News: CJ Exclusives

Licensing rules block recent speech therapy grads from working in N.C.

North Carolina places tougher requirements than South Carolina for some speech therapists, depending on their specialties

See Editor’s Note at end of story.

Alicia Moran is a junior at Bob Jones University in South Carolina, studying to get her bachelor’s degree in communications disorders. She wants to return to her home state of North Carolina to work, but the licensing scheme here may keep her away.

In North Carolina, a licensed speech-language pathology assistant requires earning either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree specific to SLP-assistants. If the degree isn’t specific to SLP-assistants, then additional courses are required. South Carolina only requires a bachelor’s degree for its educational requirement.

Both states require a master’s or doctorate to become licensed as a speech pathologist or audiologist.

If Moran was to move back to North Carolina to become licensed as a SLP-assistant, she would have to take additional courses to meet the education requirement.

In South Carolina, Moran could graduate and go right to work.

“As soon as you get your bachelor’s degree, you can be placed in a school system in South Carolina,” Moran said. “If I wanted to drive a few hours north to North Carolina, I wouldn’t be able to get any type of job because it requires you to go back to school after you get a bachelor’s degree.”

Moran isn’t alone. Some of her classmates studying communications disorders are also N.C. natives, but they plan to stay in South Carolina to work.

To get licensed in North Carolina, Moran would have to spend more time and money for additional schooling. Reciprocity agreements between states for speech-language pathology assistants don’t exist.

The N.C. Board of Examiners for speech-language pathologists and audiologists is responsible for licensing. Not only does it require applicants to have a master’s or doctorate, but also to pass the national certification exam, participate in continuing education activities, and log hundreds of hours of supervised experience.

The N.C. Board of Examiners for SLPA on its website explains the purpose of licensing. It says licensing is important to protect consumers and ensure high quality speech-language pathologists and audiologists.

Research has been fairly consistent on the negative effects of occupational licensing.

The Institute for Justice ranked North Carolina 17th for the most broadly and onerously licensed state in the country. IJ has long argued occupational licensing can be a barrier to work and prohibits certain industries from facing competition.

Research from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty found states with more burdensome licensing requirements had significantly lower employment in 10 professions. The study suggests North Carolina would likely see a 5.2 percent increase in employment if licensing requirements were reduced.

Another study from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests occupational licensing rules may be keeping people from moving across state lines for job opportunities.

“I want to come back to North Carolina. I’ll just have to see when I graduate what kind of job I can get and if it would pay as much,” Moran said. “If not, I’ll have to stay in South Carolina.”

[Editor’s note: This story was corrected after initial publication. The North Carolina licensing board clarified the roles and educational requirements for SLP-assistant versus speech-language pathologist or audiologist.]