Illinois Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Licensure Guide - 2024

AKA: IL SLPA Licensure

Speech Pathologist Programs

by Speech Pathologist Programs Staff

Updated: March 19th, 2024

Does the thought of helping someone who has trouble communicating appeal to you? If so, you may be the right candidate for a career as a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA). These healthcare professionals work with everyone from small children to older adults and provide services to assist them with any speech or language disorders they have.

Communication issues can impact anyone, regardless of age, race, or religion. Whether a patient was born with the affliction or developed it later in life, SLPAs work under the supervision of licensed speech-language pathologists to correct the condition and enhance the patient’s quality of life.

SLPAs Use a number of techniques and methods to eliminate or reduce the impact the communication disorder has on the patient. They work with individuals so that they can communicate their wants and needs in an effective manner. Being understood is an important part of communication, and SLPAs work hard to ensure their clients can overcome any obstacles they face.

Communication disorders affect the way a person speaks, hears, and understands what they hear. These disorders could be a result of hearing loss due to age or illness. Conditions such as stuttering, articulation, and language disorders are also within a SLPAs scope of practice. Improving someone’s communication also enhances their cognitive and critical thinking skills. It gives them the confidence to become more independent in their daily functions.

SLPAs typically work in schools, healthcare and early intervention settings, and private practices. They are limited in the procedures they are allowed to administer since they haven’t completed all the training a fully licensed speech pathologist goes through. Thus, they must remain under the supervision of an SLP while practicing.

But, SLPAs in Illinois still earn a nice yearly income. Speech pathologist assistants in Illinois make between $32,747 and $71,071 annually, with the average falling around $52,800 (Bureau of Labor Statistics - 2022) (SLPA salary is calculated as 65% of the SLP salary). So, if you’ve been contemplating speech-language pathology as a career choice, keep reading to find out how you can become an SLPA in Illinois.

Initial Speech Pathology Assistant Licensure Process

Speech-language pathology assistant licenses are granted by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation and are renewed on a biennial schedule. To qualify for licensure, the candidate must be of good moral character. In order to make such a determination, felony convictions and guilty or nolo contendere pleas are considered. Learn more about the laws and rules for SLPAs on the IDFPR website.

Education Requirements

Licensure eligibility requires that certain education requirements first be met. You’ll need either an associate’s degree from an IDFPR-approved speech pathology program or a bachelor’s degree in another subject. That includes 60 semester hours in general education and specific speech-language pathology skills. The curriculum for the program should be as follows:

  • 24 semester hours of general education
  • 36 semester hours of technical content. The technical content should consist of an overview of usual communication processes, an overview of communication disorders, instructions on how to deliver SLPA services, instructions about workplace behaviors, the cultural and linguistic factors involved with communication, and observation.

Of these hours, one hour should be spent on each of the following:

  • Ethics
  • Universal safety precautions
  • Patient, client, and student confidentiality training (HIPAA or FERPA)

Experience Requirements

There is also a clinical component of your education that assesses your skills when working with patients. The clinical portion provides the real-world experience you’ll need once you begin practicing. You need to complete a minimum of 100 supervised field work experience hours. At least 50% of your work with clients must be observed by your supervisor.

Once these hours are completed, you’ll need written verification of the fieldwork experience with the description of the setting you were trained in and an assessment of your technical proficiency.

The supervisor overseeing your training needs a minimum of two years of experience and has taken the supervisory training. That consists of at least six clock hours of supervision training and two clock hours of continuing education (CE) during the new licensing cycle every two years.

While being supervised SLPAs, at least 30% of the time, you are in direct contact with a client should be observed during your first 90 days of employment. After the 90-day period is over, the supervisor is only required to observe you 20% of the time you are in contact with a patient. If the supervisor feels you need more training, they have the discretion to observe your work for a longer period.

The SLPA needs to be able to communicate with the supervising SLP each time they are in contact with a client. It’s best to find a setting you plan to work in to complete your clinical experience. That could be a school, hospital, clinic, or private practice that works with speech-language disorders. Check with your program, as they may have partnerships with different institutions and can assist in finding a site for your clinical training experience.

Testing Requirements

Before you’re given an SLPA license, you will have to pass the ASHA Assistants Certification Exam. The exam is designed to test how well you understand the knowledge and skills learned in the SLPA courses. The registration fee to sit for the exam is $146, and the certification fee is $249. Prometric administers the exam for ASHA, and they have testing sites throughout the nation.

After being approved to take the test, you’ll receive a unique Exam Eligibility ID. Use this ID to register for the exam online and schedule your test date. Once approved, you have one year from that date to complete the exam.

The test is taken on a computer and includes 100 multiple-choice questions. You’re graded on a 100-200 scale, and 162 is considered a passing score.

If you happen to fail the test the first time around, don’t be discouraged. You can take the exam up to three times in one year, and if you don’t pass during that time, your application is closed. The retest fee is $99 each time you retake it.

Fortunately, there are a number of free resources available to help you pass the test. For instance, you can take a look at the SLPA Exam Blueprint or the sample questions to study. There are other resources that aren’t only for the SLPA exam but contain relevant information on topics for which you will need to be well-versed.

Once you pass, your scores will be sent directly to the Department, which will notify you once the license is issued.

Background Checks

Criminal background checks are required for each SLPA applicant. Your clinical experience is completed at a facility that requires this information since you are working with the public.  If you do not disclose any charges or convictions you’ve received, it may delay your application or cause it to be denied.

You are responsible for the fees associated with the background check. A State of Illinois conviction check and an FBI background check is conducted for each candidate. Your information will also be checked with the state’s Sex Offender and Murder and Violent Offender Against Youth databases.

You’ll need to be fingerprinted by a live scan fingerprint vendor. View the list to find one near you. Once taken, the fingerprints are sent to the Illinois State Police (ISP) Department to have the background checks completed.

Certain convictions won’t be considered for licensure by the Department. You can view the list here, along with a list of convictions that aren’t considered when reviewing your application for licensure. The Department will contact you to obtain any additional information they need before rendering their final conclusion.

Application Process

The application process is pretty straightforward for SLPAs. Make sure you send in all the appropriate supporting documentation. Otherwise, your application will not be processed. Here’s a list of the documents and forms that should be included with your application.

  • Complete the Health Care Workers Charged With or Convicted of Criminal Acts (CCA) form
  • Complete the Certification of Education (ED) form
  • $45 application fee

Print a copy of the four-page application and the required forms to send to:

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
Division of Professional Regulation
P.O. Box 7007
Springfield, Illinois 62791

It’s important to note that if you have a bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders or Speech-Language Pathology, you will not be able to pursue this avenue of licensure.

It takes 4-6 weeks to process the application, and you’ll be notified once it has been completed and you have been granted an SLPA license. Paper licenses are no longer issued in the state, but if a copy of your license has been requested, visit Get My License, where you can email a copy or print it out for the asking party. Licenses are also verified through an online license lookup system.