The communicative sciences and disorders community in Utah emphasizes bridging research and treatment to produce the best outcomes. For example, in addition to their research efforts, the University of Utah has a speech-language-hearing clinic in Salt Lake City that offers state-of-the-art speech disorder treatments. The Clinic also offers treatment for a variety of illnesses and disabilities, including aphasia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, neurological impairments, and more.
From audiologists to SLPs and their assistants, Utah’s community of communicative sciences and disorders professionals continues to expand, network and flourish, amid the growing demand for therapeutic services to deal with speech, fluency and swallowing disorder. The Utah Department of Workforce Services predicts a 27.5 percent increase in jobs for SLPs in the years leading up to 2024, surpassing the national average of 21 percent.
The Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Licensing Board is responsible for issuing licenses to qualified SLPs in Utah. Licensing requirements include earning a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, completing a clinical fellowship, and passing the national SLP exam.
Follow these steps to become a licensed speech-language pathologist in Utah:
Step 1. Complete a Qualifying Master’s Degree Program in Speech-Language Pathology
To satisfy requirements set by the Utah Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Licensing Board, you must complete a master’s degree at minimum in speech-language pathology from an accredited college or university. The major accrediting agency for SLP programs is the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA).
CAA-accredited SLP programs can be traditional, campus-based programs or online programs. Online programs offer a greater level of flexibility for those with busy professional schedules while offering all the rigor and opportunities for experience found in conventional campus-based programs.
You can enter an SLP master’s degree program with a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders or an unrelated program of study.
If you have a bachelor’s degree in this field, you would be well positioned to advance directly to graduate-level coursework. Otherwise, you may need to complete specific prerequisite courses or complete a pre-professional program through your university before you can begin your graduate work.
Typical prerequisite course requirements include:
- Speech Development and Disorders
- Language Acquisition
- Introduction to Communication Disorders
Graduate Courses and Practicum
Master’s degree programs in speech-language pathology consist of 5-6 semesters and cover at least 48 credit hours.
Some of the courses you can expect to complete in an SLP master’s degree program include:
- Phonological Assessments and Intervention
- Introduction to Research in Communicative Disorders
- Neural Bases of Communication and Motor Speech Disorders
- Adult Language Disorders
- Professional Practice in Speech-Language Pathology
Your graduate program will also include a clinical practicum, or externship, that will prepare you for your clinical fellowship and national exam. This 400-hour professional experience is required for graduation, licensure through the Board, and national certification (CCC-SLP) through ASHA, should you elect to pursue it. Online students would work with practicum advisors to be placed with a supervising SLP who would facilitate experiential learning in a variety of settings close to home.
There are three CAA-accredited graduate programs housed in universities in Utah that offer master’s degrees in speech-language pathology for those who would be more interested in learning on-campus than online:
- Master of Science in Communicative Disorders at Brigham Young University
- Master of Arts or Science in Speech-Language Pathology at University of Utah
- Master of Arts or Science in Speech-Language Pathology at Utah State University
Step 2. Complete a Nine-Month Clinical Fellowship Program
Upon graduation from an accredited SLP master’s degree program, you must complete a clinical fellowship of 9 months (one academic year), at 30 hours per week.
The fellowship is a paid opportunity to get real-world exposure to the practice environment you’re most interested in working in, whether the school system, rehabilitation, neonatal intensive care or other acute care settings. You would be responsible for finding an employer interested in taking on a fellow. In many cases, this would lead to full-time employment after you become licensed.
Just a few of the employers of SLPs in Utah that may facilitate a clinical fellowship include:
- Utah’s Communication Connection: Payson
- Utah Behavior Services: Salt Lake City, Riverdale, Lehi, Cedar City, and St. George
- University of Utah HealthCare, Therapy Services: Salt Lake City
- Wasatch Speech and Language Center: Holladay
- VST Online Therapy: Lehi
During your clinical fellowship, you’ll be working with your supervisor to get unique, hands-on experience. The work you do will be different in each location and scenario, but you will find ASHA’s Scope of Practice for SLPs will give you an idea of the general skills an SLP must possess, including leadership, research, advocacy, assessment, and treatment.
A licensed speech-language pathologist who has had their license for at least two years must supervise your clinical fellowship.
You must apply for a Temporary License before beginning your clinical fellowship.
Step 3. Pass the National SLP Examination
You must pass the national SLP examination before you can become licensed. Register for the exam on the Praxis website any time during or after your clinical fellowship. You’ll be able to take the exam at test centers located in:
- Cedar City
- Salt Lake City
You will have 150 minutes to answer 132 multiple-choice questions. The exam is divided into three different categories, which you can study using the preparation materials:
- Foundations and Professional Practice – 1/3 of the exam
- Factors that influence communication, feeding, and swallowing
- Wellness and prevention
- Counseling, collaboration, and teaming
- Research methodology and evidence-based practice
- Screening, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis – 1/3 of the exam
- Causes of genetic and developmental diseases
- Assessment of fluency, hearing, feeding, and swallowing issues
- Assessing factors that influence communication and swallowing disorders
- Developing case histories
- Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of Treatment – 1/3 of the exam
- Treatment of fluency, hearing, feeding, and swallowing disorders
- Communication impairments related to cognition
- Generating a prognosis
- Developing treatment plans and recommendations
To pass the exam, you need to score 162 on a scale of 100-200.
Optional CCC-SLP Certification
Passing the SLP exam also qualifies you to apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competency in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP).
Although not a requirement for licensure as an SLP in Utah, many SLPs find the CCC-SLP designation beneficial when entering or advancing in the profession, as it is indicative of an advanced level of professionalism and a commitment to continuing education.
To apply for the CCC-SLP, first fill out the Application for the CCC-SLP. You must send your test scores from Praxis, an SLP Clinical Fellowship Report and Rating Form,and an official transcript from your graduate program.
Step 4. Become Licensed and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist
Along with your completed application, you would have your graduate program submit an official transcript, and have your fellowship sponsor submit proof of your clinical fellowship (using the Verification of Clinical Fellowship/Externship form included in the application packet). Praxis will furnish the Board with your exam score.
With your Utah SLP license in hand, you have several options for starting your career, including continuing to work with the employer that sponsored your fellowship.
You may consider pursuing other professional opportunities in:
- Public schools
- Private practices
- Long-term care institutions
Holding one of ASHA’s Clinical Specialty Certifications displays your specific skillset in to your clients, colleagues, and employer, and is worth considering if you will be working in a specialized clinic or intend to establish a specialized practice independently. ASHA offers three different specialty certifications that complement the CCC-SLP:
- Swallowing and swallowing disorders
- Fluency and fluency disorders
- Child language and language disorders
Step 5. Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements
You must also complete at least 20 hours of continuing education every two-year cycle.
You can satisfy your education requirements through ASHA or Utah Speech-Language-Hearing Association (USHA)-sponsored courses or events. The Association offers continuing education to its members, as well as legislative representation, networking opportunities, and recognition via awards at the yearly conference.