shutterstock 1405835012Not sure that you have any desire to work in the area your bachelor’s degree is in? Have you spent the last six years in a career you don’t love? Are you wanting to move from business to healthcare? If you are in this situation, or one similar, you are not alone. And the good news is, there are a variety of career options in which a misaligned undergraduate degree is not a roadblock to moving in a new direction.

A career in speech therapy can be begun in a variety of ways. While there is a typical educational path, which includes a bachelor’s, a master’s, a practicum experience, and a passing score on a national Praxis exam, there are no rules concerning which bachelor’s degree has to fulfill that first step.

Speech Pathology Master’s Programs Prerequisites

If you are a student or professional interested in moving into speech therapy, you are going to need to pay attention to the prerequisites for speech pathology graduate programs. While any completed bachelor’s degree is a requirement for program application(s), not all bachelor’s degree studies are going to include all of the necessary prerequisite courses.

As you consider next steps, pay attention to both accreditation and timelines. Some programs only accept prerequisites achieved in a specific prior number of years. Per American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), all courses, both undergraduate and graduate, must also be completed at an accredited institution and must appear on one of those transcripts.

While it is impossible to say the exact courses every applicant for any school would need to have completed, there are some common areas of study that you should be paying attention to. To be certain of the exact speech therapist degree requirements, you’ll need to do some research at your school(s) you want to apply to.

Common Prerequisites Areas of Study

Most programs are going to have very similar (if not the same) prerequisite requirements. These requirements are based on specific standards and qualifications for speech language pathologist (SLP) practice, which have been set by ASHA. Many programs SLP program information pages online will refer to these ASHA standards. You can find all of that information here or here.

Biological Sciences

Biological science courses are going to cover living organisms and the science behind all living things. Courses that may satisfy this requirement include general biology, cellular biology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, evolution, ecology, life science, or radiobiology.*

Physical Sciences

This prerequisite was recently updated. The update applies to all SPL candidates for 2020 and beyond. This requirement may only be met through prior chemistry or physics coursework. ASHA has determined that program directors have the authority to determine if prior course work fulfills this requirement adequately. Possible appropriate courses may include chemical bonding, biochemistry, radioactivity, hydrocarbons, principles of energy, principles of mechanics, and basic principles of physics.*

Social/Behavioral Sciences

The study of these sciences includes the analysis and investigation of both human and animal behavior. Students will learn controlled observation and experimentation, learning how to draw scientific conclusions related to their observations. Courses in these sciences may include anthropology, archaeology, economics, political science, psychology, and ethnic/cultural studies.*

Statistics

Statistics work is going to cover the science of measuring, controlling, and communicating data and its uncertainties. This work is believed to be foundational to sound scientific advances. This requirement is usually a stand-alone single course.

*Please note that suggested course lists are not all-inclusive. Check with your desired program(s) to ensure you are fulfilling the appropriate requirements.

Determining Competence

Ultimately, students who desire to enter into and complete an SLP master’s program must prove that they are capable of understanding and performing the work of an SLP. Proving competence can be done regardless of the area in which a bachelor’s education was achieved, but it must begin in undergraduate education.

Achievement of the appropriate prerequisites for speech pathology graduate programs will also prove vital to attaining the voluntary certificate of clinical competence (CCC), given by ASHA and required by many states for practice. This certificate ensures that SLP professionals have met the necessary rigorous academic and professional standards before they are allowed to begin practice. Though this certificate is not 100% necessary for practice, most SLPs are strongly encouraged to achieve it.

Yes, You Can

Though getting into an SLP master’s program (and getting that CCC) may be a bit more difficult for those with an unrelated bachelor’s degree, it is neither impossible nor impractical. Do your research on what your program (and ASHA) requires. If you’re currently getting your bachelor’s, use your non-elective courses to fulfill the SLP requirements. If you’ve already achieved your bachelor’s, it is highly likely that you could easily fulfill your missing prerequisites through a community college or distance education program.

Language and the ability to communicate is a gift many of us take for granted. The desire to restore and grow that gift in others is a worthy calling and one you will not regret pursuing, regardless of the hurdles you may have to jump to get there.

Laura Mansfield

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) | Sacred Heart University

Associate’s Degree of Nursing (ADN) | North Seattle Community College

Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.), Marketing, Sales | University of Washington (Seattle)

January 2020

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