Speech pathologist working with child

Speech Language Pathology Assistant Frequently Asked Questions

Field of Speech Language Pathology

Speech Language Pathology is the study of human communication disorders. These include disorders of speech, language and cognition, which can impact individuals of all ages, from birth to the elderly. Dysphagia, a disorder of swallowing, is also included in the purview of speech language pathology. Services may be provided in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, sub-acute facilities, skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, early intervention programs, schools, home health care and occasionally corporate settings.

A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) is an individual who has earned a master's or doctoral degree in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders. He or she has completed a nine-month fellowship, referred to as the Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY), received his or her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCCs) from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), and has been licensed by the state(s) in which he or she practices. The SLP provides diagnostic services, develops plans of intervention, and provides direct therapy or consultative services for individuals with communicative, cognitive or swallowing deficits. Entry-level salaries for ASHA-certified SLPs are approximately $45,000 for those on a academic contract year (9 to 10 months) and $52,000 for those on a calendar year contract (11 to 12 months).

The primary goal of SLP and/or SLPA services is to enhance the quality of life of the individuals served by:

  • Eliminating or minimizing the impact of communication disorders and enhancing functional communication, thereby allowing individuals to communicate wants and needs effectively, while and comprehending linguistic input others.
  • Enhancing cognitive skills, thereby allowing individuals to effectively function in activities associate with daily living, and increasing independence.
  • Balancing safe and appropriate methods for meeting nutritional needs with the individual's or family's food and/or feeding method preferences, and improving swallowing abilities to allow for the fewest restrictions on oral intake.

Without such intervention, individuals with communication disorders may experience social isolation and limitations in their educational and professional opportunities.

An audiologist is an individual who has earned either a clinical or research doctoral degree in the field of hearing and hearing loss. He or she has completed a nine-month fellowship, referred to as the Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY), received his or her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCCs), and has been licensed by the state(s) in which he or she practices. The audiologist determines the nature and severity of a person's hearing loss, and how the person can make the best use of remaining hearing. If a person can benefit from using hearing aids or other assistive listening systems, the audiologist can assist with the selection, fitting and purchase of the most appropriate aids and training in their effective use. 

Employment Outlook, Setting and Salary


Guidelines for the use of support personnel in Speech Language Pathology were formally instituted by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) in 1969. However, support personnel functioned under a multiple of different titles and varied widely in terms of training. The formalization of the SLPA profession in terms of education, training and scope of service is a recent addition to the speech language pathology landscape, with national and Illinois state guidelines being finalized in 2000 and 2002 respectively.

In U.S. News and World Report's cover story (Feb. 18, 2002), "Careers to Count On," speech pathology was one of eight careers listed. Employment growth projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2002–2003 Occupational Outlook Handbook ranked speech language pathology and audiology among the top 30 (out of 700) fastest-growing professions in the country over the next decade. This growth is attributed to an increasing need for services secondary to the aging baby boomer population, medical advances improving survival rates of patients at both ends of the age continuum and greater awareness, identification and treatment of communication disorders.

While this research specifically referenced SLPs, both SLPs and their assistants are needed to meet the growing need for speech pathology services for patients of all ages. When appropriately utilized, SLPAs allow for the extension of quality services to a growing number of speech pathology caseloads. SLPAs extend the services provided by an SLP by increasing the frequency, intensity and duration of therapy services, allowing for maximum therapeutic benefit for the clients served. Note: SLPAs supplement, but do not supplant, the services of a certified SLP.

According to ASHA, SLPAs "serve a growing and more diverse client base and an expanding scope of practice, (and) more service providers are needed. In an era of heightened demand for cost efficiency, some tasks may be more appropriate for support personnel than for professional-level providers."

The use of associate-level, licensed SLPAs with a regulated scope of service is new to the speech pathology landscape in the Illinois. Keeping this in mind, the job outlook is not fully predictable at this time. However, several factors indicate positive employment growth for SLPAs in Illinois. For example, the development of the SLPA program at COD was a result of a 1999 needs-assessment survey of speech language pathology service providers in DuPage County. This survey indicated SLPAs would be a useful addition to the field of speech language pathology as a way to meet an increasing need for these services. In light of constant changes within the health care and educational arenas, the utilization of SLPAs under the supervision of certified SLPs allows for the extension of quality services to children and adults in need.

In the last five years, there has been an increase in interest in hiring SLPAs, and it is expected that this trend will continue. A 1992 ASHA omnibus survey revealed 72 percent of the responding SLPs recognized a moderate to high need for paraprofessionals. According to ASHA, "the demand for speech language pathology assistants is likely to grow as the population base for speech language pathology services continues to increase."

Lastly, COD SLPA students have consistently been finding employment following graduation, and entry-level wages have increased since 2002.

SLPA program graduates who have sought out employment as an SLPA in the Chicago area have received employment offers for SLPA positions in a timely manner following graduation.

There is no formal job placement program for students in the SLPA program or any other program at College of DuPage. Seeking employment is ultimately the responsibility of each program graduate. However, the SLPA program coordinator often receives information regarding potential employment opportunities and communicates this information to the SLPA students.

SLPAs can work in a multitude of settings and provide services for a wide variety of individuals. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of SLPA graduates from COD are employed working with children, specifically in the early intervention system. In 2005, credentialing through the early intervention system (which provides services for children age birth to three years) became available for licensed associate-level SLPAs. Since that time, the early intervention system has become a significant employment resource for our graduates. Graduates have also found employment in educational and pediatric clinical settings. Job opportunities in hospital settings or caring for adult patients are limited at this time, secondary to reimbursement issues.

A wide variety of SLPA positions are available, including full- and part-time positions. Additionally, in the school systems, some SLPAs may work for nine to 12 months per year, depending on the needs of particular schools within a district. Regarding benefits, there is wide variability, and former graduates have reported obtaining both benefited and non-benefited positions.

Typical salaries have increased substantially since the graduation of the first class of SLPAs in 2002. The pay range is dependent on the work setting. In locations such as schools and private practices, typical hourly wages range from $22 to $25 per hour. In early intervention settings, typical hourly pay ranges from $32 to $45 per hour. Please note that most early intervention positions involve home visits, and SLPAs are typically not reimbursed for driving costs or paperwork and are not paid if the client cancels. Subsequently, the higher hourly wage in early intervention typically results in a net pay similar to that of other SLPA employment settings. On average, the SLPA salary is approximately 60 to 70 percent of an SLP's salary in the same setting with commensurate experience.

ASHA has information regarding other operational SLPA programs, as well as programs in development across the nation. For a list of SLPA programs, email ASHA at actionacenter@asha.org.

Although SLPAs are being utilized in states across the nation, not all states allow for the use of SLPAs. Additionally, some states have different requirements for the education of SLPAs. Some states may utilize individuals with education and scope of service similar to SLPAs under a different name, such as paraprofessionals. For information regarding a particular state's regulations in terms of of speech language pathology support personnel, contact that state's licensure board and department of education.

General Program Information

Please refer to Application Information for admission criteria.

Please refer to Application Information for detailed information regarding the application process.

As stated in the Application Information, a student should apply to the program while he/she is completing his/her first fall semester of SLPA courses. While application information is available online, the application packet may be obtained only after enrollment and attendance in SLPA 1101 and 1105. All application materials are due by the application deadline date.

As stated in the Application Information, Introduction to Speech Language Pathology (SLPA 1101) and Phonetics (SLPA 1105) must be taken or be currently enrolled in prior to applying to the program. SLPA 1101 and 1105 is offered in the fall semester only.

A maximum of 15 to 20 students may be admitted to the program each year. The number of students admitted to the SLPA program is limited by the availability of clinical sites. Admission is competitive and applicants must meet the minimum prerequisites enumerated in the Degree requirements.

The majority of students in the program are female. The average student age is 36 years old. Many of our graduates have undergraduate or graduate degrees prior to admission in the program.

With the exception of the practicum experience, all classes meet for two, three or four hours in the evening one time per week on the main COD campus in Glen Ellyn or online. All classes begin at 6 p.m. No classes are held on Friday evenings.

Students expecting to complete the program in two years must enroll in two courses per semester. Therefore, students will be on campus for class an average of two times per week each semester. During the final semester, students complete their clinical practicum in addition to the two classroom-based courses.

Please refer to Program Sequence for a listing of required courses and Course Descriptions for a link to the college Course Catalog.

All SLPA instructors are master's or doctoral level, certified and licensed Speech Language Pathologists with substantial clinical experience. Of the 11 required program courses, eight are taught by the Program Coordinator. The remaining three courses are taught by part-time instructors.

The SLPA program courses are spread sequentially over the course of five consecutive semesters.

The SLPA program may not be completed in less than two years (five semesters) due to the sequential nature of the courses.

While a student cannot achieve a full-time load by taking solely SLPA program courses, he/she may enroll in other coursework in order to be a full-time student.

The SLPA program courses are offered in the evening only. Evening courses meet the needs of the vast majority of our current and prospective students.

SLPA program courses are offered only at the Glen Ellyn campus. There are no plans to offer any SLPA courses at any other sites in the near future.

Neither classroom-based nor clinical SLPA courses may be audited.

While the SLPA program is not an online or correspondence program, many of the courses are presented in a hybrid format. This format decreases seat time by 20 to 50 percent, depending on the course.

It is not necessary for students to complete general education requirements in full prior to beginning SLPA program courses. However, it is strongly recommended that substantial progress be made toward completion of these requirements. Students must have all general education requirements completed prior to their final semester in the program. It is expected that students are prepared to graduate upon completion of all SLPA program courses. Students are encouraged to utilize the AAS Student Planning Worksheet made available by Counseling, Advising and Transfer Services.

Please refer to Student Fees for a list of approximate fees incurred during completion of the SLPA program.

Out-of-district SLPA students typically do pay out-of-district rates for SLPA coursework. If the student's in-district community college does not offer an SLPA program, the student's local community college will typically allow a "chargeback." COD is the only SLPA program in the state. A chargeback basically refunds the difference between COD's in-district and out-of-district tuition rates. Students must contact their local community college regarding the policies and procedures for chargebacks. Please be aware that out-of-district rates will most likely apply for non-SLPA coursework. 

Clinical Practicum

Students will enroll in Practicum during the final spring semester of the program. The purpose of clinical education is to allow the student to apply the theoretical principles learned in the didactic portion of the program. The spring semester runs from approximately mid- January to mid-May. Students complete one 16-week rotations during the semester. 

The Practicum placement consists of experience in a clinical setting three days per week (Monday to Friday), eight hours per day. Subsequently, students working daytime hours have the opportunity to continue their employment without disruption during the first four semesters of the program. However, arrangements must be made by students to be available three full days per week (Monday to Friday) during their final spring semester in the program. These three days are scheduled at the coordinator's discretion and are determined by clinical site availability and needs.

Students typically complete one clinical placement in a school setting and one placement in an early intervention or pediatric clinic setting. However, this is subject to fluctuation based on the needs and availability of clinical sites. Additionally, the SLPA program has clinical affiliations with a variety of other settings. No guarantee is made regarding the location or type of setting for any student's clinical assignment. Clinical sites are located throughout the greater Chicago metropolitan area, both within and outside the boundaries of District 502. Clinical agreements are established between COD and the clinical affiliate, not the student and the affiliate. Students must attend the clinical sites to which they are assigned. Students typically are not assigned to a site where they have been employed or are currently an employee or volunteer. Students may not be supervised by personal acquaintances.

As stated previously, the Practicum placement will consist of experience in a clinical setting three days per week (Monday to Friday), eight hours per day. Weekend and evening placements are not available.

Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from clinical sites, which are located throughout the greater Chicago metropolitan area.

All practicum students must carry malpractice liability insurance through the college. The fee for this insurance is assessed during the semester in which the student is enrolled in practicum. Students are required to provide documentation of health insurance. All students accepted to the SLPA program must submit documentation of a current and complete physical examination, including medical history, titers and appropriate vaccines. They must also submit to and pass a mandatory drug screening, as well as a background check and fingerprinting (refer to Student Fees). 

Credentialing Process in Illinois


SLPAs are licensed by the State of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (IDFPR). IDFPR's web site contains information including the Speech Language Pathology and Audiology Practice Act and license applications and forms. Graduates of COD's SLPA program may apply for licensure following successful completion of the program. The fee for licensure is $45, and the license must be renewed every two years.

Graduates who wish to practice in the early intervention system must obtain a credential via Provider Connections. Graduates are eligible to apply for the credential after receipt of the state license.

There is no licensure exam for SLPAs in Illinois. There are no plans to develop a licensure exam any time in the near future.

All SLPAs must be licensed to practice as SLPAs in Illinois.

While the SLPA program at COD is approved by IDFPR, successful completion of the SLPA program does not guarantee licensure in the Illinois. Individuals in any of the following categories may have difficulty obtaining a license or may be denied licensure: individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense in state or federal court; individuals who have been convicted of a felony; individuals who have or have had any disease that interferes with one's ability to perform the essential functions of the profession; individuals who have been denied a professional license or privilege to sit for a licensing exam or had a license or permit disciplined by the State of Illinois or elsewhere; or individuals who have been discharged other than honorably by the armed services or from a city, county, state or federal position. Individuals with questions regarding their eligibility should contact IDFPR.

All SLPAs must be licensed to practice in Illinois. However, individuals with bachelor's degree in Speech Language Pathology may work in the Illinois public schools as Speech Language Pathology Paraprofessionals (SLPPs). SLPPs exist for a different purpose than associate's degree-level SLPAs and function under a different scope of service than associate's-level professionals. According to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), an SLPP may be hired only after a school "has exhausted all search efforts for a certified SLP and has been unable to employ such an individual. Any entity that employs a paraprofessional must continue to post the vacancy and actively search for a certified SLP." With this in mind, one would be advised against viewing employment as an SLPP as a permanent employment venue.

IDFPR provided a grandfather clause for individuals working as bachelor's degree-level SLPAs on Jan. 1, 2002. The deadline for individuals fulfilling this criteria was July 1, 2004.

SLPA licenses must be renewed every two years. IDFPR requires 10 clock hours of continuing education during each two year period.

Individuals with Degrees

The Office of Student Records at COD evaluates all prior college coursework and determines if general education requirements are met. Whether or not all general education requirements are met by a previously awarded associate's degree will depend on several factors, including the type of degree earned (A.A., A.S., A.A.S., A.G.S.), the school from which the degree was awarded, and when the degree was earned. Please refer to the Application Information for instructions regarding sending transcripts to the COD Office of Student Records for evaluation.

As stated previously, the Office of Student Records at COD evaluates all prior college coursework and determines if general education requirements are met. Typically, all general education requirements are considered met if the student has a bachelor's or graduate degree from an accredited U.S. college or university. Please refer to the Application Information for instructions regarding sending transcripts to the COD Office of Student Records for evaluation.

The extent to which general education requirements are determined completed through degrees obtained from colleges and universities outside the U.S. is variable. Prior to sending transcripts to the Office of Student Records, foreign transcripts must be evaluated on a course-by-course basis by Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. of Milwaukee, WI. Please refer to the Application Information for further instructions. 

Individuals with Coursework or Work Experience

One can certainly empathize with students who have completed a bachelor's degree in the field who are unable to attend graduate school and are in possession of a degree that does not allow them to practice in their field of choice. However, the reality is that undergraduate schooling in communicative disorders is pre-professional in nature. In other words, the education received in an undergraduate program prepares individuals for immersion in coursework that prepares them for clinical practice. A person with a bachelor's degree in Speech Pathology is no more prepared to be an SLPA than a person with a bachelor's degree with a pre-med emphasis is prepared to be a physician's assistant.

An undergraduate education in Communicative Disorders provides a broad introduction to the basic theories and premises on which the field is founded and may or may not include any clinical focus. On the other hand, an SLPA program immediately delves into the practical knowledge base of the field, including clinical applications. ASHA, ISHA and IDFPR all favor the two-tiered approach (master's- or doctoral-level SLPs and associate-level SLPAs) of the speech language pathology service provision.

Prior coursework in the field is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the program coordinator. Again, as noted previously, the Office of Student Records is responsible for evaluating general education coursework. The program coordinator will consider waiving SLPA courses only if the following criteria are met:

  • (a) Coursework must have been completed in an SLP or Communication Disorders program accredited by ASHA or an SLPA program accredited by a state licensing board in the U.S.
  • (b) Coursework must have been completed within the past five years.
  • (c) Student must have earned a grade of "B" or better in all course as well as any prerequisite courses.

Meeting these criteria does not ensure courses will be waived. Waiving an SLPA course is at the sole discretion of the program coordinator.

Students will most likely need to provide additional documentation regarding courses taken, such as course catalogs and/or course syllabi.

Regardless of the amount of coursework taken in the field, all students must complete Clinical Methods and Documentation (SLPA 2102), Professional Issues and the SLPA (SLPA 2102), and Clinical Practicum (SLPA 2112) at College of DuPage. Please note that COD requires students to complete a minimum of 20 semester hours at the college to be eligible for a degree.

All students, regardless of their prior work or clinical practicum experience, must complete the entire clinical practicum requirement. 

Individuals Interested in Becoming An SLP

A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) is an individual who has earned a master's or doctoral degree in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders. He or she has also completed a nine-month fellowship, referred to as the Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY), received his or her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCCs), and has been licensed by the state(s) in which he or she practices.

The SLPA program is specifically designed for individuals who desire to enter professional practice as SLPAs. Some graduates of the SLPA program have gone on to obtain bachelor's degrees in Speech Pathology and/or have entered graduate school. However, it is important to assert that while there is nothing to preclude an SLPA program graduate from continuing his or her studies and becoming an SLP, the goal of the program is to educate future SLPAs.

Prospective graduate students who have completed their bachelor's or graduate degrees in fields other than speech pathology and audiology must complete "deficiency" or "leveling" coursework in the field, typically prior to applying to graduate school. SLPA courses typically are not accepted for transfer by most undergraduate and graduate programs. The program coordinator is willing to provide any course information requested by the undergraduate or graduate program for course evaluation purposes. However, the undergraduate or graduate program, not the COD SLPA program, makes the determination regarding which courses, if any, are accepted for transfer. Individuals considering taking COD SLPA courses to fulfill deficiency/leveling requirements are strongly advised to consult their prospective graduate schools.

Regardless of the transfer issue, students investigating undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field are welcome to take Introduction to Speech Language Pathology (SLPA 1101) as they explore the field.

The ASHA website provides a guide to all accredited Speech Pathology and Audiology programs in the nation. While visiting the ASHA web site, prospective graduate students may peruse information regarding the graduate application process, the GRE and other suggestions for applying to graduate school.

In addition Northern Illinois University offers a Bachelor's Degree program.

Recently, Longwood University and Lasalle University have emerged as online options for individuals wishing to fulfill their "deficiencies" and apply to graduate school. Individuals considering these options are strongly advised to consult their prospective graduate schools.

Program Contact Information

Please visit the Program Contacts page for detailed information.