To enter this career, you must have a sincere interest in helping people, an above average intellectual aptitude, and the sensitivity, personal warmth, and perspective to be able to interact with the person who has a communication problem. Scientific aptitude, patience, emotional stability, tolerance, and persistence are necessary, as well as resourcefulness and imagination.

Other essential traits include a commitment to work cooperatively with others and the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.

During high school, prospective speech-language pathologists should consider a program with courses in biology, physics, social sciences, English and mathematics, as well as in public speaking, language and psychology. On the undergraduate level, a strong liberal arts focus is recommended, with course work in linguistics, phonetics, anatomy, psychology, human development, biology, physiology, mathematics, physical science, social/behavioral sciences and semantics. A program of study in communication sciences and disorders is available at the undergraduate level.

The work of a speech-language pathologist is further enhanced by graduate education, which is mandated for certification by the Council For Clinical Certification (CFCC) of ASHA.

Speech-language pathologists and audiologists who possess a graduate degree are eligible to apply for certification which involves the completion of a graduate degree, a supervised Clinical Fellowship (CF), and a passing score on a national examination. Additionally, the individual must acquire the requisite knowledge and skills mandated by certification standards while enrolled in a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA).

In some areas, such as college teaching, research, and private practice, a Ph.D. degree is desirable. In most states, speech-language pathologists and audiologists also must comply with state regulatory (licensure) standards to practice and/or have state education certification. The requirements for licensure or teacher certification are very similar or identical to ASHA’s CCC requirements.