Through a career in speech-language pathology, you’ll be able to help patients with communication handicaps through speech therapy programs located in schools, rehabilitation centers, and hospitals.
The first step towards speech-language pathology licensure is earning a master’s degree. You’ll need to earn your degree from a school accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). There are a growing number of accredited online options, and you’ll also be able to choose from 15 in-state options. In fact, four universities in Pennsylvania—the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, and Duquesne University—were ranked among the best graduate SLP programs in the nation in 2016 (US News & World Report).
Through your graduate program, you’ll gain experience in speech-language pathology clinics as well as the classroom. You’ll also be able to pursue opportunities such as studying abroad and gaining volunteer experience through summer camps and workshops for speech therapy patients. You might connect to SLPs in the state, job opportunities, and continuing education offerings through state organizations such as the Pennsylvania Speech-Language Hearing Association (PSHA).
Through your graduate program, you may be able to work with experienced SLPs in Pennsylvania. Some notable SLPs include Lisa Hammett Price, who teaches at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and has published a book discussing how reading aloud and initiating conversations about reading can help develop proper language in young children; Joann Migyanka, who has worked to improve the emergency room experience for people with autism by increasing practitioners’ awareness on how to speak with individuals with autism; and Barbara Amster, the founding director of the SLP program at LaSalle University in Pennsylvania and an ASHA fellow, who has done important work on the treatment of fluency disorders.
Your license will be issued through the Pennsylvania State Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. You may start your journey towards SLP licensure by following the steps in the guide below:
Step 1. Earn a Master’s Degree from an ASHA-Accredited Program
To be accepted into a master’s program, you’ll need to be prepared with:
- An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher
- GRE scores in the 30th percentile
- Academic references
You won’t need a background in speech-language pathology to apply—you’ll just need to complete fundamental prerequisites before beginning core coursework if you haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree in SLP.
You’ll be able to choose from a variety of programs accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. There are many accredited online programs and fifteen in-state programs to choose from.
Prerequisites usually include:
- Speech Science
- Anatomy & Physiology of Speech, Hearing, and Swallowing
- Language Development
- Intro to Communication Disorders
- Intro to Audiology and Hearing Science
- Neuroanatomy of Speech, Hearing, and Swallowing
After completing prerequisites, you’ll move into core coursework. Core coursework will cover the following topics:
- Language Disorders in Preschool Children
- Fluency Disorders
- Disorders of Phonology and Articulation
- Professional Issues in Speech-Language Pathology
- Voice Disorders
- Language Disorders in School-aged Children
You’ll also be required to complete a number of electives. If you wish to specialize in a certain patient population or disorder, electives will help you narrow your focus. Topics might include:
- Craniofacial Disorders
- Motor Speech Disorders
- Cognitive Based Language Disorders
- Augmentative Communication
- Clinical Instrumentation in Speech Pathology
- Swallowing: Anatomy, Physiology, and Disorders
- Research in Speech and Language Pathology
You’ll also need to complete a clinical practicum before graduating. The practicum must be at least 375 hours. You’ll also need a minimum of 50 clock hours in at least two distinctly different clinical environments.
You’ll begin by shadowing a supervisor and move into performing activities on your own. At least half of your diagnostic evaluations will be supervised, and at least 25% of treatment, instruction, and counseling will be performed under supervision.
You’ll need to gain approval for diagnostic conclusions, initiating treatment, and recommending the use of treatment methods.
To ensure that you treat a variety of patient populations and gain experience treating different disorders, you’ll be required to gain experience in the following areas:
- Working with children
- Working with adults
- Patients with disorders of articulation, voice, and fluency
Step 2. Complete a Year of Supervised Professional Experience (YSPE)
Next, you’ll complete a year of supervised professional experience (YSPE), which will include 1,080 hours of clinical experience.
Your university program should be able to help you find a clinic where you can complete the YSPE, but if you’d like to seek out clinical fellowships in your area, you may browse online.
You’ll work under supervision during the YSPE. 80% of each week must be spent in direct client contact, which might include assessment, diagnosis, evaluation, rehabilitation, or habilitation activities.
You will conduct screening of clients, but it must be no more than 50% of your time. You’ll also meet with your supervisor at least once a month to discuss the activities you’ve completed.
After completing your clinical fellowship hours, you’ll need to fill out the Clinical Fellowship Report and Rating Form and mail it to:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
2200 Research Boulevard #313
Rockville, Maryland 208550
Step 3. Pass the National SLP Exam and Consider Earning the CCC-SLP Credential
Once you’ve completed your clinical fellowship, you’ll need to begin preparing for the American Speech-Language-Pathology Association’s National Speech Language Pathology Examination. You’ll need to pass the exam with a score of 162 or higher in order to become licensed.
You may register for the exam online.
The test will cover the following topics:
- Foundations and professional practice
- Development and performance across the lifespan
- Factors that influence communication, feeding, and swallowing
- Wellness and prevention
- Documentation, legislation and client advocacy
- Developing case histories
- Assessing factors that influence communication and swallowing disorders
- Assessment of anatomy and physiology
- Speech sound production
- Voice, resonance, and motor speech
- Receptive and expressive language
- Social aspects of communication, including pragmatics
- Etiology, including genetic, developmental, and neurological factors
It’s a good idea to use Praxis test preparation materials to prepare. The study companion offers practice questions and a break-down of the test’s topics, and you may also choose to take an interactive practice exam.
You’ll be able to take the exam in one of the following cities in Pennsylvania:
- Clarks Summit
- East Stroudsburg
- Lock Haven
- Oil City
- Slippery Rock
- West Chester
After successfully completing the exam you may choose to apply for the Certification of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) credential. Offered through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the CCC-SLP is not required for licensure in Pennsylvania, but is a strong credential to show prospective employers and clients. You would apply through ASHA directly, furnishing proof that you completed a graduate program and clinical fellowship as well as passing scores on the national examination.
Step 4. Apply for Licensing and Begin Practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist
You’ll be able to apply for licensing through the Pennsylvania State Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology once you’ve received a passing score on the national exam. You’ll be able to apply online for your license.
Through the application process, you will need to include:
- An official graduate transcript
- Proof of completion of a clinical practicum
- Passing scores on the Praxis exam
- CF Report and Rating Form
Now that you’re licensed, you may start your career. There are several ways to get started:
Join the Clinic that Provided your Year of Supervised Professional Experience (YSPE)
The clinic that provided your YSPE may be interested in hiring you to fill a full-time position. You may contact your YSPE supervisor to inquire about opportunities. Often, clinics prefer to hire SLPs who already have experience in their clinic and have developed good relationships with their staff and patients.
Start an Independent Practice
You may also practice independently if you wish to do so. Some SLPs choose to practice independently because of the benefits of setting your own schedule and taking on as many clients as you feel comfortable with.
Pursue Job Opportunities in Pennsylvania
The options for SLP employment in Pennsylvania are numerous. They span positions at hospitals, clinics, schools, home health care services, and rehabilitation centers. A few of Pennsylvania’s SLP employers include:
- Progress Therapy, LLC
- Fox Rehabilitation
- HCR ManorCare
- Evergreen Rehabilitation
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America
- Temple University Health System
- Tender Touch Rehab Services
- Accomplish Therapy
- Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals
- TALK Institute and School
- CCI Rehab Services
- Invo Healthcare Associates
- Dynamicare Therapy
Step 5. Renew Your License Every Two Years and Complete Continuing Education Requirements
Your license will expire on July 31st of every other year. You’ll receive a notice reminding you to renew, which you can do through the board’s online system.
You’ll also need to complete twenty hours of continuing education every two years, or ten credits every year.
The continuing education credits must be completed through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or an ASHA-approved entity, including ASHA-accredited universities in Pennsylvania.
You’ll need to be sure to keep documentation of your continuing education credits, which might include flyers, brochures, or a letter or certificate of completion signed by the program’s instructor. You won’t need to send these to the board each renewal period, but the board will periodically audit licensed SLPs to ensure completion of continuing education credits.