Undergraduate majors or post-baccalaureate students planning to pursue clinical careers in speech-language pathology are strongly encouraged to complete and document a minimum of 25 observation hours of the delivery of clinical services, while working toward their bachelor’s degree. These clinical observations will occur in the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, some select community sites, as well as through video recordings of clinical service delivery.
It is recommended that students begin clinical observations early in their program of study. Survey results indicate that students find observations to be useful in terms of contextualizing coursework, identifying specific interests within the field of speech and hearing sciences, and deciding whether or not to pursue a professional/clinical career in speech-language pathology or audiology.
These observations serve as an important preparatory experience for graduate level clinical work, and all speech-language pathology graduate programs in the U.S. require students to complete these observations prior to enrollment.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Requirement - 25 Observation Hours
ASHA is the professional and scientific credentialing association for speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech, language and hearing scientists. ASHA accredits graduate speech and hearing programs in the U.S. and sets the professional standards for speech-language pathologists and audiologists.
ASHA requires a minimum of 25 documented hours of guided, clinical observation as a prerequisite to graduate level clinical work and receipt of a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). This means students must complete the 25 observation hours before beginning any direct patient/client contact at the graduate level. Students may still be in the process of completing observation hours when submitting applications to graduate school, but graduate programs will require students to have these hours completed before starting the degree program.
Important information about the observation hour requirement:
1) The 25 hours of observation is not a requirement of the University of Washington for obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences. All students completing the degree requirements for the SPHSC major receive a B.S. degree regardless of whether 25 observation hours are completed. That being said, most SPHSC students will complete some observation hours during their degree program and as part of course requirements.
2) The 25 hours of clinical observation is only a requirement for certification in speech-language pathology. Any undergraduate student planning to apply to graduate school to pursue a clinical career in speech-language pathology is required to complete a minimum of 25 hours of observation in speech-language pathology in order to complete the graduate program and be eligible for clinical certification. Students planning to apply to graduate school to pursue clinical careers in audiology are not required to complete 25 hours of observation. However, we strongly encourage all students preparing for careers as audiologists to complete observations in order to better understand clinical practice and enhance the competitiveness of their graduate applications.
3) ASHA has very specific guidelines and requirements pertaining to speech-language pathology observations.
a) The 25 clinical observation hours must:
- Fall within the scope of practice of speech-language pathology
- Be guided AND approved in writing by a qualified clinical supervisor who holds current ASHA certification in speech-language pathology
- To be considered a guided observation, the must be communication between the clinical educator and student observer
- Passive experiences where students view sessions or videos on their own cannot be counted
- Guided direction may occur simultaneously with the student's observation, be conducted verbally after the observation, or through review and approval of written reports or summaries submitted by the student
b) The 25 clinical observations can:
- Be conducted in a variety of service delivery settings (e.g., hospital, clinic, school, private practice, etc.)
- Be conducted across several types of clinical service (e.g., evaluation or treatment, children or adults, speech, language, cognitive-communication or swallowing disorder). Students are encouraged to distribute their 25 hours over various types of clinical services and sessions.
- Be conducted in person or via video. Students can observe “live” clinical sessions or they can observe the delivery of client services through video recordings, as long as the recordings are done as part of a class or given to the student by a clinical supervisor. All of these hours are acceptable as long as the live or videotaped services are guided by a certified SLP and documentation of time spent in supervised observation is verified by that professional in writing.
4) Observation hours are not the same as volunteer hours. The observation hour requirement is separate from volunteering, which students may complete in addition to observing if they so choose. With clinical observation, students shadow or observe a speech-language pathology or audiology professional providing clinical services. With volunteering, students provide hands-on support to professionals, which can take on a variety of forms (e.g., clerical work, administrative support, computer support, etc.). There is no requirement to volunteer, although volunteering experience in Speech and Hearing Sciences or a related field can be included on graduate school applications.
Observation Policies & Procedures
Who Can Observe
Only official SPHSC undergraduate majors or matriculated post-baccalaureate students can complete clinical observation hours in the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic while enrolled in SPHSC courses. Students planning to apply to the major or post-baccalaureate program may not observe clinical sessions in the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic unless they have made special arrangements through the clinic office as an official visitor.
Where to Observe
UW Speech and Hearing Clinic
Undergraduate students will complete most, if not all, of their observations at the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic located at 4131 15th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98105-6299. The Speech and Hearing Clinic offers evaluation and treatment services for children and adults with a wide variety of speech, language, hearing, and related communication needs. The clinic serves 200-300 clients each week, ranging in age from 3 years to the end of life. To learn more about clinic services please visit our website:
SPHSC students should plan to complete their observations in the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, as it is easily accessible and offers a wide variety of observation opportunities. Due to the high demand for graduate student clinical placements, most community facilities are not in a position to accept student observers from our undergraduate programs. Additionally, for safety and privacy reasons, many hospitals and medical centers require observers to complete a number of pre-requisites before they can observe (e.g., background checks, privacy training). For current SPHSC students, an observation sign up board is available in the clinic and detailed instructions regarding how to observe in the clinic are on the department Intranet.
SPHSC students are required to read the Undergraduate Observation Instructions Guide prior to scheduling and observing in the clinic. NOTE: Effective Autumn 2019, SPHSC Undergraduates and Postbacs are limited to 3 observation sessions weekly at the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic. As our undergraduate program grows, it's important that all our students have opportunities to observe in the clinic.
If students wish to observe outside of the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, there are some limited options available in the community. Please note that students cannot arrange off-campus observations independently. All off-campus observations must be approved and arranged through Student Services, with the only exceptions being observations arranged with instructors through specific SPHSC courses. Please contact Gabrielle Gruber at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more about observing in the schools or other community-based hospitals and clinics.
SPHSC 495: Guided Observations in Speech and Hearing Sciences (1 cr, Offered AWSpSu)
All undergraduate students may also register for SPHSC 495 to obtain observation hours with faculty by watching and discussing videos of recorded treatment and diagnostic sessions. This course is offered quarterly and students may register for a total of 4 credits (up to four quarters).
Tracking Observation Hours
Department staff will provide resources and information to students about observation opportunities. Each student is responsible for arranging and tracking their own observations in the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, as well as tracking approved observation hours within the community.
SPHSC students will record their hours on department-provided observation log sheets. Students must obtain signatures from the ASHA certified SLP directing the clinical service in order for the hours to be valid. Hours will not be tracked or maintained by the clinic or the department; it is each student’s responsibility to maintain an observation log sheet with signatures and graduate programs will ask for this documentation as proof of observation completion.
Please note that speech-language pathology and audiology observation hours must be tracked on separate logs.