Virginia speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are making significant and meaningful strides with combat veterans. Through the VA facility in Richmond, SLPs provide specialized rehabilitation for severely injured service members using a new model of advanced rehabilitation care.
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The SLPs at the VA, alongside an interdisciplinary team of specialists, provide polytrauma care—a term used to describe injuries to multiple body parts as a result of exposure to blasts. The most common type of injury in the polytrauma cluster is traumatic brain injury, occurring in almost 90 percent of these cases.
SLPs at the VA are an integral part of the rehabilitation team, helping patients relearn how to speak. Being able to make a difference in the lives of wounded veterans and other patient groups is why so many SLPs choose to enter the profession.
The VA represents just one of many employers of SLPs in Virginia. The Virginia Workforce Connection expects to see growth of 28.4 percent in the number of speech-language pathologists licensed in the state during the ten-year period leading up to 2024, greatly outpacing the national average of 21 percent during this time.
To become a speech therapist in Virginia, you need to become familiar with the licensing requirements set forth by the Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, which 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 Virginia:
Step 1. Earn a Speech Therapist Degree: Complete a Qualifying Master’s Degree Program in Speech-Language Pathology
To become an SLP in Virginia, you must earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from an accredited institution. The largest accrediting body for speech-language graduate programs is the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA).
The CAA accredits both traditional, campus-based graduate programs and online graduate programs. Online speech-language pathology master’s degrees have become a popular option because of the flexibility they offer, particularly for working professionals with demanding schedules.
To qualify for admission into a speech-language pathology master’s degree program, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
While some students hold a bachelor’s degree in the communication sciences and disorders field, many do not. If your undergraduate degree is in a different field of study, you may need to take several prerequisite courses before you begin your graduate-level coursework, such as:
- Language development
- Speech science
- Anatomy and physiology of speech, hearing, and swallowing
Coursework Requirements and Clinical Practicum for SLP Master’s Students
Master’s degrees in speech-language pathology take between 2-3 years to complete and consist of approximately 48 graduate-level credits.
Typical coursework in SLP master’s degrees include:
- Linguistic and Cognitive Development
- Neurogenic Communication Disorders
- Fluency Disorders
- Disorders of Voice and Resonance
Part of your master’s program includes a 400-hour clinical practicum, designed to prepare you for your clinical fellowship. Students of online programs work with practicum advisors to find placement with supervising SLPs who are able to facilitate experiential learning in a variety of settings close to home.
There are currently 6 CAA-accredited master’s degree programs in speech-language pathology in Virginia for those interested in a campus-based program:
- Master of Arts in Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Hampton University
- Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at James Madison University
- Master of Science in Communicative Sciences and Disorders (Speech-Language Pathology) at Longwood University
- Master of Education in Speech-Language Pathology at Old Dominion University
- Master of Science or Arts in Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Radford University
- Master of Education in Speech Communication Disorders at University of Virginia
Step 2. Pass the National SLP Examination
Virginia differs from most other states, requiring SLP license candidates to pass the SLP exam before the start of the requisite post-graduate clinical fellowship.
You can register for the exam using the instructions on the Praxis registration page. You’ll able to take the exam in test centers in the following Virginia cities:
- Falls Church
- Glen Allen
- Virginia Beach
The exam includes 132 questions and a 150-minute limit. You can study for the exam using the Praxis Preparation Materials.
The test is divided into three equal categories:
- Foundations and Professional Practice – 1/3 of the exam
- Wellness and prevention
- Development of disorders
- Characteristics of common disorders
- Research methodology
- Screening, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis – 1/3 of the exam
- Communication disorders
- Feeding and swallowing disorders
- Assessing factors that influence disorders
- Social aspects of communication
- Causes of genetic and developmental disorders
- Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of Treatment – 1/3 of the exam
- Evaluating factors that can affect treatment
- Establishing methods for monitoring treatment
- Treatment of speech sound production issues
- Communication impairments related to cognition
To pass the exam, you need to score 162 on a scale of 100-200.
Step 3. Complete a Clinical Fellowship Program
Upon passing the SLP exam, you must complete a clinical fellowship program under the guidance and supervision of a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist. Your supervisor must have at least 3 years of active practice as an SLP and must be licensed for at least 3 years in Virginia.
Virginia’s requirements for a clinical fellowship mirror ASHA—36 weeks of full-time (35 hours a week) work totaling 1,260 hours. You may also complete the required hours through part-time study, if desired.
Before starting your clinical fellowship, you must apply for a provisional SLP license in Virginia by completing an Application for Provisional License and submitting it to the Board, along with:
- Proof of your current enrollment in a graduate program that reflects that you have completed all necessary didactic coursework
- SLP exam score (Praxis can release your score electronically to Virginia.)
Your clinical practicum allows you to gain paid, real-world experience as a speech-language pathologist. You’ll gain experience in a wide variety of scenarios, including research, client advocacy, and treatment methods. You can read more about what SLPs are expected to do in the Scope of Practice for SLPs.
Some of the many employers in Virginia that may be interested in taking on a fellow include:
- Washington Speech: Fairfax
- Children’s Speech and Language Services: Falls Church
- Interactions Speech and Language Pathology: McLean
- Children’s Speech Therapy Center: Fairfax
- Speech Beginnings: Alexandria
- Speech Connections: Henrico
Step 4. Earn CCC-SLP Certification
Once your post-graduate clinical fellowship has been completed, you must apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This designation is required for licensure as an SLP in Virginia.
Complete the Application for CCC-SLP and submit it to ASHA, along with an SLP Clinical Fellowship Report and Rating Form, your Praxis exam score, and an official transcript from your graduate program.
Step 5. Become Licensed and Begin Your Career as a Speech-Language Pathologist
Once you receive the CCC-SLP, you can apply for the Virginia SLP license by completing an Application for Audiology or Speech-Language Pathology and sending the Board an official copy of your CCC-SLP.
Once you have your Virginia SLP license, you can begin pursuing a career in speech-language pathology in Virginia.
Many newly licensed SLPs return to the setting where they completed their clinical fellowship, making this the ideal choice for starting a career in speech-language pathology. You can also find SLP jobs in a variety of settings by searching the job postings listed through the Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia Career Center.
Step 6. Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements
You will need to renew your SLP license every two years and complete at least 30 contact hours of continuing education to do so. You can renew your license online.
The Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia provides continuing education courses, events, web-based seminars, and programs for its members and allows them to gain access to Virginia’s network of SLPs, legislative support, and publications.
Speech-Language Pathology Salary in Virginia
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a detailed salary analysis for speech-language pathologists in Virginia’s major cities as of 2015:
Several Areas of Virginia Pay Extremely High Wages to SLPs
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that speech-language pathologists in Staunton-Waynesboro earned the 5th highest average salary in the country in 2015. SLPs in this metropolitan area earned an average salary of $102,540 ($49.30 hourly).
In addition, speech-language pathologists in the nonmetropolitan area of Southside Virginia earned the highest average salary in the country of SLPs in any rural area. These professionals earned an average salary of $97,730 ($46.99 hourly).
Rapid Job Growth for Speech-Language Pathologists in Virginia
The Virginia Employment Commission predicts that the number of jobs for speech-language pathologists will increase by 28.4% between 2014 and 2024. This rate of increase is notable for two reasons:
- It is 35% higher than that nationally
- Job growth for SLPs in Virginia is 2.78-fold higher than that of jobs on average
The Commission also predicts that an average of 165 jobs a year will become available between 2014 and 2024.
Nearly 8,000 Virginia Organizations Employ Speech-Language Pathologists
With the help of Infogroup®, the US Department of Labor provides a highly detailed analysis of all of the businesses, schools, and non-profit agencies that employ SLPs in Virginia. They identified 7,997 such organizations in a large number of industries. The major types of employers are shown below:
- Schools: 3399
- Physical Therapists: 1482
- Home Health Services: 1337
- Hospitals: 360
- Speech Pathologists: 249
- Nursing and Convalescent Homes: 206
- Religious Schools: 167
- Medical Centers: 111
- Health Care Facilities: 107
- Hospices: 107
- Audiologists: 75
Organizations that focus on speech-language pathologists and employ at least 10 people are shown below. Not all of their employees are necessarily SLPs, and these organizations may not be currently hiring:
- Annandale: Skill Builders, LLC
- Charlottesville: Rector & Visitors—The University of Virginia
- Charlottesville: University of Virginia Curry School
- Christiansburg: Professional Rehabilitation
- Danville: Piedmont Regional Feeding
- Falls Church: Building Blocks Therapy
- Farmville: Progressive Therapy, Inc.
- Mc Lean: Speech & Language Center-Northern
- Roanoke: Hollins Communications Research
- Roanoke: Roanoke Valley Speech
- Staunton: Wolfe Speech Therapy Plus
- Stafford: Fleming Speech Therapy Services
- Winchester: Winchester Speech Pathologists
Speech-Language Pathology Salaries in Virginia
The Virginia Employment Commission provides the salaries for speech-language pathologists as of 2014. Experienced SLPs earned an average of $89,838 ($42.98 hourly). The median salary among speech-language pathologists was $75,745 ($36.42 hourly).
The Commission also analyzed the median salaries among speech-language pathologists in metropolitan areas that span several states. In contrast to the data shown above, these salaries encompass solely that of SLPs in the Virginia portion of these metropolitan areas:
- Annual: $80,786
- Hourly: $38.84
- Annual: $79,332
- Hourly: $38.14
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News:
- Annual: $77,783
- Hourly: $37.40