Career Education - Learn about all careers, career pay salary, job outlook

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree. They must be licensed in most states; requirements vary by state.


The standard level of education for speech-language pathologists is a master’s degree. Although master’s programs do not specify a particular undergraduate degree for admission, certain courses must be taken before entering the program. Required courses vary by institution. Graduate programs often include courses in age-specific speech disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical practice in addition to coursework.

The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, accredits education programs in speech-language pathology. In 2010, the CAA accredited 253 master’s degree programs in speech-language pathology.


Speech-language pathologists must be licensed in almost all states. A license requires at least a master’s degree and supervised clinical experience. Some states require graduation from an accredited program to get a license. For specific requirements, contact your state’s medical or health licensure board.


Speech-language pathologists can earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Certification satisfies some or all of the requirements for licensure and may be required by some employers.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Speech-language pathologists work with people who are often frustrated by their difficulties. Speech-language pathologists must be able to support emotionally demanding patients and their families.

Critical-thinking skills. Speech-language pathologists must be able to adjust their treatment plans as needed, finding alternative ways to help their patients.

Detail oriented. The work of speech-language pathologists requires intense concentration to listen to what patients are able to say and to help them improve their speech.

Listening skills. Speech-language pathologists must listen to a patient’s symptoms and problems to decide on a course of treatment.

Patience. Speech-language pathologists may work with people who need more time and attention.

Speaking skills. Speech-language pathologists need to communicate test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments in a way that patients and their families can understand.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition