How to Get into Speech Pathology School

To practice as a speech language pathologist, you must obtain a Master of Speech Language Pathology (SLP) and a license in your state. You also might need to earn national certification from the Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CFCC).

To begin your career, you need to apply and be accepted to SLP grad school. This is a competitive process. You should learn basic speech pathology admissions requirements and steps you can take to become a competitive applicant and improve your chances of being accepted into a great program.

5 Steps to Speech Language Pathology Therapy School

Follow these steps to get into speech language pathology school:

1. Graduate with a bachelor’s degree

To pursue a career in speech language pathology, you must complete a bachelor’s program. You can obtain a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders, but a specific major is not required, reports the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

If you choose a different major, or you obtained your bachelor’s degree before considering an SLP, you will likely need to complete prerequisite coursework. Peruse accredited SLP programs through ASHA EdFind and review the requirements.

2. Take the GRE (up to 5 times)

Many traditional and online SLP programs require a GRE score, though the minimum or average scores vary by university. To obtain a strong score, study independently or participate in a structured program.

You have more than one chance to get a great score. You can retake the GRE every 21 days, up to five times within 12 months. Repeating the test can help you achieve a higher score because you know what to expect.

You also do not have to worry about prospective SLP schools seeing your lower score. Through ScoreSelect, you can decide which scores are sent during the application process.

SLP schools may have a deadline to submit a GRE score. Make sure to take the GRE early enough so that you can retake the exam before the deadline.

3. Shadow SLPs in different work settings

Shadow one or more licensed SLPs to get to know the field and the work a speech-pathologist performs. It is also an AHSA requirement for certification. You must complete 25 hours in guided clinical observation before you can begin clinical hours at the graduate level.

SLPs work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Early intervention programs.
  • Preschool and elementary school.
  • Colleges and universities.
  • Hospitals (acute care, rehabilitation, and psychiatric).
  • Residential health care facilities.
  • Non-residential health care facilities.
  • Private practice.
  • Corporate services.
  • Public health departments.
  • The U.S. armed forces.
  • The U.S. Public Health Service.

Shadowing one or more licensed SLPs requires being proactive. Reach out to SLPs in your area and inquire about shadowing opportunities. Some facilities may not allow shadowing, while others have established programs. Many licensed SLPs are happy to help.

If you can shadow, keep track of who you observed, the number of hours, and the setting. Have the licensed SLP sign your record. When you apply to SLP programs, you may want to provide this information.

4. Work or volunteer in the SLP field

Volunteering or working in the speech language pathology field is important if this is your desired career. It helps you fill out your resume for your application and gives you more to work with when crafting your personal statement.

One of the ways to stand out from the crowd of applicants is to work or volunteer in a research setting. SLP is a research-based career, and many graduate programs like to see people with research exposure or experience. Working or volunteering in a research setting demonstrates you understand a fundamental aspect of the field and have a skill that can help you succeed in an SLP master’s program. Colleges and universities near you may have research opportunities.

You can contact facilities, nonprofits, universities, professional organizations, and licensed SLPs in your area about volunteering or job opportunities. If you are interested in travel, ASHA has a list of international nonprofit organizations that may offer volunteer opportunities abroad. You also can use LinkedIn and job boards to find entry-level positions.

5. Network with SLPs in your area

Learning to network and getting to know SLPs can help you prepare for the admissions process, graduate studies, and your career. Networking can help you learn about the field and lead to shadowing, work, and volunteer opportunities. Some of the people you meet might even write letters of recommendation.

If you are pursuing a CSD bachelor’s degree or your university has an SLP program, start by networking with that department. Go to informational events. Reach out to students and faculty.

Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to connect with SLPs. You can find SLP blogs, Facebook groups, podcasts, and much more to learn from and connect with professionals in the field.

Other SLP Application Requirements

To apply to SLP school, you need:

  • Bachelor’s degree – If you do not have a CSD degree, you must complete prerequisite courses before you can begin a program.
  • GPA – GPA requirements differ by program, but competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • GRE score – Some programs may offer GRE waivers. Minimum and average scores of admitted students vary by program. You can find this information via ASHA EdFind.
  • Letters of recommendation – Programs may require letters of recommendation from people who know you, such as professors or licensed SLPs.
  • Personal essay/writing sample – Programs may provide a prompt but, typically, you have discretion in what you discuss in your statement.

Prepare for the SLP School Personal Interview

Many SLP programs require prospective students to participate in an interview. If you have been invited to interview, it means you have met the basic eligibility requirements and the faculty believe you are a good candidate.

Interviews may be one-on-one with a clinical or academic faculty member. There also may be multiple phases in the interview process. Some interviews include a panel interview with multiple faculty members and current graduate students. Some SLP programs conduct group interviews with multiple applicants or require a brief essay. You also may be given a tour of the department and meet faculty and students.

If you are invited to interview with a school, research their interview process. Do not hesitate to contact the program with questions. It is best to be thoroughly prepared.

3 Tips for your SLP School Interview

Your interview can make or break your admission. SLP school is competitive, and faculty are likely to admit interviewees who appear calm, professional, and can express themselves well.

To do well at your admissions interview, you should:

  1. Practice answering common interview questions. You can find dozens of potential questions online. Go over as many as you can. Take time to think about your answer. Practice your answers, but there is no need to memorize responses. It is always OK to take your time and think during the interview. You do not want to rush or provide a rote answer.
  2. Go through mock interviews. Practicing on your own might not be enough to simulate the stress of a real interview. Ask friends, relatives, or classmates to interview you. Have them pick out questions at random, so you don’t know what to expect. Schedule the interview and dress appropriately. Take it seriously. If you are concerned about fidgeting or your posture, consider video recording the mock interview.
  3. Learn to highlight strengths not weaknesses. When you practice answering questions, highlight your strengths. These may include interpersonal skills and clinical experience. Avoid emphasizing weaknesses. If you must mention a weakness, focus on an area of knowledge or skill you will work on as a student.

To get into speech language pathology school, focus on getting involved

If you know an SLP program is right for you, get involved in the field. Your GPA and GRE scores are important. But putting in the effort and time to observe, volunteer, work, and network in the field may help you stand out as a competitive candidate. Show the admissions committee you have knowledge and experience in the SLP field, and you are ready to move forward with this career.

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