What makes a competent speech-language pathologist

Speech-language pathology can be a rewarding career for some type of person only. Check out the qualities needed if you want to thrive in this career path.

speech-language pathologist
speech-language pathologist


A master’s degree is the minimum education needed to become a speech-language pathologist. Before entering a master’s program, you need to take certain courses. The courses required may be different for each program, yet they often include courses in speech and language development, age-specific speech disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders. These programs also include supervised clinical experience for students. 

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

While some states require speech-language pathologists to have registration only, most states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed. To earn licensure, you need at least a master’s degree from an accredited program, supervised clinical experience, and passing an exam. 

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Speech-language pathologists can earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). Candidates must complete a fellowship under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist to earn the certificate. After that, they need to complete 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years to maintain their CCC-SLP credential. They also need to earn specialty certifications in one area such as child language, fluency, or swallowing. 

Personal Traits & Skills 

Similar to other professionals in the medical field, a speech-language pathologist who wants to be outstanding should possess the successful traits every healthcare provider should have, along with the following qualities:

  1. Have great communication skills: They need to communicate test results, diagnoses, and proposed treatments in a simple way so their patients and their families can easily understand.
  2. Have excellent listening skills: Their job requires intense concentration: listen carefully and figure out the patient’s symptoms and problems to provide proper treatment.
  3. Be adaptive & flexible: They must be able to adjust their treatment plans and find alternative ways to care as quickly as possible when needed. 
  4. Be passionate: They must be able to have compassion and empathy to support emotionally demanding patients who are frustrated by their difficulties. A sincere desire to help their patients should be the first trait of a prospective speech-language pathologist. 
  5. Be patient: They may work with slow learners who achieve goals undemandingly and need close attention paid. They should be able to bear provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
  6. Be sensitive: They must be sensitive to others’ needs, desires to connect with their patients. Sensitivity brings about many benefits such as good awareness of what is going on around, empathy, more creative thinking, the ability to deeply process and think about big issues.
  7. Be a good teacher: They should know how to teach others to perform a task properly. They should always have compassion for their patients, understanding of their issues, and appreciation for patients’ goals and achievements. 
  8. Be persistent:  This is the ability to be determined to do or achieve something regardless of any difficulty. Patients may be hard to approach sometimes, so they’d better be able to stick it out and progress until the end. 
  9. Have good scientific aptitude: They need an affinity for sciences, both biological and social, anatomy, and languages so they will have a better understanding of their patients – crucial quality to success as a speech-language pathologist.
  10. Be a team player: They need to be able to communicate and work well with a variety of people, from an aggressive patient to a team of difficult professionals. 


The ability to care for others is just the tip of the iceberg – there are a whole lot of expectations that you must meet to become a speech-language pathologist. Make yourself a successful checklist with the requirements above and get the ball rolling!