California Speech-Language Pathologist Licensure Guide - 2024

AKA: California Speech Therapy Certification

Speech Pathologist Programs

by Speech Pathologist Programs Staff

Updated: March 19th, 2024

Speech-language pathology is a career that adds meaning and satisfaction to the lives of many individuals. For years we’ve heard the saying, “Communication is key”, and this is true in so many aspects of our lives. Whether we’re involved in personal, professional, or social interactions, communication is what sets the tone of the engagement.

When an individual has difficulty communicating due to a birth disorder or an accident that befell them, their quality of life is greatly diminished. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are there to help these individuals overcome the physiological and psychological obstacles our bodies and minds place in the way.

Removing such substantial impediments leads to an increase in job opportunities, social interactions, and overall confidence. These improvements are invaluable to the individual and their family. Speaking of families, SLPs also provide counseling services to help family members of patients give their loved ones the support they need at home. Treatment is often a collaborative effort that includes other healthcare workers and those close to the patient.

As the top-paying state for SLPs, California is a great place to start your career. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual mean wage for California’s SLPs is $108,960 (Bureau of Labor Statistics - 2022). Now that you’re convinced that speech-language pathology is the right path for you, keep reading to find out what steps you need to take toward licensure.

California Initial Speech Pathologist Licensure Process

California’s Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers Board (SLPAHADB) is the professional licensing agency for speech-language pathologists in the state. Find information on the biennial renewal cycle and other laws and regulations California has outlined for the occupation on the Board’s website.

Education Requirements

Individuals licensed as speech-language pathologists in California hold a master’s degree in speech pathology. Choosing a master’s program can be easy once you know what to look for. It certainly should accommodate your schedule and learning needs, but the program should also be accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA).

The organization is the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) accrediting body, and ASHA sets the standard for speech-language pathology education in the United States (U.S.). Graduating from an unaccredited institution may still qualify you for SLP licensure, but you won’t be able eligible for ASHA certification. ASHA certification is recognized by almost every state’s regulatory body and opens up more employment opportunities for career advancement.

A master’s program typically requires you to complete a minimum of 60 semester hours, and at least a 3.0 GPA is needed for admission. The program must be “successfully completed”, which California defines as earning a “C” grade or higher.

As a student, you can expect to broaden your knowledge of communication disorders and forms of treatment. The courses you take will include the following foundational classes:

  • Foundations of Speech-Language Development
  • Anatomy and Physiology of Speech
  • Neuroanatomy and Disorders of Speech and Language
  • Phonological Acquisition and Disorders

Experience Requirements

Clinical experience allows you to combine the academic knowledge you gained in the classroom with direct patient contact to provide the real-world practice you’ll need when treating clients. You’ll work hands-on with patients during the master’s program to complete the 300 clock hours needed to satisfy your supervised clinical experience requirement.

Twenty-five of the clinical experience hours can be in a field other than speech-language pathology if the supervisor is qualified to provide training in the field. The time can be spent on subjects like medical billing, recordkeeping, and other subjects needed to run a successful practice. You also must work in three different clinical settings to qualify for licensure.

If you plan to apply for an ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), 400 clock hours of clinical experience is needed. Those who hold a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology or speech-language disorders may have already earned the additional 100 hours as an undergraduate. Individuals who received a bachelor’s degree in another discipline will have to complete prerequisite courses to gain the CCC.

After graduation, your clinical training is not over as it’s time to begin the Required Professional Experience (RPE), also known as the Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY). It is a nine-month experience in which you’ll acquire 1,260 clock hours of direct and indirect patient contact as an employee in an SLP setting. Part-time employment is also an option, and you can complete the experience in 72 months.

RPE activities include patient assessments, consultations, and counseling sessions. RPE mentors are responsible for the care and safety of patients treated by the supervised employee. Mentors are to monitor employees for eight hours each month for full-timers, and four hours per month for part-timers.

Throughout the supervision, the mentor will collaborate with the employee to identify strengths and areas of improvement. Consistent feedback is provided through the use of the RPE Performance Review Form.

At the end of the experience, the supervisor must evaluate the employee’s performance and audio and video can be used to improve efficiency. The following activities are assessed:

  • Evaluation and assessment procedures
  • Participation in case conferences
  • Treatment procedures
  • Record keeping
  • Report writing
  • Plans for management
  • Case conference summaries

The supervisor then has ten days from the end date of the experience to submit the RPE Verification Form to confirm you’ve met the licensure requirement.

Testing Requirement

ASHA has a nationally approved exam all SLPs are required to pass to become licensed in their state. The exam, facilitated by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) also qualifies candidates for ASHA’s Certificate of Clinical Competence.

The test, Praxis Exam 5331, assesses how well you understand the tasks and duties of your new role. Three major areas are covered, Foundations and Professional Practice; Screening, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis; and Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation of Treatment. Each area counts as one-third of your final grade.

This computer-based test comprises 132 multiple-choice questions that test takers are given 150 minutes to complete. Visit a testing center or if you have the proper equipment, take the exam at home. Go to the Praxis website for more information on the different registration methods.

Your master’s program will prepare you to take the exam, but there is nothing wrong with enlisting extra help as you study for the test. For example, there are study guides and a practice test available on the Praxis website. Many universities offer low-cost or free exam resources to help you achieve a passing score, so be sure to inquire with the faculty.

To pass you need a score of 162 on a scale of 100-200. If you don’t reach this goal, there’s no need to be discouraged as you can try again in 28 days. In fact, you can take the test as many times as needed to pass over the next two years. Just note that the exam fee of $146 is due each time you schedule a test date.

California is one of the states that automatically receive Praxis score reports, so you won’t have to take extra steps to ensure your grade is transmitted to the Board. The score will also be posted to your online Praxis account three days following the test.

Background Checks

Anyone seeking professional licensure in California is required to pass a Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background check. There will be an inquiry into your criminal history using a fingerprint-based check against the agencies’ databases.

Two methods exist for submitting fingerprints, Live Scan, or the fingerprint card.

The Applicant Live Scan system is how California residents submit their fingerprints through the DOJ. Applicants are encouraged to register no more than 30 days before submitting their application for licensure. If the background check results are received with no corresponding application on file, the information is destroyed after six months, and the process starts over.

Contact your local police or sheriff’s department or school district to find out whether you can have your Live Scan fingerprints taken at their facility. Always call the location before visiting as they may only take appointments. For a complete list of participating Live Scan sites, visit the DOJ’s website and search by county.

The fingerprint status submission line is open 24 hours a day so you can stay updated by calling (916) 227-4557. A state Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) check is $32, and a Federal CORI check is $17. You may be subject to other costs, such as rolling fees, depending on the Live Scan location.

Applicants using hard cards to submit their fingerprints can download the template and visit a local law enforcement agency or qualified fingerprint technician to complete the process. Return the fingerprint cards to the Board at the following address:

Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers Board
1601 Response Road
Suite 260
Sacramento, CA 95815

The Board charges a fingerprint card processing fee of $49, and it can take 30-60 days for the results to come back.

Application Process

Before you are issued a permanent license, you must first apply for temporary licensure. The temporary license is a requirement for beginning your RPE. Applications are processed through the Board’s online application system. Submit the following information for the Board’s review:

Paper applications are also accepted for processing temporary licenses. Simply make a check or money order payable to the SLPAHADB and mail it along with the application packet to:

Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers Board
1601 Response Road
Suite 260
Sacramento, CA 95815

When the RPE is over, the next step is to apply for permanent licensure by submitting the following information:

  • $115 application fee
  • Completed online application
  • RPE Verification Forms for each school year
  • Official graduate transcripts
  • National exam score

Or, download the printable version of the application and mail it to the same address listed above for temporary licenses. Allow the Board 8-9 weeks to review and process the application before issuing the SLP license.