In becoming a speech-language pathologist or audiologist, obtaining a graduate degree is just the first step. Graduates from clinical programs also need to be appropriately credentialed (licensed and certified) to practice. Credentialing requires some additional post-graduation steps before one can work as a clinician.
What is Licensure?
A license is a state’s grant of legal authority to practice a profession within a designated scope of practice. It is required in order to practice or to call oneself a licensed professional. Some states have a single license and some have a two-tiered system, and the names of licenses, as well as requirements, vary from state to state. Licensing can also be thought of as mandatory certification. Under a licensure system, states define by statute the tasks and function or scope of practice of a profession and provide that these tasks may be legally performed only by those who are licensed.
Most states in the U.S. oversee and regulate SLP practitioners and require a license to practice. All fifty states in the U.S. oversee and regulate audiology practitioners and require a license for clinical practice. ASHA tracks state licensure requirements for our profession and information is located on their website.
What is Certification?
Professional certification is typically a voluntary process and no required at the state level for professional practice. However, certification can be mandatory or required to practice in certain states. Certification is a self-governing standard that informs consumers, peers and other healthcare professionals of the scope of practice and training of the certificate holder.Certification is often provided by a private organization for the purpose of providing the public protection on those individuals who have successfully met all requirements for the credential and demonstrated their ability to perform their profession competently. It represents the achievement of a level of professional competency agreed by the international community as qualified to practice effectively. A decision not to obtain professional certification would not prohibit a person from practicing as a speech-language pathologist or audiologist, so long as licensure was maintained, unless the certification is required by a specific state.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists are certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Some audiologists also choose to be certified by the American Board of Audiology (ABA).
Licensing and certification processes often co-exist in a single state and complement one another.