Speech Therapy

The Road from St. Olaf to SLP School


Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) assess, diagnose, treat, and help prevent speech, language, cognitive, communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other related disorders. Specifically, SLPs work with people who:

  • cannot make speech sounds properly
  • have speech rhythm and fluency problems such as stuttering
  • have voice quality problems such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice
  • have problems understanding and producing language
  • have oral motor problems causing eating and swallowing difficulties

SLPs work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, skilled nursing facilities, and private practices. The job is not physically demanding, but it does require attention to detail, specialized knowledge and skills, and intense concentration.

To learn more about this career, explore these links:
Explore Health Careers
Occupational Outlook Handbook

The Road from St. Olaf to SLP School

Because the college does not have a Speech Sciences or Communicative Disorders department, the road to speech therapy is not extremely direct or well-traveled. However, with the right resources and planning, it can be a smooth and rewarding pursuit. In fact, the combination of the educational and research opportunities at St. Olaf and the prerequisite coursework (which you can read about below) from another institution puts St. Olaf students in a unique and competitive position when applying to graduate school.
The main question that SLP-interested St. Olaf students must consider is how and when to complete the prerequisites (sometimes referred to as “leveling coursework”) for speech therapy graduate school. These courses are listed below. Depending upon the program, you may have to complete these before applying or before beginning the graduate coursework. Some Ole alumni have taken these classes before applying to graduate programs, while others applied only to schools that admit students without the completed courses. Such schools will require that you spend the first year completing the undergraduate courses, followed by two years of the graduate coursework.

Things to consider in taking prerequisites before applying:

Which courses do your graduate schools of interest require?
Check out the website of each graduate school to find this information.

Which schools offer the prerequisite courses?
Any university with a speech and hearing sciences department will offer most or all of the required courses. There are also a few universities that offer the courses online, including but not limited to: LaSalle University, Utah State University, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, and Northwestern University.

Things to consider in taking prerequisites after entering graduate school:

Which schools will accept students without the coursework?
Check out the website of each graduate school to find this information.

How might entering before completing these courses affect scholarship or funding options?
In order to be a competitive candidate for scholarships, assistantships and other funding from a graduate program, you must take the prerequisites before applying. Schools generally reserve funding for those in the graduate-level courses only.


At St. Olaf:

 Biology (1+ courses)  Bio 123, BIO 143, BIO 227, BIO 233, or BIO 243
 1+ Physical Science Course  Any 100 or 200 level course in Chemistry or Physics
 1+ Social/Behavioral Sciences Course  Any Psychology or Sociology Course
 Statistics (1+ course)  STATS 110 or STATS 212

Outside St. Olaf

These differ slightly by program, but these are the five core courses set by the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA):

  • Anatomy and Physiology of the Vocal Mechanism
  • Phonetics
  • Language Development
  • Intro to Audiology
  • Hearing Impairment (Aural Rehabilitation)
  • 25 hours of observation of therapy completed by a certified SLP – be sure to document these hours and have the SLP sign off on them, including their AHSA number


St. Olaf Campus Contact:

  • Jeremy Loebach, Psychology Department
    • Extension: 3957
    • Office: Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences 232

St. Olaf Student Organizations:

Suggested Courses: Psychology of Hearing (Psych 222), Linguistics (English 250)

Searching for schools:

SLP Graduate School Entrance Exam:

Professional Organizations: