Pursuing a career as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) will allow you to provide important services for patients with communication handicaps. In North Dakota, you’ll be able to pursue a variety of positions within speech-language pathology—in fact, North Dakota has the third-highest concentration of jobs of all the states in the nation, spanning positions in clinics, hospitals, and the school system (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015).
To begin pursuing a speech-language pathology career, you’ll need to earn a master’s degree from a program accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). In recent years, the number of accredited online master’s programs has grown immensely, and North Dakota also offers two in-state accredited graduate programs in SLP. One of these universities, Minot State University, offers an on-campus Communication Disorders Clinic that is open to the general public. Graduate students are able to gain experience in Minot University’s clinic by shadowing certified SLPs.
Through your graduate program, you also may have the opportunity to participate in study abroad trips or service projects. For example, a group of communication sciences and disorders graduate students at Minot State University raised upwards of $32,000 for local patients to receive cleft lip and palate surgeries in 2014. Each year, the communication sciences and disorders students are actively involved in community projects, with a special interest in improving state residents’ access to speech therapy services.
As a graduate student in North Dakota, you’ll want to connect with The North Dakota Speech Language Hearing Association (NDSLHA). The NDSLHA offers scholarship opportunities for graduate students, provides SLPs with legislative updates, and hosts continuing education opportunities. Some of the NDSLHA’s education activities in the past have included how to identify social skill/pragmatic weaknesses in patients and target them, how to look at reading, writing, spelling and comprehension under the broader lens of language comprehension, and how to treat speech sound disorders in infants and toddlers.
To earn your SLP license through the North Dakota State Board of Examiners on Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, follow the steps in the guide below:
Step 1. Complete a Master’s Degree Program in Speech-Language Pathology
The first thing you’ll need to do on your path towards SLP licensure is to earn your master’s degree. You’ll need to enroll in a graduate program that is accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
You’ll be able to choose from a large number of online programs, or two accredited in-state programs. If you choose a traditional in-state program, you may have the opportunity to earn scholarships from state organizations such as the NDSLHA. On the other hand, many working students choose to earn online master’s degrees because these programs tend to be more flexible around a working schedule.
To be accepted into a master’s program, you’ll usually need:
- A 3.0 GPA or higher in your undergraduate studies
- GRE scores
- A resume detailing your experience
- Two letters of academic reference
If you don’t already have a degree in communication sciences and disorders, you’ll need to complete prerequisites. These prerequisites are designed to lay the groundwork for the field, and usually include:
- Intro to Speech Language Pathology
- Early Intervention & Interdisciplinary Studies
- Intro to Audiology
- Science of Language
- Anatomy and Physiology of Speech and Language
After completing prerequisites, you’ll begin core coursework:
- Advanced Topics in Speech-Language Pathology
- Fluency Disorders
- Neurogenic Communication Disorders
- Neurologically Based Speech Disorders
- Applied Phonology
- Assessment in Speech-Language Pathology
- Voice and Resonance Disorders
You’ll also complete electives, which will usually narrow in on a specialty in SLP, whether that be the treatment of children, adults, special needs patients, or areas of SLP such as fluency or the treatment of patients with brain injuries. These courses might include:
- Adolescent Communication
- Dysphagia Treatment
- Multiple Disabilities
- Language and Literacy
- Audiology for the SLP
- Supervision and Professional Issues in SLP
- Public Schools Methods in SLP
To graduate, you’ll also be required to complete a practicum. Most practicums are about 400 clock hours long. You’ll begin by shadowing a licensed SLP in a clinical setting, and move to completing activities with clients under supervision. Through your practicum, you’ll learn to screen, evaluate, and diagnose patients and become familiar with SLP treatment procedures.
Step 2. Pass the National SLP Exam and Consider Earning the CCC-SLP Credential
Most states require candidates for SLP licensure to complete a clinical fellowship after graduating, but in North Dakota, there is no professional experience required for licensing.
Instead, you’ll need to register for and pass the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association’s National Examination in Speech-Language Pathology.
You can register for the exam online through Praxis, a third party administrator.
The National Exam is made up of 132 questions. You’ll need a 162 out of 200 possible points to pass.
The test will cover core topics in speech-language pathology that you studied during your graduate program: foundations of professional practice; the screening, assessment, evaluation, and diagnosis of patients; and the planning of treatment.
The test will also cover the following topics:
- Evaluating factors that can affect treatment
- Initiating and prioritizing treatment and developing goals
- Determining appropriate treatment details
- Generating a prognosis
- Communicating recommendations
- General treatment principles and procedures
- Establishing methods for monitoring treatment profess and outcomes
- Speech sound production
- Voice, resonance, and motor speech
- Receptive and expressive language
- Social aspects of communication
You’ll may also browse the Praxis Study Companion in order to prepare for the test.
There are Praxis test centers located throughout North Dakota, in the following cities:
- Grand Forks
After passing the examination, you might consider earning the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). The CCC-SLP, offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, is an extremely respected credential. Many clinics will require you to hold the CCC-SLP credential if you’re interested in filling senior SLP positions or if you’d like to supervise SLP students completing practicum hours. In addition, if you’d like to open an independent practice, you may find this credential helpful. You may apply through ASHA.
If you choose to earn the CCC-SLP, you’ll need to complete a clinical fellowship of at least nine months. A clinical fellowship is designed to help you gain professional experience while working with different client populations. You’ll be able to complete your clinical fellowship by partnering with an SLP clinic in your area, and you may browse opportunities here.
Step 3. Apply for Licensing and Begin Practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist
Once you’ve received a passing score on the national exam, you’ll be able to apply for licensing through the North Dakota SLP board.
You’ll need to complete an application and include:
- An official graduate transcript
- Proof of passing the national examination
- Application fee of $100.00
You may mail your application to:
Executive Secretary, NDSBE
PO Box 5143
Grand Forks, ND 58206
Once you’re licensed, you may consider the different ways to start your career:
Open an Independent Practice
As a licensed SLP, you may open an independent practice in North Dakota. You might choose to open an independent practice if you’re interested in pursuing a specific patient population, or if you’d like to travel to clients who may not have access to transportation. Independent practitioners enjoy the benefits of being able to set their own schedule and take on as many clients as they feel comfortable treating.
Pursue Job Openings in North Dakota
If you don’t want to open an independent practice, you might consider opportunities working in clinics, schools, hospitals, home health care, or rehabilitation centers. A few employers in North Dakota who hire SLPs include:
- Relient Health
- Catholic Health Initiatives
- Infinity Rehab
- Grand Forks
- MTX Therapy Services
- The Enrichment Garden
- Trinity Nursing Home
- Essential Health
- Alexius Health
- Centra Healthcare Solutions
- Big Stone Therapies
- Nationwide Therapy Group
- Blue Royal
Step 4. Maintain Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements
To keep your SLP license current, you’ll need to renew your license every year by December 1st. You’ll need to fill out the renewal application and mail it to the board at:
Executive Secretary, NDSBE
PO Box 5143
Grand Forks, ND 58206
With your renewal application, you’ll also need to pay a fee of $75.00 and include proof of attendance for ten hours of approved continuing education. Proof of attendance might include a registration receipt, certificate, or letter signed by the continuing education course’s instructor.
You’ll need to complete pre-approved courses, listed by the ND board.
If there’s a course you’d like to take that’s not pre-approved by the board, you may appeal for approval by filling out a continuing education form and mailing it to the board. Within one-two weeks, the board will let you know if the continuing education activity is approved or denied.