Observation Hours: A Quick Guide

Hello, and welcome to another blog post on our new site! Today I want to talk about something vital to those of us interested in becoming speech-language pathologists (SLPs): observation hours! The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) talks about these hours in great detail on their website, but below, I’ve provided a condensed version of what you, as undergraduates, should know.

What are observation hours?
Much like their name implies, observation hours are hours that you spend directly observing a licensed clinician working with their clients. This is a great way to gain exposure to the field of speech-language pathology and could help you decide if this is the career for you! Students are encouraged to observe SLPs in a wide variety of settings, working with many different types of clients, to really get a good feel of the kind of work an SLP does on a day-to-day basis.

How many hours do I need to do?
According to the ASHA guidelines, you will need at least 25 hours of direct clinical observation.

Are they required by all grad schools?
Yes and no. Some schools will expect you to have completed at least 25 observation hours prior to admission, while others will provide you with those 25 hours as part of their graduate program. Research or contact your prospective schools in order to learn more about their individual requirements.

Where can I go to observe locally?
There are many places in our area which provide speech therapy services, including hospitals, clinics, rehabs, schools, and private practices, however getting observation hours has been notoriously difficult, as some of these places do not allow student observers. But don’t despair, because there are places that do! In the coming months, we will provide a guide to local clinics and SLPs that allow student observers on our private Facebook group. Look out for it and feel free to contribute to the list once it is posted!

OK, so how do I go about getting these observation hours?
Call the site that you are interested in observing and ask them if they allow students to come in and observe. You could also e-mail different sites, but I’ve found that you’re more likely to get a prompt and definitive reply by calling. Prepare yourself for many clinics to say no – but don’t give up! There ARE places that will let you observe, you just have to take on the added challenge of finding them.

Should I be documenting these hours?
Absolutely! In fact, that is the only way to prove that you have completed them. Download and print the observation log below, and make sure that the clinicians you are observing fill it out and sign it after every observation session.
Observation Log

And that wraps up this quick guide to observation hours!
If you have any additional questions or comments, don’t hesitate to post them below.
Good luck!