Search for Schools
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) assess, diagnose, treat, and help prevent communication and swallowing disorders in both children and adults. As a significant portion of the current SLP workforce retires, and the Baby Boomer generation simultaneously proceeds into old age, the need for SLP services is set to grow further. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022)) projects the need for SLPs to grow 21 percent between 2021 and 2031, a rate that’s over four times that of the national average for all professions.
All SLPs must be licensed by the state where they practice, and each state’s licensure requirements will vary. However, some SLPs also choose to pursue professional certification, which is distinct from licensure and ensures that a provider meets peer-reviewed standards of excellence in the profession.
The premier certification for SLPs is the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). While technically voluntary, the CCC-SLP is becoming increasingly popular: several employers now require it, and some states even base their licensure requirements upon it.
Why is the CCC-SLP Important?
ASHA has been certifying speech-language pathologists since 1952, and now counts more than 223,000 experts among its membership. Their certification standards are the highest and most widely accepted in the industry.
The CCC-SLP credential, which is similar to, but distinct from, the CCC-A designation for audiologists, rests on two pillars: a praxis examination and a clinical fellowship. The praxis examination is updated every five to eight years, incorporating a multi-method approach that involves independent panels and a large-scale survey of experts in the field. The clinical fellowship eases a recently graduated SLP into regular practice.
Earning the CCC-SLP designation is more difficult and time-consuming than achieving state licensure. However, those who do earn the CCC-SLP designation will establish themselves as committed professionals who meet the highest standards of excellence. To learn how to earn the CCC-SLP designation, step by step, read on.
How to Earn the CCC-SLP Designation as a Speech-Language Pathologist
Step 1: Earn a Graduate Degree (Two Years)
Speech-language pathologists will need a graduate degree to be eligible for the CCC-SLP designation. That degree can be either a master of science (MS) or a master of arts (MA), but it must be in speech-language pathology, and it must be from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA). To see whether a program is properly accredited, check the program’s name in ASHA’s searchable database.
ASHA hosts a searchable database of accredited programs. Candidates will also need to submit transcripts that show that the completed graduate program fulfills course requirements in both the basic sciences and professional areas, as well as a clinical practicum.
Step 2: Pass the Praxis Examination (Timeline Varies)
After earning their graduate degree, those seeking the CCC-SLP certification will need to pass an exam that measures their understanding of essential content and best practices. Candidates can take this exam at any time during the application process, and ASHA recommends waiting until the end of one’s graduate program: one of the top reasons for lower scores on the exam is taking it too early.
The praxis examination is comprehensive, and test-takers need to synthesize information they’ve learned from various sources to demonstrate that they understand the subject as a whole. CCC-SLP applicants will need a score of 162 or better out of 200. You can learn more about the content on the praxis exam via the ASHA website, and the Praxis Study Companion for Speech-Language Pathologists is freely available from ETS.
Step 3: Join ASHA (Optional)
While it’s not a requirement for certification, candidates for the CCC-SLP should consider joining ASHA as a full member. Benefits include discounts on conventions and professional education modules; a wide range of continuing education materials; networking and career-building opportunities; and subscriptions to professional journals.
Step 4: Complete Clinical Fellowship (Nine Months)
One of the cornerstones of the CCC-SLP designation is a required clinical fellowship (CF) in speech-language pathology. Designed to facilitate the transition from education and training to practice, the CF is a mentored experience that takes place after a candidate has finished their graduate coursework and clinical practicum and earned state licensure. (Note that any fellowship started before completing all graduate coursework and clinical practicum will not count towards the total required hours of the clinical fellowship.) These are generally full-time positions requiring 35 to 36 hours per week.
During the CF, an SLP will apply everything they’ve learned thus far to evaluate strengths and identify limitations, develop and refine clinical skills consistent with the Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology, and advance from needing constant supervision to being an independent practitioner.
Each fellowship must be at least 1,260 hours and a minimum of 36 weeks long. It is generally completed in a single location on a full-time basis, but part-time candidates can also fulfill the requirements in a longer timeframe; all candidates will need to complete their fellowship within four years of starting it. Note that not all fellowships are created equal: it’s important that candidates verify that their fellowship’s mentor meets ASHA qualifications.
The fellowship itself should be divided such that 80 percent of the workweek is spent in direct clinical contact that matches ASHA’s scope of practice in speech-language pathology, which includes diagnostic evaluations, client consultation, report writing, and treatment; the other 20 percent of the workweek can be spent attending training, in-services, and presentations. Note that as of 2020, candidates will also need to complete two hours of professional development during their clinical fellowship.
Step 5: Submit the Completed CCC-SLP Application
After a candidate has completed their graduate degree, passed the praxis exam, and completed their clinical fellowship, they’ll need to submit their completed CCC-SLP application, with all the necessary documentation, to ASHA. Candidates will also need to pay their dues and fees: certification and ASHA membership cost $511, while certification without membership costs $455. Note that it can take up to six weeks for ASHA to review a completed application and all its associated documentation.
Step 6: Maintain Your Certification (Every Three Years)
To maintain their certification, CCC-SLP holders must abide by the ASHA Code of Ethics, which is a framework for day-to-day decision-making and professional conduct. CCC-SLP holders must also complete 30 contact hours of professional development activities every three years. Of those 30 contact hours, one must be in the area of ethics, and two must be focused on cultural competency, cultural humility, culturally responsive practice, or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Alternatives to the CCC-SLP
The CCC-SLP is the gold standard of professional certification for speech-language pathologists.
The few alternatives that exist are specialization options: the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment Certification (LSVT) certifies an SLP in a proprietary method of treating neurological conditions, and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) certifies an SLP in a particular method of treating cognitive, communication, and physical challenges. These certifications are still relatively rare.
More widely accepted specialization certifications are available to speech-language pathologists. Those holding a CCC-SLP can become Board Certified Specialists (BCS) in a specific area of clinical practice. Requirements will vary from specialty to specialty, but generally include passing a specialty exam, completing a certain amount of professional development, participating in a structured interview, and submitting one’s portfolio for official review. ASHA formally recognizes the following associations as meeting the standards of excellence for specialty certification:
- American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders
- American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders
- American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders
Matt is a writer and researcher from Southern California. He’s been living abroad since 2016. Long spells in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have made the global mindset a core tenet of his perspective. From conceptual art in Los Angeles, to NGO work on the front lines of Eastern Ukraine, to counterculture protests in the Southern Caucasus, Matt’s writing subjects are all over the map, and so is he.