As demand for speech therapy services continues to grow, Washington State’s Employment Security Department expects to see a 23.9 percent increase in the number of SLP licenses issued in the years leading up to 2024—outpacing the national average of 21 percent.
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To become a speech therapist in Washington, you must meet the SLP licensing requirements of the Board of Hearing and Speech, which include earning a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, completing a clinical fellowship, and passing the national speech-language pathology exam.
Follow these steps to become a licensed speech-language pathologist in Washington:
Step 1. Earn a Speech Therapy Degree: Complete a Master’s Degree Program in Speech-Language Pathology
To become a licensed SLP in Washington State, you must first earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from a Board approved institution.
Approved speech-language pathology graduate programs include both online and campus-based options that have earned accreditation through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA).
Accredited online programs are an ideal option for professionals with demanding schedules and for anybody that doesn’t live within immediate proximity to a university offering a CAA-accredited program on campus. There are currently 4 CAA-accredited programs housed at universities in Washington State, though students here have many more options thanks to the online programs that are available.
A bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders or a related field is the most straightforward path to earning a master’s degree in SLP. If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you may need to complete several prerequisite courses before you can begin your graduate coursework. These often include:
- Anatomy and Physiology of Speech, Hearing, and Swallowing
- Language Acquisition and Development
- Introduction to Communication Disorders
- Introduction to Audiology and Aural Rehabilitation
- Introduction to Language Development and Disorders in Children
SLP graduate programs often offer the opportunity to complete prerequisites through pre-graduate bridge courses.
Graduate Courses and Clinical Practicum
Just some of the courses you can expect to complete in an SLP master’s program include:
- Neural Bases of Speech, Language, and Hearing
- Assessment and Treatment of Voice Disorders
- Assessment and Treatment of Dysphagia
- Medical Speech-Language Pathology
- Assessment and Treatment of Cognitive-Communicative Disorders
Your graduate program will also include a clinical practicum, which could consist of as many as 400-hours of pre-professional experience designed to prepare you for your upcoming clinical fellowship. A licensed SLP must supervise your practicum.
Step 2. Gain Professional Experience Through a Clinical Fellowship Program
After graduating from your master’s program, you would begin your clinical fellowship, which must include at least 36 weeks of paid, full-time work in a school, hospital, long-term care facility, rehabilitation clinic or other setting in which SLP services are routinely offered.
It is up to you to secure your own fellowship with an employer interested in taking on a new graduate as a fellow. Your fellowship can lead to long-term, full-time employment.
The post-graduate fellowship is your opportunity to get your career started working in an area of practice that most interests you, whether this means working with newborns with swallowing and feeding disorders in a neonatal intensive care unit, or elderly stroke victims in a rehabilitation clinic.
Some of the employers in Washington State through which you may pursue a clinical fellowship include:
- Rehab Specialties, Vancouver
- RiteCare of Washington, Spokane
- Toddler Learning Center, Oak Harbor
- Presence Learning, Seattle
- Magnolia Behavior Therapy, DuPont
- Ensign Therapy, Hoquiam
- Opportunity Council, Bellingham
Before you can begin your fellowship, you must:
Pass the Speech-Language Pathologist Interim Permit Jurisprudence Exam, which covers the laws and regulations of speech-language pathologists in Washington State. The exam is open-book, and you must score 100 percent to qualify for your interim license.
- Complete the Speech-Language Pathology License Application, selecting the “Interim Permit” option
- Complete at least four hours of HIV/AIDS education and training through a provider recognized by the Board
Your SLP supervisor must complete two forms:
- Professional Reference Request form (included in the license application packet)
- SLP Interim Permit Supervision Documentation (completed at the end of your clinical fellowship)
Step 3. Pass the National SLP Praxis Examination
At any point during or after your clinical fellowship, you would be required to take and pass the national SLP exam, administered by Praxis. You would start the exam registration process by visiting the registration page and scheduling to take the exam at one of the test center locations found in these cities:
- Mountlake Terrace (Seattle)
Once you’re registered, you can start studying for the exam using the test materials provided by Praxis. The exam consists of 132 questions that must be completed within a 150-minute time limit. The exam is broken up into three categories:
- Foundations and Professional Practice – 1/3 of the exam
- Research methodology
- Counseling and teaming
- Wellness and prevention
- Characteristics of common swallowing and communication disorders
- Screening, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis – 1/3 of the exam
- Genetic and developmental causes
- Auditory problems
- Communication, feeding, and swallowing disorders
- Speech sound production
- Cognitive aspects of communication
- Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of Treatment – 1/3 of the exam
- Generating a prognosis
- Communicating recommendations
- Following up on post treatment referrals and recommendations
To pass the exam, you must score at least 162 on a scale of 100-200.
Optional CCC-SLP Certification
You can also apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competency in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) upon passing the SLP exam. Although not a requirement for licensure in Washington, many SLPs pursue this designation because it displays an advanced level of competency in the profession.
If you earn your CCC-SLP before applying for your Washington State SLP license, you can submit your credential to the Board in lieu of other documentation required with your application.
To apply for the CCC-SLP, complete the Application for the CCC-SLP and send it to ASHA with your graduate transcript, the SLP Clinical Fellowship Report and Rating Form. Praxis will send your exam results to ASHA directly.
Step 4. Become Licensed and Begin Your Career as a Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist in Washington
Before you can apply for your SLP license in Washington, you must take the Speech-Language Pathology Jurisprudence Exam, similar to the one you took for your Interim Permit. A passing score of 100 percent is required to pass this open-book exam.
After passing the jurisprudence exam, you can apply for your Washington license by completing the Speech-Language Pathology License Application Packet and providing proof of the completion of your graduate program, SLP exam score sent from Praxis, and the completed SLP Interim Permit Supervision Documentation form.
Once you receive your license from the Board, you can begin your career! There are many options for licensed SLPs in Washington State, as these professionals work in settings such as:
- Rehabilitation clinics
- Private practice
Many newly licensed SLPs return to the hospital or school where they completed their clinical fellowship to start their career. This is an easy option for both the employer, who benefits from your newly gained familiarity with their patients and practice, and you, by reducing the turnaround time for employment and allowing you to transition to a position where you’ve already been working with faculty and clients.
If you are interested in exploring new opportunities, you can search the Washington Speech-Language-Hearing Association Job Board. Employers post listings on this board, which remain for no more than 4 months, ensuring only current listings are provided.
The Children’s Therapy Center, which currently serves as the largest independent, nonprofit pediatric therapy program in the state, is also one of the largest employers of SLPs in the state. Operating out of facilities in Burien, Kent, and Tacoma, the Children’s Therapy Center serves more than 3,000 children with developmental delays and disabilities each year. The speech and language pathologists (SLPs) here focus treatment strategies on increasing expressive, speech, receptive, and oral motor skills.
If your job involves working with a specific patient population or serving clients with specific disorders, or if you wish to start an independent specialized practice, you will benefit from specialty certification. ASHA offers three different specialty certifications for specific areas of practice:
- Child language and language disorders
- Fluency and fluency disorders
- Swallowing and swallowing disorders
Step 5. Maintain SLP Licensure and Complete Continuing Education Requirements
Washington State SLP licenses must be renewed every year on your birthday. You can renew online, by mail, or in person. See the renewal page for details.
To qualify for renewal, you must complete 30 hours of continuing education every three years, with one of those hours covering infection control.
The Washington Speech-Language-Hearing Association remains a popular clearinghouse for continuing education courses, programs, and events. It also offers a number of benefits to its members, including professional publications, legislative support, and scholarship support.
Speech-Language Pathology Salary in Washington
As of 2016, the median salary among speech-language pathologists in Washington State was $73,944 ($35.55) according to the Washington State Employment Security Department. Those whose salaries fell within the top 25% earned an average of $87,589 ($42.11 hourly) that year.
In comparing earnings from around the state, the Seattle area emerged as the top paying location for SLPs in 2016 (ranges shown are median-75th percentile):
- Annual: $73,299 – $85,946
- Hourly: $35.24 – $41.32
- Annual: $72,530 – $79,664
- Hourly: $34.87 – $38.30
- Annual: $65,749 – $81,370
- Hourly: $31.61 – $39.12
- Annual: $70,158 – $80,974
- Hourly: $33.73 – $38.93
- Annual: $65,042 – $74,901
- Hourly: $31.27 – $36.01
- Annual: $71,281 – $79,664
- Hourly: $34.27 – $38.30
- Annual: $77,771 – $94,307
- Hourly: $37.39 – $45.34
- Annual: $66,061 – $76,024
- Hourly: $31.76 – $36.55
- Annual: $72,134 – $80,101
- Hourly: $34.68 – $38.51
- Annual: $78,354 – $89,835
- Hourly: $37.67 – $43.19
- Annual: $74,256 – $82,139
- Hourly: $35.70 – $39.49
A Growing Field in Which More Than 8,500 Businesses Employ SLPs
The number of jobs for speech-language pathologists in Washington should increase by 12.2% between 2014 and 2019 according to the state’s Employment Security Department. This level of growth should result in an average of 144 jobs a year becoming available during this time.
The US Department of Labor in partnership with Infogroup® provides detailed information on the organizations that employ speech-language pathologists in Washington State. They identified a total of 8,514 facilities that employ SLPs in a variety of industries. The major types of employers are shown below:
- Schools: 3,370
- Religious Schools: 194
- School Districts: 192
- Schools with Special Academic Education: 35
- Montessori Schools: 11
- Kindergartens: 6
- Physical Therapists: 2,437
- Home Health Services: 802
- Speech Pathologists: 309
- Hospitals: 286
- Nursing and Convalescent Homes: 235
- Audiologists: 88
- Health Care Facilities: 73
- Medical Centers: 69
- Adult Care Facilities: 67
- Occupational Therapists: 64
- Cancer Treatment Centers: 45
- Hospices: 43
Salaries for SLPs Throughout Washington as Reported by the US Department of Labor
The US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a full analysis of annual salaries and hourly wages for speech-language pathologists in the major cities and rural areas of Washington as of 2015: