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Updated on April 2, 2024
Boluwatife Oluwasegun

Written by Boluwatife Oluwasegun

Master’s in Audiology and Speech Pathology

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“Are the terms “speech-language pathologist” and “speech therapist” the same?”. As you browse the internet about speech-language pathology, you have probably come across the terms “speech therapist” and “speech pathologist.” Naturally, one would want to know how the two differ. Let us discuss this exciting but puzzling topic.


Professionals who assist patients with communication problems have been referred to as speech therapists or speech pathologists for many years. Professionals used to refer to themselves as “speech pathologists,” but “speech-language pathologist,” or “SLP,” is now the most widely used term. “Speech therapists” or even “speech teachers” are terms any layman would frequently use to describe these professionals.


Speech-language pathology is a specialized field in medical and rehabilitation studies concerned with investigating and diagnosing disorders /conditions linked to communication impairments, particularly those affecting speech and language. When talking about speech-language pathology, the emphasis is on evaluation and diagnosis. 


Speech therapy is assessing and treating communication problems, which are major speech and language concerns. Talking and using language for communication will definitely improve with speech therapy. 


Speech-language pathologists are highly trained professionals who evaluate, diagnose, and treat a broad spectrum of swallowing and communication disorders. They work with individuals of all ages, from infants to older people, to address speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing issues. This ensures that the role of SLPs in diagnosis is neither undervalued nor reduced to therapy-only thinking.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. 

Speech-language pathologists provide speech therapy. “Speech Pathology” is not what they offer; speech therapy is. Although all of these terms refer to the same profession, “speech-language pathologist” is the one that is preferred because it accurately captures the essence of what they do, which is work with speech and language, and also indicates that they are qualified to diagnose, evaluate, and treat pathological conditions of communication due to their clinical experience and training.


  • In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people specializing in speech impairments were frequently called “speech correctionists” or “speech teachers.” This is where the history of speech-language pathology begins. These pioneers concentrated on treating speech issues and enhancing verbal communication skills.
  • The name “speech pathologist” first appeared in the mid-1900s as the specialty grew to include a wider variety of communication problems than only speech impairments. This change reflected a more all-encompassing strategy that addressed speech problems and language and communication deficits. The term “pathologist” highlighted the diagnostic nature of the work and distinguished it as a unique medical specialty committed to improving the quality of life and communication for people of all ages.
  • Speech-language pathology changed significantly over time, and institutions such as the American Academy of Speech Correction, founded in 1926, were significant to this development. The role of speech-language pathologists in helping people with voice anomalies, swallowing disorders, fluency issues, and speech-language impairments has grown. This development showed the field’s dedication to treating various communication issues and raising people’s quality of life via better communication.
  • The change in designation from “Speech Pathologist” to “Speech-Language Pathologist” (SLP), which emphasizes proficiency in both speech and language impairments, was a significant development in the field. This modification brought attention to how important language is in communication difficulties. It increased the range of services provided by experts in the field. Informal titles such as “speech pathologist” and “speech therapist” continue to be used despite official modifications, especially by laypeople, educators, and some professionals. These terms, rooted in past usage, still coexist with official vocabulary, demonstrating the field’s continuous development and scope.


Nonetheless, the terms speech therapist and speech pathologist are used interchangeably. Here are a few arguments for and against the notion that the names should be used interchangeably.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the appropriate and professional word is “speech-language pathologist.” However, some countries, like the UK, use speech-language therapists (SLTs) or speech therapists (STs), while in Australia, they use the term speech pathologists.

Why does the ASHA describe the professionals as speech-language pathologists?

The American Speech-Language Association (ASHA) in the United States prescribes the appropriate terminology for a Speech-Language Pathologist. Students enrolled in this course must complete an undergraduate or graduate program that covers the anatomy, neurology, craniofacial, and other components of communication impairments to the extent necessary for them to be able to diagnose in a medical context properly. That’s what a pathologist does. ASHA’s Certificate of Clinical Competency (CCC) is only awarded to Master’s program graduates who have completed specific coursework and internship requirements. 


Professionals in speech-language pathology are often referred to by the more approachable and familiar title “speech therapist” by laypeople. Although the term “speech-language pathologist” appropriately describes this profession’s range of work, it could sound technical to people outside the field. To improve communication and promote understanding among lay audiences, some professionals may refer to themselves as “speech therapists” in informal or non-professional contexts. This helps to bridge the gap between specialized knowledge and common language, promote awareness of communication disorders, and enable meaningful interactions.


The educational paths taken by those who identify as speech therapists or speech-language pathologists are the same.

  • Complete a Bachelor’s degree in a closely related field, such as Communication Sciences and Disorders, and a Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. In other associated degrees, linguistics can be looked into. However, you should confirm with your potential graduate program that it does not require a particular undergraduate degree before applying.
  • It is usually necessary to finish a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from a recognized institution to work as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or speech therapist. 
  • This entails studying speech and language problems, language development, and the anatomy and physiology of the speech and hearing processes. 
  • You must finish a supervised clinical fellowship and your Master’s degree. It would be necessary for you to pass the Praxis exam. 
  • Furthermore, SLPs must hold a license in most states, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) offers certification. The ASHA’s Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology is also known as the “CCC,” and whoever receives it would have a “(CCC-SLP)” title. This accreditation indicates a consistent commitment to professional development and education and adherence to high standards of professional practice.

Nonetheless, confirming the precise requirements in your state or nation is essential since they can differ. 


Speech therapists and SLPs work in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and private offices, among other places. They might also help those who have developmental delays, hearing loss, autism, stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other disorders that impair speech and language.


For people with communication and swallowing difficulties to receive thorough and efficient therapy, speech pathologists/speech therapists must collaborate and provide interdisciplinary care. To create comprehensive treatment programs tailored to each patient’s needs, speech pathologists and speech therapists work with other healthcare and educational specialists to guarantee holistic care.

  • Physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Pediatricians
  • Occupational Therapists (OTs)
  • Physiotherapists / Physical Therapists (PTs)
  • Rehabilitation Counsellors
  • Nurses
  • Audiologists
  • Special Education Professionals


Speech therapy enables people to improve their speech, language, and swallowing skills for better communication and a higher quality of life. It provides specialized therapies to address a wide range of communication impairments. Among them are 

1. Aphasia: The language disorder, Aphasia is characterized by difficulties with speaking, writing, reading, and comprehending language. It often occurs following a stroke or other trauma that impairs the language-processing region of the brain. Through specific exercises and techniques, speech therapy interventions for Aphasia would help to enhance language understanding and expression. 

2. Apraxia: With acquired apraxia, a motor speech condition, a person struggles to coordinate the motions required to make speech sounds. Despite knowing exactly what they want to say, they may need help putting it into words. Furthermore, there is also a neurological child (pediatric) speech sound condition known as childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), which affects the accuracy and consistency of the movements that underpin speech, even in the absence of neuromuscular abnormalities (e.g., defective reflexes, abnormal tone). Speech therapy enhances and strengthens muscles for people with this condition.

3. Voice disorders: Communication is hampered by anomalies in voice production, quality, pitch, or loudness. These anomalies are known as voice disorders. SLPs, or speech-language pathologists, assist people with various vocal abnormalities, such as Voice problems with different causes, including vocal nodules or polyps, vocal fold paralysis, muscle tension dysphonia, and functional dysphonia. Vocal rest strategies, voice therapy exercises, vocal hygiene education, and, in extreme situations, surgical intervention are possible treatments for voice issues. SLPs offer thorough vocal rehabilitation to restore and preserve their best vocal function, enhance the quality of their voice, and improve the quality of their communication.

4. Articulation Disorders: Difficulties in precisely producing certain speech sounds are associated with articulation problems. People with articulation difficulties may omit, distort, or substitute sounds when speaking. Errors like saying “wabbit” instead of “rabbit” or having trouble pronouncing particular consonants, such as the “r” sound or lisping, can fall under this category. When someone exhibits speech sound mistakes, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work with them to help them with their articulation and overall speech clarity.

5. Dysarthria: A motor speech problem called dysarthria is characterized by delayed or slurred speech because the speech muscles are weak or paralyzed. It may be brought on by conditions including ALS, multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, cerebral palsy, or even certain drugs. Speech therapy would use exercises focusing on breath support, muscle strength, and coordination to help with speech clarity, volume, and intelligibility.

6. Developmental language disorders: The neurodevelopmental disorder known as developmental language disorder (DLD) is characterized by language comprehension and learning challenges. Children with DLD have difficulty understanding language and expressing themselves verbally, which can significantly impact their social relationships and communication abilities. Typical components of speech therapy for developmental language difficulties include linguistic stimulation, listening comprehension exercises, modeling and imitation, and social communication skills, to name a few.

7. Expressive and Receptive Disorders: Difficulties vocally expressing ideas, needs, or thoughts are characteristics of expressive language problems. This could manifest in needing help finding the right words to use, constructing phrases, or coherently arranging ideas. On the other hand, Receptive language disorders cause problems with comprehension of written or spoken language. These people would need help understanding terminology, paying attention to instructions, or having meaningful interactions. Through interactive language games, comprehension exercises, and auditory processing exercises, speech therapy focuses on receptive and expressive language abilities.

8. Fluency Disorders: Fluency disorders affect the normal rhythm and flow of speech. Stuttering and cluttering are the two most common fluency disorders characterized by repetitions, pauses, and fast speech. Stuttering modification, fluency shaping, and relaxation techniques are some of the approaches used in speech therapy for fluency issues to improve speech fluency and confidence.

9. Cognitive-Communication Disorders: Damage to the brain’s cognitive processes causes cognitive-communication problems, which result in issues with understanding, remembering, problem-solving, and communication. Through cognitive training and compensatory measures, speech therapy strategies for cognitive-communication impairments would enhance attention, executive function, and communication efficiency.


  • Speech-language pathologists and speech therapists are the same; both have a Master of Science degree in speech-language pathology or above and are certified to treat various communication issues in individuals of all ages. It is the context and how terms are used that count.
  • Some people consider them two separate jobs, while others think they are the same. In actuality, there is just one profession known by the designations of speech therapist and speech-language pathologist. 

If you’re considering studying speech-language pathology, check out these programs for more information.