“What do all of those letters after your name mean?” Boy, if I had dollar for every time I was asked that . . .But, it is an important question that anyone looking for a provider of speech-language services should be asking.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). A licensed speech-language pathologist must first complete an undergraduate degree in the field (usually with a major in something like Communication Disorders and Sciences or Speech and Hearing Sciences). Prospective SLPs then enter into a highly competetitive graduate school application process and, if they’ve got what it takes, they will be accepted into a graduate program. Two years later, they will emerge with a Master’s Degree and will be known for the next year as a Clinical Fellow. Following the completion of their clinical fellowship year and after passing the Praxis national licensing exam , they will, at long last, be eligible to apply for the Certification of Clinical Competence (the “CCC” after your speech path’s name) by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Once awarded, the newly minted SLP will at long last be able to write all those letters after her or his name. Ain’t gonna lie — it’s a big moment when you get that sucker in the mail.

Let all of this not be confused, however, with having a license to practice speech-language pathology. Licenses are awarded by individual states and each state has different requirements. If you’re curious about the differences, you can find Oregon’s requirements here, and contrast them with Utah’s here. A speech-language must be licensed in each state s/he practices in. Failure to maintain licensure can result in temporary or permanent censure. It’s a worthwhile thing to do before you start therapy with someone to check out their licensure status. Many states have a tool on their website that allows the public to search for people who are licensed SLPs in that state.

But wait! There’s more! SLPs must obtain and report Continuing Education Units each year to maintain both their C’s and any state license they hold. And again, failure to complete these yearly requirements can result in the revocation of a SLP’s certification and/or licensure.

So, what’s the bottom line? Being a certified, licensed SLP takes a lot of work. The best part about it, though, is that only someone who is genuinely passionate about the field will have the perserverence to make it to the end and then stick with it. So now you know that, when you see all those letters after your SLPs name, it really stands for something.