Bilingual Graduate Programs: What Students Should Know and How They Can Prepare

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Raquel Anderson, Ph.D. CCC-SLP. Bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist, Bloomington, IN

Raquel Anderson is an associate professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington Campus. She teaches and conducts research in the areas of child language disorders, with a special on child second language acquisition. In particular, she studies children with language learning deficits who are Spanish-speaking and in an English language immersion context. Her research aims at describing how different language learners are impacted by sociolinguistic environment. Because of the difficulty in identifying language disability in second language learners, her research focuses on identifying potential clinical markers of language learning deficits in second language learners.

Dr. Anderson has been the recipient of various grants, including a research grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the grammatical skills of Spanish-speaking children in monolingual and bilingual environments with a diagnosis of specific language impairment (SLI). She has presented locally, nationally, and internationally in the areas of child language learning disorders, second language acquisition and communication assessment of diverse children. She has published extensively in the area of child language and second language acquisition in children with and without language impairment.

She most recently received a training grant from the Office of Special Education Programs, Department of Education to implement a clinical graduate training program focused on working with Latino children and their families (Speech Therapy Education, Practicum and Services for Latino Children and Families – STEPS). Dr. Anderson also coordinates the Training in Research and Academic Careers in Communication Sciences (TRACCS), a summer research program aimed at increasing the number of individuals from underrepresented groups pursuing academic and research careers in communication disorders.

¡Feliz año Nuevo 2010! Welcome to the first blog of the year. The purpose of this blog is to provide practical information to individuals who are considering a profession as speech-language pathologists (SLP) with an emphasis on working with the growing culturally and linguistically diverse population in the United States. As most of us who work with individuals from diverse backgrounds, fluency in a language other than English, although important, is not sufficient preparation for serving individuals from diverse groups. Background knowledge in a variety of areas that are unfortunately not presented in detail within the typical graduate curriculum in SLP is needed. This includes coursework that covers in depth bilingual language development and disorders, alternative assessment methods, cultural differences and their impact in service provision, working with diverse families, and language development, use and disorders particular to the target language. In addition, clinical experiences embedded within the graduate program where students, under the guidance of a supervisor with the needed linguistic and experiential/academic preparation, work directly with families from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds is also important.

While all ASHA certified graduate programs in speech language pathology will provide you with a solid foundation in the field, they will not necessarily provide you with the specialized academic background and clinical experiences in the area of bilingualism/diversity and clinical practice. ASHA does require that topics pertaining to diversity and clinical practice be embedded within the curriculum, but often, these are not discussed with the necessary depth for students to develop a strong and specialized knowledge base in the area. In addition, although certainly opportunities for working with clients from diverse populations exist in many programs, few have specially trained supervisors as well as specific requirements for completing clinical hours with individuals with communication disorders who are bilingual or English Language Learners (ELL). If your professional goal is to work as a bilingual SLP, you should consider attending a program with an established track for students interested in working with linguistically diverse groups. In this blog, I will give you tips and strategies to follow while researching potential graduate programs as these pertain to working with diverse groups and for preparing students to work as bilingual speech language pathologists.

Step #1: Identify potential graduate programs
First and foremost, you should conduct research to identify graduate programs that can potentially provide you with the academic and clinical training necessary for becoming a bilingual SLP. There are two types of programs that I recommend students to look into: (1) specialized programs, and (2) programs with faculty who conduct research in the area of bilingualism/second language acquisition. A listing of multicultural/bilingual emphasis programs is available through ASHA’s website (website address: Although no specific information on each of the programs is provided, it is a good starting point. The listing gives students the name of the program and the university that runs it. Students can then visit the department’s website to get more information on the program and its requirements for admission, as well as contact information. The departments’ websites can also provide information as to student funding. I recommend that these programs be students’ first choices as they consider where to apply to graduate school. This is because established programs have already in place coursework and clinical experiences relevant to working with culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

A second option for students is to research the faculty employed in the department. Sometimes, as undergraduates, you have read articles in the area of linguistic and cultural diversity by researchers in the field. These researchers are not necessarily employed in speech-hearing sciences departments with an established bilingual emphasis program. Nevertheless, they are experts in the area and may have developed coursework with a focus on diversity issues. In addition, if they have a strong research program, students may benefit from working with the faculty as research assistants. Make a list of the researchers that you have read and whose area of expertise meshes with your interests and identify their home institutions. You can obtain their contact information and you can ask them directly about the graduate program in their department and potential opportunities for a student interested in becoming a bilingual SLP.

Step #2: Obtain as much information as possible about each program you have identified.
As I mentioned before, research thoroughly each program that interests you. You should get information concerning the following: (1) specialized coursework, (2) clinical experiences, (3) pre-requisites for admission to the program (e.g., undergraduate degree, language proficiency), and (4) funding opportunities available. As a first step, visit the departments’ website. As a second step, contact the program director (or the faculty member with expertise in the area) to get more information about the program. My advice is that when you contact the faculty member, you have already read all that is available about the program and that your specific questions have not already been answered on the website. Even if you do not have any questions, it is always a good idea to contact the faculty member, as it shows that you are interested in the program and in his/her work.

Step #3: Arrange to visit the schools/programs that interest you
Although this may be difficult, if you have the opportunity, visit those programs that interest you the most. In this way, you can get a first hand “feel” for the program. You may be able to observe some clinical interventions and/or sit in classes that interest you. You can also talk to students in the program and get their perspectives. If you cannot visit, I recommend that if possible, you get a chance to contact students enrolled in the program. Often, these students are more than willing to exchange e-mails with you. You can ask the faculty member in charge of the program for their e-mails. Of course, faculty can only give you this information with student approval, but it is always good to ask.

Step #4: Apply to the programs
Once you have identified the programs that are a good fit for you, APPLY! I strongly recommend that you give the admissions committee as much information about yourself and your interest in bilingual SLP. In the essay that is required in your application write about your experiences and interest in bilingualism. This includes your language proficiency, your interactions with the target population, and the reasons for applying specifically to their program. In addition, try to secure a letter of recommendation with someone, preferably a faculty member, who can attest to your interest and commitment to working as a bilingual SLP.

As you continue to work towards your professional goals, I encourage you to take advantage of any opportunity to work with the language group that interests you and to further your own language skills. A good way to learn more about the target population is to work directly with community organizations and agencies. Try to find these organizations in your area. They are always happy to have individuals volunteer their time. These experiences will aid you in developing a better understanding of the community, its history and its needs. You can also take courses in other departments (e.g., Anthropology, Linguistics, Latino Studies, Sociology, Education) that will enhance your knowledge about the target population. In addition, keep up with the language. You should practice speaking with native speakers on a regular basis. Other ways for developing skills in the target language include listening to music, watching movies/TV, language, and reading newspapers/magazines/books in the language.

Posted in: Resources for Students

16 responses to “Bilingual Graduate Programs: What Students Should Know and How They Can Prepare”

  1. angelica sangsvang says:

    I wanted to thank you for the info provided in this blog. I am a bilingual teacher of 9 years and am currently exploring the field of speech pathology. the more I read the more I become overwhelmed. I am not sure that I can even get accepted to the program I am considering but at least now I have a more structured way of approaching my research and I hope that this will help me decide if the field is for me.

  2. Doug Valverde says:

    Thank you Dr Anderson for the information about this wonderful area of SLP.

  3. Rachel Anderson says:

    Can you direct me to the specific are on the ISBE website that deals with IL certification for bilingual SLP’s?

    Thank you,
    Rachel Anderson

  4. Nathan Cornish says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Unfortunately, that information can be a little hard to find. Here are some links that may be useful:

    ISBE Site on Special Education Certificates:

    Application for “Bilingual Special Education Approval”:

    ICTS site (for language evaluation, for Spanish-speakers that is “Target Language Proficiency Test – Spanish 056):

    The IL Resource Center Offers Coursework that can cover the requirements:

    The Illinois School Psychologist Association also maintains a lot of resources for obtaining the approval, including a list of university programs that may offer required coursework:

    I hope that’s helpful!

  5. Kristin Sankovich says:

    Hi Raquel,

    Thank you so much for providing such insightful information on this topic. I find that there is not a lot of information easily available regarding practicing as a bilingual SLP on the web, so this blog does a wonderful job. I am a Spanish bilingual SLP graduate student and attend a program that, while excellent in many regards, does not offer many classes or clinical experiences for a bilingual clinician. I was wondering if there is any state certification that Texas requires for a bilingual clinician to practice in the public schools or otherwise.

  6. Nathan Cornish says:

    Hi Kristin,

    Great question! In our December 2010 article I share some information about attending a non-bilingual program that may be helpful to you. I’ve worked with a number of clinicians in Texas in helping them to obtain their licensure. To the best of my knowledge, there is no existing certification for an SLP to work as a bilingual clinician in the state of Texas (beyond the license that all other SLPs are required to have). I double-checked state regulation to make sure, and I’m not able to find anything there:

    In many states, if you’re going to work in schools you need both a professional license and a separate credential from the state’s Deptartment of Education. However, in Texas there is only one credentialing body. So you would only need the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) license to practice speech-language pathology in any setting. You can find more information on the requirements to work in Texas at the DSHS web site:

    Good luck!

  7. Carolina Porto says:

    Thank you so much for the information provided but I have several questions , that I would like to talk with you.
    1st I have a B.A in Organizational Communications work in coorporate world and I became interested in the filed as a bilingual native spanish speaker but dont know how to start to obtain my Master. I live in Texas. At University of Texas they advise to do a leveling program and then take the GRE and apply for the master but due to my full time job I was looking for online degree in the filed. Are those programs modules works? I verify info on acreditations in the ASHA web and the univeristy are listed there. Please I need help and alo any local organization in Texas for bilinguals that I can do a mentoring?

    I do appreciate your help!
    Thanks a lot…

  8. Bedankt voor het delen, was hier al even naar op zoek!

    (“Thanks for sharing, been here just looking!”- Dutch)

  9. Tof, gelijk naar Een vriend doorgestuurd. Mooie site trouwens!

  10. Nitza Rodriguez PHL says:

    Saludos: Espero se encuentre bien , solicito me indique como una colega profesora de sicologia en la Universidad Carlos Albizu se puede comunicar con usted para obtner información sobre invetigación en blinguismo.
    Su nombre es Dra. Gladys Altieri su correo personal es y el de la uca
    Cualquier otrientacion sobre este tema le sera altamente agradecida.
    Gracias anticipadas , eperando por su respueta.

  11. Sona Margaryan says:


    First of all, I want to thank you for a great insight on the matter and great pointers. Recently I have been having a very inspirational encounters with bilingualism and its future prospects. I am graduating from California State University of Los Angeles this Spring and going to apply for Graduate programs by the end of 2017. I am a multilingual student will a knowledge of Russian, Armenian and English. I really want to expand the idea of me becoming a bilingual SLP and utilizing my knowledge in the field. However, I am not sure where to start with these two languages and if there are any programs involving Russian or Armenian.
    If you were in my place how would you start your journey?
    All comments and opinions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you
    Sona Margaryan

  12. Nathan Cornish says:

    Hi Sona,

    Congratulations on completing your undergrad! I’m also glad to hear you’re interested in bringing your language skills into the profession. I’m not aware of any graduate programs that focus on Russian or Armenian or that have clinical practicums set up for those languages. I know a lot of bilingual programs were set up to provide training to Spanish-speaking SLPs, but most of them should provide you with academic information that can be applied to the languages you speak. I’m a firm believer in being able to get bilingual clinical experience in grad school. You may have more opportunities for that in cities with large Russian or Armenian-speaking populations. (For example, here in Chicago Russian is widely-spoken.)

    All that said, I think you can also get the training you need in a non- bilingual program with some extra effort. I wrote a bit about this in another blog article: My guess is that some of these principles may apply to your situation, even in an official bilingual program.

    Hope this is helpful. Best of luck!
    Nate Cornish

  13. Marah Martinez says:

    I am a certified bilingual teacher in the state of Texas and while currently working at a school assisting a speech language pathologist, my interest in becoming a bilingual slp is growing. I would really appreciate if anyone could provide me with information about the next steps on becoming a bilingual slp. If I have a bachelor’s degree as a bilingual educator, do I need to enroll in a master’s degree program or earn a certification?

    Thank you very much!

    • Tera.Tuten says:

      Hi Marah,

      Great questions and thanks for reaching out! The need for Bilingual SLP’s is growing across the country, especially in Texas! That’s wonderful that you’re interested in the profession. You do need obtain a masters degree to become certified as a Bilingual SLP, along with becoming licensed in the state you desire to practice in. We encourage you to ask the SLP you’re assisting for recommendations on programs along with doing some of your own research online. We also have some suggestions in the “clinical resources” section of our website here: Good luck and please keep in touch!

  14. Diana Kuan says:


    First of all, I would just like to thank you for this very informative and wonderful blog. I was doing more research into Bilingual SLP and came across your blog!
    I would like to ask for your suggestion on applying for a SLP masters with Bilingual Emphasis, but with an unrelated Bachelor’s degree.
    I am from Taiwan and I studied Applied Foreign Languages in University, however my interest and passion for SLP grew as I began to learn more about it.

    I am fluent in both Mandarin and English, so I would love to pursue Bilingual SLP.
    However I am not sure where to start! As I really have no related experience with Speech Language therapy.

    What would you suggest that I do to strengthen my application?

    Many thanks,

    • Tera.Tuten says:

      Hi Diana,

      Someone who doesn’t have an undergraduate background in communication disorders can absolutely still apply for graduate school in speech-language pathology. Most universities have a “leveling” program where you can take coursework you would have had in a CSD undergraduate program. Here’s a great reference link from ASHA to find coursework:

      Our guess is that having a background in language, there may be some courses that could count toward that track. A U.S. university will also evaluate a foreign degree and individual courses to determine if they are comparable to their requirements. It typically takes an additional six months to a year to pass through a “leveling” program on top of the regular grad program (and maybe more for graduates of non-U.S. universities). However, we know several people who have done it.

      Hope this helps!