If you’re interested in becoming a speech-language pathologist (SLP), it’s important to understand the steps involved in making that dream a reality.

SLPs work with children and adults to diagnose, prevent, and treat communication and swallowing disorders. By learning as much as possible about this career path, you can make the best decision on how to further your education.

Below we discuss the specific steps you’ll need to take in order to become an SLP in the state of Massachusetts.

Speech-Language Pathology

Language pathologists develop therapeutic interventions to help clients manage issues with their voices, speech patterns, language comprehension, communication skills, and oral motor functions.

Because the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) sets most of the industry standards, the requirements for becoming an SLP are similar across the country. However, some states have unique differences in terms of requirements. Below, we’ve outlined the steps you’ll need to take to practice in Massachusetts.

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist in Massachusetts

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

A master’s degree is the minimum required level of education, so earning a bachelor’s degree is your first step on the path to becoming an SLP. Keep in mind that not all graduate programs will accept an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field. If you haven’t earned an undergrad degree yet, consider enrolling in a program that will give you a solid foundation in psychology, healthcare, or linguistics.

Examples of SLP-related degrees include:

2. Earn your master’s degree in speech-language pathology.

Obtaining a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology is mandatory for licensure and certifications down the road, so a related degree won’t be sufficient. Make sure you do your research on potential colleges before enrolling. Your graduate program must be accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA ASHA).

In most cases, the curriculum involves 60 credit hours of coursework consisting of both academic and clinical components. A well-rounded program incorporates plenty of opportunities to learn about key concepts, such as speech disorders, phonology, articulation, and dysphagia, and to put them into action in clinical environments.

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3. Pass the PRAXIS examination in speech-language pathology.

One reason why it’s so important to choose an accredited degree program is that it prepares you for the PRAXIS exam.

The PRAXIS Speech-Language Pathology Test is a multiple-choice exam that measures your competency in skills like communication, diagnosis, and treatment implementation. As of 2021, applicants must earn a score of 162 out of 200 to pass.

In Massachusetts, you’re also required to complete the Communication and Literacy Skills Test (CLST) to become a licensed educator, whether or not you plan to work with children. The exam is made up of two subtests: reading and writing. The former is multiple choice, while the latter is a mix of multiple choice, short answer, and open-ended essays. Passing scores are 156 in reading and 162 in writing.

4. Complete your post-graduate clinical fellowship.

Post-graduate fellowship requirements vary from state to state. However, many states have modeled their clinical fellowship (CF) requirements to match the standards for earning the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP).

Before you can apply for a fellowship, you must complete all graduate coursework and 400 clinical practicum hours. The practicum is a good time to explore different SLP roles, so you’ll have a better idea about the type of experience you want to gain during the fellowship.

The clinical fellowship is a supervised mentoring period that allows you to apply your knowledge and refine your skills while observing seasoned professionals. This phase involves 1,260 hours of on-the-job training. Fellowships must last a minimum of 36 weeks for people working a full-time schedule of 35 hours. If you plan to work part-time, it must be more than five hours a week, and the duration of your mentorship will be much longer.

5. Complete state licensure and ASHA certification.

All your hard work leads up to earning the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence. Once you start the certification process, you have two years to complete it before needing to reapply. To qualify, you must submit:

  • Graduate school transcripts
  • Passing PRAXIS exam scores
  • Disclosure of a criminal record, if applicable
  • Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship (SLPCF) Report from your fellowship mentor(s)

When you successfully earn the certification, the final step is to apply for the Massachusetts Speech-Language Pathology License. You’ll need all the materials you submitted for your CCC, along with an official ASHA certification letter.

In Massachusetts, the SLPCF includes:

  • Form One - Supervised Professional Practice Plan (which must be submitted at the beginning of your fellowship)
  • Form Two - Supervised Professional Practice Report (which is submitted at the end of your fellowship)

Together, these forms require each CF supervisor to verify the dates of your fellowship and state whether or not they recommend you for certification and licensure.

Taking the First Step

Starting your career as a speech-language pathologist may seem like an overwhelming process, but top graduate degree programs are designed to help you navigate the steps to licensure. By choosing a well-rounded, accredited program, you will have the opportunity to learn from licensed professionals who have already been through this process.

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