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Speech and language therapist: Entry requirements

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To practise as a speech and language therapist (SLT) you must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) . In order to register you must complete an HCPC-approved undergraduate or postgraduate degree in speech and language therapy.

Undergraduate degree courses typically last three or four years full time and cover both theory and clinical practice. Theoretical subjects include:

  • anatomy;
  • physiology;
  • neurology;
  • psychology;
  • phonetics;
  • linguistics;
  • child development;
  • speech pathology;
  • therapeutic methods.

Clinical practice takes place in hospitals, schools, clinics and day centres, under the supervision of qualified therapists.

For most undergraduate courses you will need three A-levels or five Scottish Highers. Some providers will also want specific GCSE and A-levels such as English and biology. Check with course providers for details. Applications for undergraduate degrees are made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) .

If your degree is in a subject other then speech and language therapy, you must undertake an HCPC-approved two-year postgraduate course in order to qualify. A degree in related fields such as psychology, social sciences and linguistics will increase your chances of being considered. Applications for postgraduate study are made directly to the relevant institution. 

For a list of undergraduate and postgraduate courses see the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) .
Competition for places on courses is strong and pre-entry experience and knowledge of the profession is essential. Before applying, try and arrange an observation session at your local speech and language therapy service.

Relevant work experience, including voluntary work, is also useful. Experience can include working with children and adults with a learning disability, the elderly or disabled people, particularly those recovering from a stroke or head injury. Try contacting local nursing homes, schools or stroke groups to ask for work experience. It is also possible to gain experience by working as an SLT assistant/support worker or bilingual co-worker under the guidance of a qualified SLT.

Candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent communication and listening skills - to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds and to motivate clients and gain trust. Clients may be uncooperative because they are frightened, frustrated or disorientated by their situation;
  • patience - progress may be slow, involving repetitive exercises to aid clients who have problems memorising, processing and retaining information;
  • creativity and problem-solving skills - to design programmes appropriate to different learning styles and communication issues;
  • teamworking skills - for interacting with other professionals;
  • organisational skills and flexibility - to deal with a range of clients in varied settings;
  • ability to be at ease in a clinical environment.

Empathy, assertiveness, tact, a sense of humour and physical and mental stamina are also important qualities. A driving licence is essential for community speech and language therapists, particularly in rural areas, as there is frequent travel between different settings. Knowledge of Welsh, Gaelic or community languages may be a requirement or an advantage in some parts of the UK.

Students on approved undergraduate courses will usually have their tuition fees paid in full and may be eligible for financial support in the form of a bursary through NHS Student Bursaries . For other nations in the UK, see:

For postgraduate courses, check with individual institutions before making an application.

Competition for entry-level speech and language therapist (SLT) posts is fierce and geographical flexibility is important.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

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Written by AGCAS editors
November 2014

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