Online Master's in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) Degree Programs
Speech-language pathology (SLP) is a field of clinical practice concerned with the identification of various types of communication disorders, and the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of children and adults with speech, language, and hearing deficiencies. Speech-language pathologists, who can also be called speech therapists, may work in schools, hospitals, various types of clinics, or private practices, providing clinical services to patients and clients affected with speech impediments and abnormalities, linguistic deficits, social communication issues, cognitive language processing problems, and/or swallowing disorders.
The practice of speech-language pathology involves understanding the physiological and psychological processes of speech and language formation, recognizing the causes of speech-related problems, and offering treatments to mitigate those problems. Speech-language pathologists must be licensed by the state in which they practice, which requires didactic and clinical training at the master’s degree level in an academic program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA-ASHA).
What Is a Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) Degree?
A master’s in speech-language pathology program is a graduate program that confers a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), or Master of Education (MEd) in SLP. These programs offer professional training and instruction in the evidence-based theories and practices of SLP, providing students with the academic credentials necessary to become speech-language pathologists and speech therapists. All 50 states require licensed SLPs to hold a master’s degree, and many states require applicants for SLP licensure to have graduated from a master’s program accredited by the CAA-ASHA.
In order to be eligible for accreditation, a master’s in SLP program must provide students with instruction in the professional practice of speech-language pathology, the underlying causes and presenting symptoms of speech-language disorders, and the treatment protocols and interventions that speech therapists deploy to help their clients manage and overcome speech-language pathologies. Accredited programs must also provide students with the opportunity to complete a minimum of 400 hours of supervised clinical experiences. In total, the graduation requirements for a master’s in SLP program typically equate to 36 or more semester credit hours of graduate-level coursework covering knowledge and skill areas outlined by the CAA-ASHA in its Standards for Accreditation of Graduate Education Programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
Online Master’s Degree Programs in Speech-Language Pathology
An online master’s in SLP program is a program that utilizes distance learning technologies to deliver all or most of the graduate-level coursework and instruction required for the conferral of a master’s degree. Some online programs may hold a limited number of on-campus seminars, workshops, or immersion sessions that students are required to attend. However, the majority of the coursework in online master’s in SLP programs is offered online utilizing learning management systems (LMSs). These systems are essentially online platforms that allow students to view lectures, participate in class activities, and complete most of their coursework online, without having to commute to a college campus or attend in-person classes. It is important to note that, in addition to online coursework, students in an SLP master’s program must complete supervised clinical practicums and internships in-person at a site approved by the program, and this component of an online master’s in SLP program cannot be delivered online.
Identifying and Classifying Online Master’s in SLP Programs
OnlineEducation.com researches master’s in SLP programs and identifies programs that provide the training necessary to prepare for careers in SLP primarily through online coursework. These degrees may have several formal designations, including:
- Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology
- Master of Education in Speech-Language Pathology
- Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology
- Master of Science in Clinical Speech-Language Pathology
- Master of Science in Medical Speech-Language Pathology
- Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders
Online master’s in SLP programs are classified on this site based on their curricula rather than their names. In order to be listed on the site, programs must provide courses that meet the CAA accreditation standards for a master’s degree curriculum in SLP, including at least 400 clinical internship hours. In addition, programs must offer all or most of their coursework online. Programs that require students to attend more than three campus-based sessions per academic year are currently not listed on the site.
What Students Learn in an Online Master’s in SLP Program
A master’s-level curriculum in SLP may have several components, including foundational coursework that introduces students to communication science research methods, the neurological and physiological aspects of speech and language processes, and the psychological and social factors that impact those processes. Students in these programs learn how to identify and treat various types of speech and language disorders, including problems related to disfluency, or involuntary disruptions in speech patterns such a stuttering; linguistic deficits, which may affect receptive and/or expressive aspects of written and oral communication; interpersonal communication, which may be organic in nature (e.g. autism spectrum disorder) or the result of brain injury; cognitive deficits that can result from brain trauma, stroke, dementia, and congenital conditions; and swallowing disorders, such as dysphagia. A master’s in SLP curriculum may also cover specialized topics, such as language disorders in adult, children, or aging populations, and the use of augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) in cases that involve hearing loss, neurological disorders, and language expression and comprehension deficits. Finally, students are provided with practicums, internships, and/or externships that provide clinical training in SLP.
Online Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology Courses
The table below provides an overview of the type of coursework students in an online master’s in SLP program must typically complete as part of a program’s core curriculum. The course titles and descriptions, which vary by program, are drawn from actual online master’s in SLP programs.
|Course Title||Course Description|
|Research Methods for Communication Sciences & Disorders||An overview of experimental design and research methods in communication science and an examination of how this research is used in the practice of speech-language pathology.|
|Neuroanatomy & Neurophysiology of Communication||An examination of the neurological, anatomical, and physiological components of human speech, language, and hearing with a focus on various pathologies of the central nervous system that affect speech and language.|
|Acquired Disorders of Language & Cognition||The assessment criteria and differential diagnostic techniques for identifying and managing speech and language disorders resulting from acquired and progressive neurological dysfunction across the lifespan.|
|Evaluation & Treatment of Swallowing Disorders||The clinical management and treatment of dysphagia and other swallowing disorders in children and adults.|
|Fluency Disorders||An examination of the biological, developmental, and social-environmental factors that affect speech fluency in children and adults, and an overview of clinical approaches for improving fluency.|
|Assistive Technologies for Speech-Language Disorders||An exploration of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems and technologies for individuals with limited or restricted verbal communication abilities arising from trauma, congenital conditions, and other factors.|
|Early Intervention in Speech-Language Pathology||Clinical approaches to identifying and treating speech and language disorders in infants and toddlers.|
|Childhood Language Disorders||The application of an integrated model of language, reading, and writing interventions to the classification and treatment of childhood language disorders.|
|Autism Spectrum Disorders in Speech-Language Pathology||The role of the speech-language pathologist in clinical intervention with children and adults diagnosed with autism.|
|Speech-Language Pathology & Counseling: Strategies for Clinical Practice||The role of speech-language pathologists in helping clients and their families respond constructively to communication impairments, language disorders, and speech deficits.|
|SLP Lab: Clinical Observation||An opportunity for students to observe professional assessment and intervention sessions in a clinical setting.|
|Clinical SLP Internship/Externship||Students engage in supervised clinical experiences that involve client contact and supervisor feedback at a site on campus or at an external location.|
Admissions to Online Master’s in SLP Programs
The baseline eligibility requirement for admission to an online master’s in SLP program is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. However, admissions criteria vary by program, and some programs require applicants to have a cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher, and/or candidates who meet certain undergraduate course prerequisites, which usually include one or more college-level physical science, biological science, behavioral science, and/or mathematics/statistics classes. In addition, some programs require applicants to have taken introductory coursework in several speech-language pathology subjects, such as phonetics, language development, and hearing science/audiology. Finally, admissions committees may require applicants to submit GRE test scores, two or three letters of recommendation, and/or answers to one or more essay questions, and some programs may request a short in-person or videoconference interview with qualified applicants.
Online Master’s in SLP Program Formats
Just as admissions policies vary by program, there are structural and formatting variations in online master’s in SLP programs, which can affect students’ online learning experiences. While online master’s programs are generally more convenient and flexible than traditional, campus-based programs, there are several features of an online program that potential applicants should consider. These include: enrollment options (part-time vs. full-time enrollment); instructional methods (synchronous vs. asynchronous instruction); and campus visits (programs that require the attendance of one or more campus-based sessions vs. programs in which all coursework is offered online).
Part-Time vs. Full-Time Enrollment: A typical master’s in SLP curriculum comprised of 33 to 40 semester hours of coursework, practicums, and internships, which can be completed in four to five semesters, or roughly two years of full-time enrollment. This is true for online programs and for traditional, campus-based. However, many online programs offer flexible enrollment options, allowing students who can carry a full-time course load year-round to graduate in less than two years. Conversely, students who would prefer to enroll on a part-time basis take fewer courses per term, thereby lengthening the time to completion. Some online programs may only offer one or two enrollment plans for full-time and/or part-time students, and the time it takes to graduate from an online master’s in SLP program depends in part on the time it takes to complete the required number of clinical hours.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: There are two primary modes of online instruction, each of which has potential advantages. If an online program utilizes synchronous instruction it means that some instructional activities, which may include lectures and/or discussions, take place in real time and require students to be logged on to the program’s LMS in order to participate. Courses that utilize asynchronous instruction do not have set meeting times for lectures and discussions, although students are nonetheless required to meet deadlines for completing coursework. While asynchronous instruction affords more overall flexibility, it provides less structure than synchronous instruction. Students who would prefer online classes that meet regularly should consider programs that utilized synchronous instruction. Students who feel they have the self-discipline and motivation to keep up with their coursework in the absence of scheduled class meetings may prefer the added flexibility of a program that does not require live online lectures.
Campus Visits: Campus visits, sometimes referred to as immersion sessions, are a component of some but not all online master’s in SLP programs and can be a valuable addition to a student’s learning experience. Programs that require campus visits may use those sessions to hold seminars, workshops, live lectures, and/or clinical demonstrations, as well as to give students an opportunity to meet their instructors face-to-face and network with classmates. However, on-campus sessions, which can last for three to ten days, often require travel and may pose scheduling conflicts for students who have work and/or other commitments outside of school. Potential applicants to online master’s in SLP programs should research programs carefully to determine whether or not a program requires campus visits, when those campus sessions are scheduled, and how many campus visits the school requires. Master’s in SLP programs that require more than three campus visits per year are not currently listed on this site.