How to Become a Speech Therapist in Tennessee

Through the Department of Health, Tennessee provides a wide array of services for its residents with communicative disorders, including an early intervention program designed to assess and diagnose speech and language issues in preschool age children.

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As early intervention becomes a priority, and as the Tennessee Department of Education continues to incorporate speech therapy in special education programs, the demand for SLPs in Tennessee is expected to increase dramatically. In fact, the Tennessee Department of Labor Workforce and Development expects to see a 25.1 increase in the number of licensed SLPs in the state in the years leading up to 2024 just to keep pace with the growing demand.

To become a speech therapist in Tennessee, you must hold an SLP license issued through The Board of Communications Disorders and Sciences. Applicants must meet three basic requirements: hold a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, complete a clinical fellowship, and pass the national SLP exam.

Follow these steps to become a licensed speech-language pathologist in Tennessee:

Earn a Qualifying Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology
Complete a Nine-Month Clinical Fellowship
Pass the National SLP Examination
Become Licensed and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist
Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements



Step 1. Earn a Qualifying Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology

The first major step to becoming licensed as a speech-language pathologist in Tennessee is earning a master’s degree or higher in speech-language pathology from a program accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA).

CAA-accredited online programs offer an unmatched level of flexibility for working professionals with busy schedules, without the need to sacrifice a quality education.

Many graduate programs have accommodations for students without bachelor’s degrees in speech-language pathology. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in the field, you would be given the opportunity to take some prerequisite and foundational courses at the beginning of the graduate program.

Some of the classes you can expect in an SLP master’s degree program include:

  • Intro to Hearing Science
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Speech and Language Development
  • Language disorders
  • Aural Habilitation/Rehabilitation
  • Stuttering
  • Language Path in Children
  • Neural Bases of Speech and Language

As a part of your graduate program, you’ll also be required to complete a 400-hour clinical practicum, which will prepare you for your clinical fellowship and national exam.

For those that prefer a campus-based learning experience, there are five SLP master’s degree programs located in-state approved by the Tennessee Board:

  • Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at East Tennessee State University
  • Master of Science in Speech and Hearing Science at Tennessee State University
  • Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology at The University of Memphis
  • Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at Vanderbilt University


Step 2. Complete a Nine-Month Clinical Fellowship

Upon completing your SLP master’s degree, you must complete a 9-month clinical fellowship.

As the first big step toward establishing yourself in the field, the clinical fellowship provides you with an opportunity to pursue a paid position with an employer and practice setting that aligns with your longer-term career goals.

Just a few of the employers of SLPs in Tennessee include:

School Districts (Requires an active Speech Language Teacher license, Apprentice Special Group License, Practitioner School Services Personnel License or Professional School Services Personnel License with SLP endorsement through the Tennessee Department of Education)

  • Johnson County Schools
  • Maury County Public Schools
  • Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Knox County School District
  • Arlington Municipal School District
  • Bartlett Municipal School District
  • Collierville Municipal School District
  • Germantown Municipal School District
  • Lakeland Municipal School District
  • Millington Municipal School District

Private practices

  • Franklin Speech and Learning, Nashville
  • The Speech, Language, and Learning Center, Columbia and Lawrenceburg
  • West Tennessee Hearing and Speech Center, Jackson
  • Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center, Kingsport


  • Saint Thomas Health Outpatient Rehabilitation in Cool Springs, Midtown, and Murfreesboro
  • Siskin Hospital for Rehabilitation in Chattanooga, East Brainerd, and Cleveland
  • The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial in Nashville
  • University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville

Long-term care facilities

  • Gallaway Health and Rehab in Gallaway
  • Richland Place Health Center in Nashville

Submit the Registration for Clinical Fellowship Year no more than 10 days after you begin your fellowship. The registration lasts for a year, and can be renewed in 3-month intervals.

During your clinical fellowship, you’ll receive hands-on experience. Each SLP must meet different demands, yet your skills need to be robust and applicable in many scenarios. ASHA has written an SLP Scope of Practice to describe all that an SLP will be expected to be proficient in, including research and leadership, client advocacy, and screening and treatment programs.

Note to CCC-SLP Candidates

If you intend to pursue ASHA’s CCC-SLP credential, you must fill out the SLP Clinical Fellowship Report and Rating Form.



Step 3. Pass the National SLP Examination

The final requirement for your Tennessee SLP license involves passing the national SLP exam, which is administered by Praxis.

To register for the exam, first follow the instructions on Praxis’ exam registration page.

You’ll find exam centers in:

  • Chattanooga
  • Clarksville
  • Columbia
  • Cookeville
  • Jackson
  • Johnson City
  • Knoxville
  • Martin
  • Memphis
  • Morristown
  • Murfreesboro
  • Nashville

The exam has 132 multiple-choice questions, and you have a 150-minute time limit. You can study for the exam using the Preparation Materials. The test is divided into three equal categories. Here’s an overview of the exam content:

  • Foundations and Professional Practice – 1/3 of the exam
    • Wellness and prevention
    • Counseling, collaboration, and teaming
    • Legislation and client advocacy
    • Research methodology and evidence-based practice
  • Screening, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis – 1/3 of the exam
    • Developing case histories
    • Selecting appropriate procedures
    • Causes of genetic and developmental disorders
    • Assessing social aspects of communication
  • Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of Treatment – 1/3 of the exam
    • Evaluating factors that can affect treatment
    • Determining appropriate treatment details
    • Establishing methods for monitoring treatment

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

Praxis will send your exam results directly to the Tennessee Board.



Step 4. Become Licensed and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist

To apply for your Tennessee SLP license, you will need to complete the Application for Licensure and submit it with a transcript from your graduate program.

After you receive your state SLP license, you can choose from a number of career paths:

  • Many SLPs have a job waiting for them at the clinic or hospital where they completed their clinical fellowship. If that option is open to you, it can be an easy way to make the transition to your career.
  • If you’re interested in other job openings, you can look through the Tennessee Association of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists Employment Listings page. The page is updated with new listings as employers post them, so be sure to check often.
  • You can also explore a job in the public sector. Tennessee has an Early Intervention System for families of small children, which includes early intervention services for speech disorders. Many public school districts also hire SLPs for in-school assistance with speech-disabled children.
  • If current job listings don’t feel like the right fit for you, consider starting a private practice. Independent practice is a great way to serve your local community by offering skilled services to those that need it most.

Optional CCC-SLP Certification

Meeting the education, experience and exam requirements described in the previous steps will also qualify you for the Certificate of Clinical Competency in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) voluntary credential. It is not a requirement for licensure, but many SLPs in Tennessee find that holding this credential helps them establish themselves professionally.

Complete the Application for the CCC-SLP and submit it with the Clinical Fellowship Reporting form and an official copy of your graduate transcript.

ASHA currently offers four additional specialty certifications that can be useful for marketing your special skills to employers and clients. The four certifications are:

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



Step 5. Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements

After you earn your permanent license, you need to make sure you keep it up to date. License renewal in Tennessee is required annually.

You must complete 10 hours of continuing education before you can renew your license. Five hours must be in your specialty, and the other 5 can cover either speech-language pathology or audiology.

The Tennessee Association of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists offers continuing education opportunities for SLPs in the state. The Association also provides professional and legislative advocacy.

Speech-Language Pathology Salary in Tennessee

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides annual salaries and hourly wages for speech-language pathologists in the major cities and rural areas of Tennessee as of 2015:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Chattanooga TN-GA
Clarksville TN-KY
Cleveland TN
Jackson TN
Johnson City TN
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol TN-VA
Knoxville TN
Memphis TN-MS-AR
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN
West Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
East Tennessee nonmetropolitan area

Strong Job Growth for SLPs in Tennessee

The predicted rate of increase in the number of jobs for speech-language pathologists in Tennessee for the period between 2014 and 2024 exceeds the national rate by nearly 20% according to the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This agency estimates Tennessee’s increase to be 25.1% over this time frame.

This rate should open up an average of 95 jobs a year for SLPs in the state. Nearly two-thirds of these positions should come from growth in the field with the remaining ones coming from the need to replace practitioners who will leave the profession.

SLPs are found working in Tennessee’s many school districts, including:

  • Arlington Municipal School District
  • Bartlett Municipal School District
  • Collierville Municipal School District
  • Germantown Municipal School District
  • Lakeland Municipal School District
  • Millington Municipal School District
  • Johnson County Schools
  • Maury County Public Schools
  • Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Knox County School District
  • offers a number of outpatient clinics that employ speech-language pathologists:

Tennessee is also home to many private clinics specializing in speech-language pathology:

  • Chattanooga: The Speech and Hearing Center – Hearing Aids
  • Clarksville: More Than Words…Therapy Services
  • Cleveland: Speech & Hearing Center
  • Columbia: The Speech, Language & Learning Center
  • Fayetteville: Patrick Rehab-Wellness Center
  • Franklin: Jones Therapy Services, LLC
  • Franklin: PipSqueak Speech Therapy
  • Jackson: West Tennessee Hearing & Speech Center
  • Hixson: Speech Language Reading Center
  • Knoxville: Clearly Speaking Speech Path
  • Knoxville: Deborah L Curlee Communication Consultants
  • Lawrenceburg: Speech Language & Learning Center: Terri M Philpot
  • Maryville: Speech Pathology Services of Eastern Tennessee
  • Juliet: Lyttle Fox Therapy
  • Juliet: Nicole R. Fox, MS
  • Murfreesboro: Bright Beginnings Pediatric Therapy Center, Inc.
  • Murfreesboro: Jones Therapy Services
  • Nashville: Jones Therapy Services, LLC
  • Nashville: Speech/Language Services
  • Nolensville: Jennifer McVey Pediatric Speech Therapy
  • Oneida: Let’s Talk Speech Therapy, LLC
  • Spring Hill: Speech Language & Learning Center

Salaries for Speech-Language Pathologists in Tennessee

Experienced speech-language pathologists in Tennessee earned an average of $81,691 ($39.25 hourly) as of 2015 according to the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The median salary among SLPs was $66,465 ($32.05 hourly) that year.

However, recent labor market data indicates that employers are offering significantly higher salaries. The Department analyzed the wage data for nine SLP jobs advertised online in August 2016 that posted a salary and found the values to be much higher:

  • Experienced: $110,000 ($52.88 hourly)
  • Median: $83,720 ($40.25 hourly)

This agency delineated the 10 cities in Tennessee with the highest median salary as of 2015. While the values are very close or identical to those provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are from the state of Tennessee rather than the federal government:

  • Cleveland—$84,542
  • Johnson City—$79,560
  • Chattanooga—$69,784
  • Memphis—$69,402
  • Jackson—$67,265
  • Clarksville—$66,490
  • Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro—$63,696
  • Knoxville—$60,851
  • Kinsgport-Bristol-Bristol—$58,191
  • Morristown—$57,638

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