Skip to main content

How to Become a School-based Speech-Language Pathologist

Many speech-language pathologists work in health care and private practice, but more than half work in schools. School speech-language pathologists make a significant difference in students’ lives. They are qualified to help students of all ages optimize their communication abilities, fostering academic, communication, and social skills.

If you’re passionate about addressing speech and language problems in children, you may consider a career as a school speech-language pathologist. Speech-language pathologist (SLP) and speech pathologist refer to the same profession, while speech therapist is a common but outmoded term. Keep reading to learn how to become a speech pathologist in a school.

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist?

The process for how to become a speech therapist in a school depends on one’s educational and professional background. A licensed SLP, a teacher, and someone without speech pathology and teaching experience will follow different pathways.

To work as a school SLP, you must first become a licensed SLP. Then, depending on where you practice, you may need to obtain teaching credentials.


Here is the typical process for becoming a licensed SLP:

Step 1: Earn a Graduate Degree in Speech-Language Pathology

Licensed SLPs have a minimum of a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. It’s vital that the degree is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). Most states require a CAA-accredited SLP degree for professional licensure.

SLP programs are available online and in person, part-time and full-time. For example, working professionals may consider an online program, such as the CAA-accredited Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP) through Ithaca College.

Ithaca’s online MS-SLP program combines fully online coursework and prerequisites with in-person clinical experiences. Students can complete the program in under three years—or under four years if they need to complete prerequisite courses.

Discover career paths with a master’s in speech-language pathology.

Step 2: Pass the National Speech-Language Pathology Exam

The next step is to pass the Praxis Examination in Speech-Language Pathology, administered nationally by Educational Testing Service (ETS). The exam assesses understanding of three topics:

  • Speech-language pathology foundations and professional practice
  • Screening, assessment, evaluation, and diagnosis
  • Planning, implementation, and evaluation of treatment

Each state determines the passing score for SLP licensure.

Step 3: Apply for Speech-Language Pathologist Certification

Some states require SLPs to hold the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). You can apply to begin the ASHA certification process after passing the Praxis exam and before starting a clinical fellowship.


Step 4: Complete an Optional Post-Graduate Clinical Fellowship

To obtain the CCC-SLP, you must complete a clinical fellowship after graduating from an SLP degree program. During your clinical fellowship, you will practice speech-language pathology under the supervision of a licensed SLP. Most states require at least 36 weeks and 1,260 hours of clinical fellowship experience, following ASHA certification guidelines. If you are interested in a career in the schools, it’s a good idea to secure your clinical fellowship in a school.

Step 5: Obtain State Speech-Language Pathologist Licensure

The last step in becoming a licensed SLP is to apply for licensure in the state where you plan to deliver speech-language pathology services. The requirements vary by state. Most candidates are eligible for licensure after completing steps one through four.

Learn more details about each step to becoming a speech-language pathologist.

How Can a Speech-Language Pathologist Transition Practice from Health Care to Schools?

Some SLPs working in health care transition to schools to focus on serving children. Also, educational settings can provide part-time work and a summer break when schools are closed.

Suppose you’re a licensed SLP who practices in health care. In that case, you’ve already finished most of the process for how to become a speech-language pathologist in a school—completing an SLP graduate degree program, an optional clinical fellowship, and optional ASHA certification. The last step is getting a state teaching credential, if necessary.

States with Comprehensive Licensure

Eleven states have comprehensive SLP licensure. Comprehensive licensure allows SLPs to practice in health care and educational settings with a single license. If you’re a licensed SLP in one of these states, you’re qualified to deliver speech-language pathology services in public schools:

  1. Delaware
  2. Hawaii
  3. Kansas
  4. Maryland
  5. Michigan
  6. Montana
  7. New Mexico
  8. North Carolina
  9. Oregon
  10. Texas
  11. Virginia

States with Teaching Requirements

States without comprehensive licensure require SLPs to obtain a separate teaching credential to provide services in public schools. The credential differs by state. For example, some require school SLPs to have a teaching certificate or license, often called a professional educator license (PEL).

The process for getting a teaching credential varies from state to state. It may involve completing additional education, clinical experience, and exams:

Holding ASHA certification can expedite the process of obtaining a teacher credential. Fifteen states allow SLPs with ASHA certification to apply for a teaching credential without fulfilling extra requirements:

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. California
  5. Colorado
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Illinois
  9. Louisiana
  10. Minnesota
  11. Mississippi
  12. Nevada
  13. Oklahoma
  14. Utah
  15. Washington

Use the ASHA State-by-State directory to explore each state’s requirements for working in schools.

How Can a Teacher Become a School Speech-Language Pathologist?

Teachers may become interested in becoming school SLPs after working with students who receive speech pathology services. If you’re a teacher who wants to transition to an SLP career, you first need to become a licensed SLP. Then, you may need to get an additional teaching certificate or endorsement to provide speech-language pathology services in schools.

Teachers can become school SLPs in six steps:

  1. Obtain a graduate SLP degree
  2. Pass the national SLP exam
  3. Apply for optional ASHA certification
  4. Complete an optional post-graduate clinical fellowship
  5. Obtain state SLP licensure
  6. Obtain additional teaching credentials as required by state law

Refer to the ASHA State-by-State directory for the specific requirements where you plan to work as a school SLP.

How to Become an SLP in a School without Speech-Language Pathology or Teaching Experience?

Are you someone without speech-language pathology and teaching experience? You may be passionate about working with children or know a child who received speech pathology services.

A school SLP career can be personally and professionally rewarding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the increased awareness of speech and language disorders in young children is growing the demand for SLPs. Between 2022 and 2032, the BLS expects SLP employment to rise more than six times faster than the average for all jobs.

You can help address the demand and become a school SLP in six steps:

  1. Obtain a graduate SLP degree
  2. Pass the national SLP exam
  3. Apply for optional ASHA certification
  4. Complete an optional post-graduate clinical fellowship
  5. Obtain state SLP licensure
  6. Obtain teaching credentials as required by state law

ASHA maintains a State-by-State directory of requirements for becoming a school SLP.

Take a Supportive Educational Pathway to a School Speech-Language Pathologist Career with Ithaca College Online

With more than 100 years of SLP education, Ithaca College provides a supportive pathway to a fulfilling career as a school SLP. Ithaca’s online MS-SLP program allows working professionals to complete coursework and prerequisites entirely online. It also provides clinical placement services to ensure the practicum occurs near your home.

The online MS-SLP program delivers the same level of engagement, support, and rigor as a campus program. You’ll learn through immersive virtual simulations while receiving dedicated attention from faculty. You’ll also connect with a diverse community of peers nationwide.

When you’re ready for a meaningful new career as an SLP, visit Ithaca College’s online MS-SLP program to get started.

Back to top