shutterstock 492323110Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) assess, diagnose, and treat people who have difficulty with communication and swallowing. They work in multiple settings, such as schools, agencies, or private practice. It is a very rewarding and increasingly popular career. A master’s degree in speech-language pathology is a requirement to become a licensed practitioner. Master’s degree programs can be both on-campus and online. Admission requirements vary by school. Let’s look at some aspects to consider when choosing a speech-language pathology program.

Is It Accredited?

The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) is the crediting body of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), which is the national professional association for speech-language pathologists. Accreditation ensures that the program meets certain quality standards but it is not explicitly required for licensure in all states. In fact, approximately half of the states do not require someone to attend an accredited school to obtain licensure. As a prospective student, you must consider whether you will be working (or may want to work in the future) in a state that requires you to have attended an accredited institution.

Should I Attend A Non-Accredited SLP Program?

The advantage of attending a non-accredited school is that they may have less rigorous standards for admission and feel less competitive overall. However, attending a non-accredited school comes with some risks. Accreditation ensures that a program is adequately preparing its students for a career as an SLP. As a result, there is likely a difference in the quality of education between an accredited and non-accredited school. Prospective employers may feel better about hiring someone from an accredited institution. Accreditation also offers a person the flexibility to work in any state they desire. Additionally, a student that wishes to transfer schools may not be able to transfer their credits if they were earned at a non-accredited institution.

Attending a non-accredited school may also hurt your wallet; students who attend non-accredited schools are not eligible for federal financial aid. Further, in order to receive the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP), you must attend an accredited college. This certificate is only required by a handful of states, but it exhibits a breadth of knowledge that may lead to a better job and increased salary.

Does It Require The GRE?

The Graduate Record Examinations General Test (GRE) is a standardized test that measures math, verbal, and written skills. Schools that offer a master’s in speech-language pathology vary in whether or not they require the GRE.

GRE Required

Most programs in speech-language pathology require GRE scores for admittance. GRE scores are one way for colleges to measure whether a prospective student is prepared for the rigors of an SLP program. Almost all of the top-rated universities in speech-language pathology require the GRE.

GRE Not Required

In general, there has been a move against the use of standardized admission tests, with certain people questioning whether they are biased and accurately indicate success in undergraduate and graduate school programs. Instead, some speech-pathologist programs feel that undergraduate GPA is the best measure of future success and the GRE is not necessary. In addition, there is a high demand for SLPs nationwide and certain programs don’t want prospective applicants to be scared off by having to take the GRE test. You will find that most schools that have received accreditation through the CAA have a GRE requirement. However, that is not always the case. For example, Nova Southeastern University offers an online program, is accredited by ASHA, but does not require the GRE. 

GRE Waiver

Certain schools will waive the GRE requirement depending on other factors. Waivers may be obtained by individuals who hold another advanced degree or have relevant previous experience in the field. For example, Emerson College will waive the GRE requirement for its online Master of Science degree in communication disorders for applicants who already hold a graduate degree.

Other Standardized Tests

Some schools want standardized test results but it does not have to be the GRE. Western Kentucky University, for instance, will accept the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) in place of the GRE.

Traditional vs. Online Learning

The world of online education is growing and the field of speech-language pathology is part of this trend. You now have a choice between attending a traditional in-person program or getting your master’s degree online. Although the number of colleges offering an online master’s degree in speech-language pathology is not yet universal, it is sure to expand. However, there are some important differences to contemplate when making this important decision.

Flexibility

The major advantage of online education is its flexibility. Taking a course online is much more convenient than an on-campus program. Think about the convenience of learning in your pajamas rather than dragging yourself to class. This is an especially attractive option for those people who have to work and require the flexibility online classes provide.

Live vs. Non-live Classes

In traditional speech-language pathology education, you go to live classes. In online education, there is a mix of live and non-live classes. Due to advances in technology, some programs allow you to see lectures and interact with students and teachers in real-time. Unfortunately, this is not true of all programs and the learning environment may not be as dynamic or effective with non-live courses.

Practicum Placement

All speech-language pathology programs require approximately 400 practicum hours built into their program. In most on-campus programs, that practicum experience is provided by the program and may even occur on site. Online programs, however, may present with some complications, depending on your location. For example, does the program provide you with the practicum experience or do you have to find it yourself? Maybe they provide practicums to students who live locally but not to people that live far away. Will they even allow you to attend a practicum that is out-of-state? Because practicum is such an essential part of becoming an SLP, a program’s practicum policies need to be explored beforehand to ensure they meet your needs.

Can I Attend An Online Program Out-Of-State?

Certain online masters programs in speech-language pathology may only be offered to in-state students and expect you to stay in-state after graduation. This is usually to address a shortage of SLPs in the state. For example, Texas Woman’s University offers an online master’s degree in speech-language pathology where a graduate must commit to working in the Texas schools for a period of time after graduation.

What Kind Of Speech-Language Program Do I Want?

There are many considerations when applying to speech-language pathology programs. First, you have to ask yourself if you want to attend a school accredited by ASHA. An accredited institution is likely to be more competitive than a non-accredited institution and more difficult to gain admission. Further, colleges without accreditation carry certain risks, possibly including lower quality of education and lesser job options. A more competitive school is also more likely to require the GRE or another standardized test. In addition, you also have to examine your lifestyle and see if it requires the flexibility of an online program or if you would prefer an on-campus environment. The profession of speech-language pathology is very much in demand. Choosing a program that is the best for you can have a tremendous impact on your prospects.

DQ Staff

January 2020

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