How to Become a Speech Language Pathologist in California

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A speech language pathologist (SLP) is a healthcare professional who specializes in helping people with speech or language disorders learn to communicate more effectively. Speech language pathologists can work with people of any age and situation, ranging from autistic children to adults who have suffered brain damage. In order to work as a speech language pathologist, you will need a minimum of a Master's degree from a program that is approved by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). There are more than a dozen such programs in California. These guidelines will help you to pursue this promising career.

  • Obtain a Bachelor's degree in a field related to communications. If your Bachelor's degree is in an unrelated field, you may be eligible to apply if you take about 20 to 30 semester hours of courses in speech and communication sciences before you apply for admission.

  • Decide which graduate program or programs you wish to apply to. There are 15 colleges in California that have ASHA approved speech and language pathology programs throughout the state, with several in the Los Angeles region as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area--but even as far north as Chico. You may want to consider only those in your geographical region or you may be willing to relocate.

  • Check the prerequisites for the program to which you wish to apply. If you do not have all of the required prerequisite courses in basic communication sciences, you will want to take any missing courses before you apply. You may also need to have GRE or other assessment scores as a part of your application package.

  • Complete a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree in speech and language pathology.

  • Locate a clinical internship and complete a 300-hour clinical practicum (check with your school to find opportunities in your area). You will then need to find an internship where you can complete at least 36 weeks of full-time experience under the supervision of a licensed speech and language pathologist.

  • Apply to take the national exam in speech and language pathology that is administered by ETS (Educational Testing Services). Achieve a score of 600 or higher.

  • Submit an application packet to California's board of licensing for speech language pathologists and audiologists. You will need to pay a fee and include forms documenting your practicum and supervised experience, as well as evidence of graduation.

Tips & Warnings

  • In addition to applying for licensing through the state of California, you should also consider seeking certification with ASHA in order to have maximal professional credibility. In order to be eligible for ASHA certification, which will give you the SLP-CCC credential, you will need to complete a clinical fellowship that is approved by ASHA--and an ASHA fellowship will also meet the requirements for California licensure. The ASHA website has information on how to find approved fellowships.
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