opportunity to earn a respected degree on their own time. These schools have agreements in place with clinics, schools and hospitals throughout the nation, allowing students to satisfy practicum requirements at a location close to home.

Illinois is also home to nearly a dozen graduate degrees in communicative sciences and disorders, with many offering specializations in Speech-Language Pathology.

Many graduate programs in communicative sciences and disorders don’t require a bachelor’s degree in the same field. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in the field, you have an immediate advantage going into a graduate program. If you don’t, you would be required to complete prerequisites on the foundations of communicative disorders and sciences as part of your program before beginning graduate-level coursework.

The 60 credits of field-specific course content must include the following to meet Illinois Board requirements:

  • Basic Communication Processes
  • Anatomic and physiological bases
  • Physical bases and processes of the production and perception of speech, language and hearing
  • Linguistic and psycholinguistic variables related to normal development and use of speech, language and hearing
  • Speech-Language Pathology/Audiology
  • Speech and language disorders
  • Audiology
  • Auditory and vestibular pathology
  • Auditory and vestibular habilitation/rehabilitation

The Illinois Board requires that your clinical practicum meet the following requirements:

  • 375 hours in duration
  • Involve practicing in two separate settings
  • Supervised by a licensed speech-language pathologist

The practicum will complement your master’s studies and set you up for your post-graduate clinical fellowship.



Step 2. Register for and Pass the Praxis Speech-Language Pathology Examination

The State of Illinois requires that you pass that national SLP exam before you can begin your Required Professional Experience.

You’ll be taking the SLP exam administered by Praxis. Your first step will be to register for the exam by phone, mail, or online. See the registration page for instructions. There are test centers in Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago, Decatur, Deerfield, Joliet, Lombard, Peoria, and Sycamore.

Once you’re registered, you can start studying for the exam using the test materials provided by Praxis. The exam has a time limit of 150 minutes in which to answer all 132 questions. The exam is broken up into three categories:

  • Foundations and Professional Practice – 1/3 of the exam
    • Research methodology
    • Counseling and teaming
    • Wellness and prevention
    • Characteristics of common swallowing and communication disorders
  • Screening, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis – 1/3 of the exam
    • Genetic and developmental causes
    • Auditory problems
    • Communication, feeding, and swallowing disorders
    • Speech sound production
    • Cognitive aspects of communication
  • Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of Treatment – 1/3 of the exam
    • Generating a prognosis
    • Communicating recommendations
    • Following up on post treatment referrals and recommendations

To pass the exam, you need to score a 162 on a scale of 100-200.

Electing to Pursue the CCC-SLP Credential

Passing this exam will qualify you for the CCC-SLP (Credential of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology) through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and the Illinois SLP license, both of which you can apply for after completing your clinical fellowship.

To apply for your CCC-SLP, fill out the application form and submit it with your Praxis exam score and the Clinical Fellowship Reporting form documenting your nine months of RPE. After ASHA reviews your application, you’ll be registered as holding the CCC-SLP credential.

The CCC-SLP is NOT a requirement for licensure in Illinois but is accepted as one path to licensure

ASHA also offers four different specialty certifications for SLPs that work in highly specific areas:

  • Child language disorders
  • Intraoperative monitoring
  • Fluency and fluency disorders
  • Swallowing and swallowing disorders

These certifications are excellent for SLPs that want to assure patients and employers of their skill in a particular area. You can find out more about these certifications on the Clinical Specialty Certification page.



Step 3. Gain Required Professional Experience (RPE) Through a Clinical Fellowship Program

The State of Illinois requires 9 months of professional experience as the last major requirement of earning an Illinois SLP license. Your RPE (Required Professional Experience) is to be supervised by a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist.

Both part-time and full-time scheduling options are acceptable:

  • 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
  • Less than 15 hours per week will not count

During your RPE, you need to be in direct contact with a client for 36 different supervised activities. 18 of those activities need to be on-site observations conducted by your supervisor, which are not to exceed 6 hours per day.

You can search through SLP license holders on the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation website to find licensed practitioners willing to provide supervision during your fellowship period.

You would need to apply for a temporary speech-language pathologist license before you begin your RPE by filling out the application form requesting a temporary SLP license. You must submit the application with proof of having completed a master’s program and passing test scores on the Praxis exam. The temporary license lasts for 12 months, and can be renewed once.

During your RPE, you’ll be practicing the essential skills of a speech-language pathologist. Every patient you encounter will have different needs, demanding a different approach in each situation. ASHA has written a detailed Scope of Practice for SLPs that serves as a guideline for professional practice.



Step 4. Apply for Your Illinois SLP License and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist

To apply for your Illinois SLP license, fill out the application and submit it with proof of having completed:

After the Board reviews your application, your SLP license will be issued.

Now that you are locally licensed, you can continue your career. There are many paths you can take as a speech-language pathologist; here are the most common choices.

Pursue Job Openings

Many newly licensed SLPs secure work with the clinics or hospitals where they completed their RPE to continue their career where it started.

You can also look through local job postings to see what you can find. There are a large number of locally owned and operated SLP clinics in Illinois, such as Say It Therapy Services in Batavia, IL. As of July 2016, they were seeking an experienced speech-language pathologist with pediatric experience. Other pediatric focused local clinics include Prairie Wind Speech Therapy in Savoy and Center for Speech and Language Disorders in Lombard.

Start Your Own Practice

You always have the option of starting your own practice. Of course, there are many local speech clinics in Illinois, showing the demand is present. You can start your own clinic and hire highly skilled SLPs to serve a specific patient population of your choosing and create a uniquely specialized experience for your clients.



Step 5. Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements

The Illinois Board requires that licensed SLPs renew their license every two years. The Board also requires that you complete 20 hours of continuing education during each two-year cycle.

Continuing education opportunities are available though the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ISHA). They offer a yearly conference that meets over a three day period that meets the continuing education requirements, as well as local classes.

Other than offering continuing education, ISHA provides excellent member resources through a statewide network, public education opportunities, and participation in speech-language-hearing related legislation.

Back to Top