NOTE: Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic (UWSHC) has been closed to students observers since March 2020 (as have most community facilities).

While the UWSHC reopened in Autumn 2022 for telepractice and in-person services, student observations remain on hold through the end of the 2023 academic year. 

Undergraduate seniors (2nd year SPHSC majors) and postbac students are strongly encouraged to register for SPHSC 495: Guided Observations in Speech and Hearing Sciences to obtain speech-language pathology observation hours with faculty through recorded treatment and diagnostic sessions.  When observation opportunities become available again in the UWSHC the department will let students know. In the meantime, some community sites are starting to accept student observers. Please contact Gabrielle Gruber at shugadv@uw.edu to obtain a list of sites.

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.

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. See below for information on audiology observation seminar, SPHSC 391.

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 while enrolled in SPHSC courses.

How to Observe

SPHSC 495: Guided Observations in Speech and Hearing Sciences (1 cr, Offered Quarterly)

SPHSC 2nd Year majors and SPHSC Postbacs may 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 up to 3 quarters.

SPHSC 391:  Practicum in Audiology (2 cr) - This course is not available to Postbac Students.  Postbacs can email the advisor for alternative suggestions.

Students interested in a guided experience in audiological assessment and aural rehabilitation for children and adults have the option of registering for SPHSC 391 during Autumn, Winter and Spring quarters. The goal of the practicum is to introduce students to a range of clinical environments in which audiologists work, thereby helping students decide if audiology is the career path for them. Students will have a mixture of hands on experience and guided observation.

During this 2 credit experience, students work with ASHA-certified Audiologists in audiology assessment and treatment and obtain some clinical clock-hours which can apply toward their ASHA certification requirements during graduate school. Students are placed in different clinical sites around the city each week, such as the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, the UW Medical Center, CHDD, Harborview, or private practices. Each weekly clinic visit ranges from 2 to 4 hours.  Students are also required to attend three group meetings during the quarter. The clinical schedule varies, depending on the clinic placement for that week and the student’s schedule.

Priority is given to SPHSC students who have completed SPHSC 371. Lower division and/or pre-majors students will be taken on a space available basis.


Tracking Observation Hours

Department staff will provide resources and information to students about observation opportunities. Each student is responsible tracking their own observations.  Hours will not be tracked or maintained by the clinic or the department; it is each student’s responsibility to maintain documentation with detailed information and signatures. 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 separately.