Speech therapy is an important service offered within the category of healthcare services. A more specialized medical career, speech-language pathologists work with patients of all ages, and with a variety of challenges, in order to help them communicate more clearly with the world around them.
It is a highly regulated profession, in most cases requiring practitioners to obtain a certification, but also one that is both diverse and interesting. Geared toward those interested in teaching, as well as therapeutic services, a career as a speech therapist can be highly rewarding for the right individuals.
Becoming a Speech Therapist
Prospective students who are interested in a career as a speech-language pathologist will need to fulfill specific educational requirements in order to do so.
In the US, Canada and other countries, practitioners who seek certification are required to complete a minimum of a Master’s degree in speech-language pathology, though there are a few shorter programs available.
In the UK and a few other areas, national registration with regulatory healthcare organizations is sometimes obtainable with a Bachelor’s degree, or other accelerated educational programs as well.
Regardless, in all cases, a Master’s degree is still highly recommended since it is more preferable to employers, and offers the most in employment options and career advancement.
Gaining Certification in Speech Therapy
In order to become certified, students will need to provide proof of having graduated from an appropriate accredited educational program, which makes them eligible to take the national certification examination.
Licensing is required in most states and provinces in the US and Canada, and in some cases, certification is required in order for practitioners to become licensed to practice within their state.
Additionally, as mentioned above, since it is such a specialized profession, most employers today require that candidates be certified before they will be considered for hire.
Certification examinations in the US are provided by and maintained by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLA), which awards the title of Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, or CCC-SLP.
Canadian graduates can take the certification exam offered by the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA), which will provide practitioners with a Certificate of Clinical Certification.
In both cases, practitioners are required to be a member in good standing of the issuing professional organization, and they are required to keep up their certification through the accruement of a specific amount of Continuing Education hours each year; failure to do so can result in loss of certification, and the need to re-test to regain this qualification.
Certification is handled somewhat differently in some areas however, such as in the UK, where registration with the HCPC acts as the main proof of ability.
Only graduates of programs that are both accredited by the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists (RCSLT) and recognized by the HCPC enable graduates to register with the HCPC.
There are a select few specialty certifications that can be earned through separate programs associated with the RCSLT, but these are not required for HCPC registration, and are typically taken after a practitioner has been working for some time, has gained considerable work experience, and would like to specialize in one area of therapy over general therapy.
The Importance of Accreditation
In all cases, one of the most important considerations that any prospective student needs to make before they enroll in a speech-language pathology degree program is whether or not it is accredited.
Students are only eligible to obtain certification if they have graduated a recognized, accredited program, which serves as a measure that each student has been provided the most accurate, up to date and complete education and training as possible.
To find out which college programs are accredited, prospective students are recommended to contact their country’s professional organization in Speech-Language Pathology, as these groups are typically involved with accreditation of educational programs, and maintain a list of them.
In the US, the ASHA is partnered with the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, and together helps grade and approve all acceptable programs, and uphold educational standards of their approved programs.
Canadian accreditation is handled by the CASLPA in partnership with the Council for Accreditation of University Programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CACUP-ASLP). UK accreditation, as mentioned above, is handled by the RCSLT in conjunction with HCPC requirements.
Although it may seem like getting a certification might be challenging, students who are dedicated to their new profession, and are interested in getting the best education they possibly can will benefit greatly from their effort.
Not only will they have access to the best jobs in their profession, but they will reap the many other benefits that certification offers, such as career advancement and increased salary as well.