Speech Therapy Training Programs and Requirements

Speech therapists, usually called speech-language pathologists, study and treat speech and communication disorders that affect their patients. Practicing speech therapists usually complete a master's degree in the field. View article »

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  • 0:01 Speech Therapy Training
  • 1:05 Master's in Speech Pathology
  • 1:53 Certification
  • 3:06 Licensing
  • 3:32 Continuing Education
  • 4:25 Conferences & Events

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Video Transcript

Speech Therapy Training

Degree Level Master's degree; Ph.D. for research or teaching
Degree Field(s) Speech-language pathology
Time to Complete 2-3 years
Requirements 3.0 GPA, sufficient GRE score (varies by school); an essay and letters of recommendation
Licensure/Certification Licensure required in most states; the American Speech-Language Hearing Association accredits programs and offers several certifications
Specialties Available Child language and language disorders, fluency and fluency disorders, intraoperative monitoring, or swallowing and swallowing disorders
Key Skills Knowledgeable of statistics and behavioral, social, biological, and physical sciences; understand the communication/swallowing processes in humans and how to assess, prevent, and treat communication/swallowing disorders; familiar with the issues and standards of ethical conduct related; demonstrate good oral, research, and writing skills

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Speech therapy training programs, or speech-language pathology programs, are master's degree programs that help students prepare for careers as speech-language pathologists. A master's degree, such as a Master of Arts, Master of Education, or Master of Science, is the entry level credential for working in the field. Speech-language pathologists who want to pursue research or teach can pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

Prerequisites typically include completion of a bachelor's degree program with coursework in human anatomy as it relates to hearing and speech as well as language development and disorders. Undergraduates also study audiology; linguistics, or the science of language; and phonology, or the science of sound in relation to language and speech. Students applying to a graduate program in speech-language pathology must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. They must also submit their GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores, an essay, and letters of recommendation.

Master's in Speech Pathology

The Council on Academic Accreditation, a division of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), accredits master's degree programs in speech and language pathology. They typically take 2-3 years to complete. In a master's degree program in speech-language pathology, students learn about human anatomy and physiology, speech and swallowing disorders, alternative methods of communication, and language and speech development in humans. They also complete 400 hours of on-site supervised clinical training.

Upon graduation and certification from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), speech therapists can work for a variety of employers such as hospitals, nursing homes, private practices or schools.


Candidates for ASHA certification, or a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), must have a graduate degree - such as a master's or a doctorate - from a speech-language pathology program that has been accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). Graduate programs must include at least 36 credit hours of classroom and 400 hours of supervised clinical experience. This includes 25 hours of clinical observation and 375 hours working with patients.

Candidates must be knowledgeable about the behavioral, social, biological, and physical sciences, as well as statistics. They should also understand the communication and swallowing processes in humans including how to assess, prevent, and treat people with communication and swallowing disorders. Prospective speech-language pathologists should also be familiar with the contemporary issues and standards of ethical conduct related to the field and demonstrate good oral, research and writing skills. Candidates must also pass the Praxis Examination in Speech-Language Pathology and complete a Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states require practicing speech-language pathologists to have a license. Requirements usually include a master's degree in speech-language pathology from an accredited program and clinical experience. A Certificate of Clinical Competency may also fulfill some of the licensing requirements. Speech-language pathologists who work in schools may need a teacher's certification.

Continuing Education

After becoming certified, speech-language pathologists have to complete 30 certification maintenance hours during their next three years in the field. Through ASHA, speech-language pathologists with a Certificate of Clinical Competency can also earn a Board Certified Specialist credential in one of four areas of specialization. These include child language and language disorders, fluency and fluency disorders, intraoperative monitoring, or swallowing and swallowing disorders.

Requirements include at least three years of clinical experience beyond what is required for the CCC, at least 450 hours of clinical experience in the area of specialization, and six continuing education units in the area of specialization. Candidates must also attend an interview, pass a practical or standard exam, or undergo a portfolio review.

Conferences and Events

ASHA offers an annual convention and sponsors numerous other educational events for speech-language pathologists. They also offer online modules and Web-based seminars for clinical and school-based practitioners.

Just to recap, speech therapy training programs are graduate speech-language pathology programs that help students prepare for careers as speech-language pathologists and include classroom instruction and a significant amount of supervised clinical experience.

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