History of the Mutual Recognition Agreement
ASHA entered into its first Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) in 1997 when an agreement was signed between ASHA and the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA). This agreement, which went into effect on January 1, 1998, was for recognition in both speech-language pathology and audiology. The audiology agreement with CASLPA expired in 2009 due to changes in ASHA's audiology certification standards.
This bi-lateral agreement recognized that individuals holding certification by either ASHA or CASLPA were considered to have met the academic course work, clinical practicum and examination requirements of the other association. Individuals holding ASHA certification who wished to achieve certification through CASLPA had only to submit an application, verification of their ASHA certification and pay appropriate fees to CASLPA. CASLPA certificate holders desiring ASHA certification were required to complete the extra step of either completing a Clinical Fellowship experience or documentation of their work experience.
During the time that the bi-lateral agreement in speech-language pathology between ASHA and CASLPA was in effect, two additional associations, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) requested that a quadrilateral agreement be established. After examination of academic and experiential requirements to determine comparability, an agreement was signed in August 2004.
The "quadrilateral" mutual recognition agreement remained in effect until November 20, 2008. At that time, two additional associations, the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists (IASLT) and the New Zealand Speech-Language Therapists' Association (NZSTA), joined the other four associations in signing the current Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA). The MRA is only in the area of speech-language pathology and is valid only for those individuals who hold the full credentials of the signatory associations.
It is important to note that the MRA is not a "reciprocal" agreement where the associations agree to accept all of the standards of the other signatory associations without additional work or documentation. The MRA is, rather, one of "substantial equivalence," where it may be necessary for certificate holders from one of the signatory associations to complete additional standards before achieving certification by another of the signatory associations. For example, both ASHA and CASLPA have an examination component as part of their certification standards while the other four associations do not. Therefore, individuals from one of the other associations (SPA, IASLT, NZSTA, or RCSLT) who desire certification by ASHA must take the Praxis Examination in Speech-Language Pathology that is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) of Princeton, New Jersey.
Another important factor that should be remembered is that the agreement is between the professional associations. Applicants are informed that while they may be granted certification by the new association by using the MRA, the agreement does not guarantee that the individual will have met national, state, or provincial/territorial licensing or registration that may be required in order to practice in a particular jurisdiction.
What Did the Negotiations Address?
In crafting the agreement, the negotiators believed that there needed to be an understanding between all of the associations regarding the terminology used. For example, when someone has met all of the ASHA standards, they are considered to be certified, whether they are practicing or not and whether they are members of the Association or not. For IASLT and NZSTA, individuals who have met all of their standards for certification, are considered "full members."
The negotiators also had to determine the comparability of standards with regard to academic course work and clinical practicum. While not identical, it was determined that the academic course work and clinical practicum requirements for all of the signatory associations was comparable both in level and content.
As noted earlier, the agreement applies only to individuals already certified by their home association. Students or individuals who may be practicing in the country of one of the signatory associations but not holding a current credential by their home association are not eligible to use the MRA when applying for certification by one of the other associations.
Each of the signatory associations has requirements that individuals must meet to maintain or renew their certification. The negotiators examined those requirements and agreed that, while minor differences might exist, the maintenance requirements are substantially equivalent between the six associations.
Finally, the negotiators, understanding that certification standards would change over time, determined that any changes in standards by any of the signatory associations would be shared with the other associations during the peer review process. It was understood that substantial changes in standards by one or more of the countries that could not be met by all of the other signatory associations, could result in cancellation of the MRA.
Approval of the MRA
Since ASHA's certification standards are developed and implemented by the Council For Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CFCC), the CFCC had to be kept informed and consulted as negotiations were underway. This was also the case for the other associations and once negotiations were completed, the standards setting bodies of each of the participant associations had to approve the agreement.
A copy of the Mutual Recognition Agreement [PDF] is available on the ASHA website, along with the application form and instructions [PDF] to be used by individuals holding certification by either CASLPA, RCSLT, IASLT, SPA or NZSTA who wish to apply for ASHA certification. Specific questions should be directed to the ASHA Certification Unit via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.