The field of speech-language pathology involves diagnosing and treating speech and communication barriers in patients across the lifespan. This field of communication science typically requires a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP).1
During an MS-SLP program, students learn the necessary academic and clinical skills to succeed within the profession. Prerequisites for MS-SLP programs typically include an undergraduate degree and coursework in the sciences and communication.2
Educational Requirements for an MS-SLP Program
For most graduate-level speech pathologist schooling programs, you’ll need to have completed a bachelor’s degree, ideally a Bachelor of Science (BS) in either communication sciences and disorders (CSD) or speech-language pathology.3
There are multiple undergraduate options available to prospective students with different educational backgrounds.
Speech-language pathologist schooling entry points include:4
- A BS in CSD or SLP program
- A science-based degree with CSD/SLP-specific prerequisites
- A non-science degree with general science and CSD/SLP prerequisites
If you need to take prerequisites, some medical speech-language pathology master’s programs allow you to integrate them into your early MS-SLP course plan, while others require you to complete them prior to applying to the program.
There are two layers of speech-language pathologist degree education requirements for a master’s degree.
The first layer includes general science topics that provide the framework for a career in health sciences. These foundational courses include:5
- Physics or chemistry
- Biology, either general or specialized, such as physiology, cybernetics, genetics or neurology
- Social and behavioral sciences, such as anthropology, psychology or psychobiology
The second layer includes courses specific to speech-language pathology and commonly offered in a CSD or SLP undergraduate program. The USAHS Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP) program requires the following admission requirements:
- Introduction to communication sciences and disorders*
- Introduction to audiology
- Aural rehabilitation
- Speech anatomy and physiology
- Normal speech and language development
How to Prepare for a Speech-Language Pathology Career
You can begin preparing for a career as an SLP at any point in your educational path.6
Let’s say seven-year-old Elaine, who has speech impediments, is treated by a speech therapist while struggling with a stutter in her elementary years. Early on, she identifies a desire to help others with communication disorders. She can begin preparing for speech-language pathologist education requirements by:
- Opting into the full range of high school science classes and studying diligently
- Participating in activities that foster critical thinking, empathy and communication skills
- Volunteering in healthcare environments as a teenager
- Earning a BS in CSD or SLP
- Volunteering or working part time in a speech-language pathology role or setting
On the other hand, 22-year-old Roger dreamed of becoming a pilot in his early years but learned he couldn’t qualify medically based on vision problems. He completed high school and then a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English without a strong pull toward a career. He later decided to enter the healthcare field in speech-language pathology.
To prepare for an MS-SLP program, Roger researched speech-language pathologist degree requirements and then:
- Contacted local SLP providers to learn more, seek mentorship and gain connections
- Shadowed a SLP professional for a few weeks to observe the profession
- Caught up on basic science courses not addressed in his undergrad years
- Applied to programs that offered prerequisite courses for those without a BS in CSD
- Applied to integrated programs designed for applicants with no speech science background
You can apply for an MS-SLP program once you’ve completed your bachelor’s, no matter your background. However, some prospective students entering this field of study may need to complete a few additional prerequisites before they qualify for the program.
Those who haven’t completed the required coursework, such as biology, phonetics, or aural rehabilitation, can also opt for postgraduate speech-language pathology programs that offer leveling courses to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge.
MS-SLP Program Application and Acceptance
When applying for an MS-SLP program, applicants must pay special consideration to application requirements, in addition to prerequisites.
Submitting an application to most MS-SLP programs often requires:7
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, supported by transcripts
- Minimum GPA, often 3.0, either overall or for relevant prerequisite coursework
- Statement of purpose or personal essay
- Professional letters of recommendation
In terms of prerequisite coursework, many programs also mandate:
- The time limit for how much time has passed since prerequisites were completed (often two to five years)
- Quantity limit for the number of incomplete courses prior to application or program start
- Plan of study that details how you’ll complete missing prerequisites
- Minimum grade or GPA on prerequisites completed prior to the program
Additional application requirements may include:8
- Guided clinical observation hours in speech-language pathology (not volunteer or work-related)
- GRE or other graduate exam test scores
- A resume or curriculum vitae
- An interview, usually virtual
There’s more to receiving an acceptance letter than simply gathering the application materials.
Consider these tips to increase your chance of program acceptance:
- Apply to the right program – Choose the right institution and program for you. Not all programs have the same admission requirements or process. You might consider the program’s distance, cost and undergraduate degree and course accommodations. There are also programs that don’t require GRE scores or guided observation hours, as well as programs with flexible scores, GPA and time-since-coursework limits.
- Aim past the target – While meeting minimums is the bottom line, for most programs, the minimum GPA or GRE score is well below the average scores of the applicants they accept. If you are a current graduate student or in a position to improve your scores, you might do so.
- Promote your strengths – Schools may vary in how they weigh certain factors, such as GPAs and test scores. Interviews and personal statements create opportunities to showcase your passion and skillset beyond numbers, whether you’re speaking to your leadership abilities or your verbal communication skills.
- Highlight volunteer and work experience – You can make your application stand out by highlighting field-specific interests and experiences, such as:
- Speech-language pathology internships
- Teacher assistant positions for children’s special needs groups
- SLP research assistant roles at a nonprofit, research facility or institution
- Camp counselor duties for children with special needs
- Administration work at audiology or hearing and speech-language clinics
- Head Start preschool program roles
- Volunteer positions at a VA, children’s or acute hospital, or a skilled nursing facility
How Long Does It Take to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist?
The road to becoming a practicing speech-language pathologist varies depending on your educational background and current needs. It’s influenced by:9
- The amount of leveling coursework you need to complete prior to entering a program
- Whether you opt for a full-time, part-time, or self-paced program
- Your potential participation in a program that includes mission, exchange or other foreign travel
Once you’ve completed the prerequisites, you can expect a standard MS-SLP program to consist of the following:
- Duration of about five trimesters or two years if attending full time11
After earning an MS-SLP, you’ll need to obtain a license to practice in most states.12 Fortunately, obtaining an ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in Speech-Language Pathology—although voluntary—exceeds state licensure requirements. A CCC requires:13
- Completing the required coursework (with transcript) and graduate-level clinical practicum
- Confirmation from your graduate program director that you’ve met ASHA Speech-Language Pathology Certification Standards I through V
- Completing a ASHA-approved, 36-week Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship and obtaining a Report and Rating Form
- Studying for and passing the Praxis Examination in Speech-Language Pathology
- Any relevant disclosure documents
- Completing the CCC application and waiting the roughly six weeks for the review process
Take the Next Step Toward a Career in Speech-Language Pathology
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP) program where students can join a collaborative cohort of peers who learn under the mentorship of expert faculty practitioners in a student-first university environment.
You’ll learn clinical practice skills with high-tech educational tools and real medical equipment, including oral endoscopes, nasopharyngoscopes and anatomage tables. Practice with mock patients in our state-of-the-art simulation centers and consult with real patients of all ages via telehealth and in-person experience, including our speech-language pathology pro bono clinic.
Our program includes online didactic coursework and four required on-campus residencies at the USAHS Austin or Dallas campuses. We offer three intakes per year in September, January and May. For those applying without a BS in CSD or SLP, we offer SLP leveling courses to complete your prerequisites.
*Disclaimer: The introduction to communication sciences and disorders course is not required if the applicant holds an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders or speech-language pathology.
- “Speech Language Pathologist, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified 2022, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm
- “Prerequisite Course Content Areas Related to SLP Certification Standards,” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, last modified 2017, https://www.asha.org/certification/course-content-areas-for-slp-standards/
- “Planning Your Education in Communication Sciences and Disorders,” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, last modified 2015, https://www.asha.org/students/planning-your-education-in-csd/
- “What to Know About SLP Post-Graduate Clinical Fellowship Requirements,” SpeechPathologyGraduatePrograms.org, last modified 2016, https://www.speechpathologygraduateprograms.org/slp-clinical-fellowship/
- “Apply for Certification in Speech-Language Pathology,” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, https://www.asha.org/certification/slpcertification/