Speech Pathologist

Speech pathologists, often referred to as speech-language pathologists, are specialists trained to diagnose and treat a wide variety of speech and swallowing conditions. They are not doctors, and people are typically referred to speech pathologists by doctors or mental health professionals.

Speech Pathologist Training
Speech pathologists have, at minimum, a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, and many have doctoral degrees. They must also complete a year-long fellowship and take a board examination before they can obtain a license and practice. Each state has a Board of Examiners for speech pathologists. This Board establishes licensing and continuing education requirements, in addition to administering board examinations for prospective speech pathologists.

It is common for speech pathologists to have additional training and degrees. Some teachers or mental health professionals become speech pathologists.

Scope of Practice of Speech Pathologists
Speech pathologists are qualified to treat a wide range of speech conditions. Many choose to specialize in a few specific conditions. The most common speech condition is stuttering, so most speech pathologists devote a significant portion of their practice to treating this condition. Other common conditions treated by speech pathologists include language delays, apraxia, traumatic brain injuries, hearing loss, and craniofacial anomalies such as cleft palate. Speech pathologists often work alongside doctors to develop comprehensive treatment plans. Treatment may include speech exercises, practice, calming exercises, and learning about speech.

Because speech problems are most common in children, most speech pathologists work primarily with children and may use play therapy and other strategies to help children overcome speech difficulties. Pathologists often work with parents to develop plans to help children overcome the anxiety that is often associated with speech delays and dysfunctions.


  1. Career: Speech therapist. (n.d.). Princeton Review Careers. Retrieved from http://www.princetonreview.com/careers.aspx?cid=147
  2. Harwood, R., Miller, S. A., & Vasta, R. (2008). Child psychology: Development in a changing society. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Last Updated: 08-26-2015

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