The speech pathologist or speech-language pathologist (SLP), along with the speech-language therapist (SLT) and speech and language assistant (SLA), are among the most common speech pathology positions. Each has its own educational and licensing requirements. All of these occupations have different responsibilities that center around helping clients or patients who have difficulty communicating. Speech pathology positions are generally found mainly in hospitals or school districts.
An SLP has a master's degree in the field and has passed a licensing competency exam. In a school setting, the speech pathologist usually works with a team of special and general educators, parents, physical or occupational therapists, educational psychologists, and other individuals involved with the student's education. As a team member, the SLP's job is assessing a student's ability to communicate; standardized assessments are most often used. Following the assessment, a speech pathologist creates goals that will further a student's education. Goals may include overcoming stuttering, learning nonverbal communication, improved articulation and fluency, or functional skills, such as using the telephone.
Hospital-based speech pathology positions may involve helping individuals with acquired speech or communication problems. These problems may be due to a stroke, traumatic brain injury, cancer and removal of the larynx, or hearing loss. Each SLP produces a care plan for the client. The care plan may include goals such as relearning how to make sounds, how to compensate for a communication disability, or learning to use an augmentative communication device.
Speech-language therapists hold bachelor's degrees in speech therapy and most often work under the direction of the speech pathologist. The SLT may develop goals or a care plan or may follow those developed by the SLP. An SLT is one of the speech pathology positions in which one-on-one or group work with students or patients takes up much of the day. This may occur in the classroom, a designated speech therapy room in a school, the community, or in a medical setting.
The speech and language assistant has an associate's degree or may have graduated from a certificate program in speech and language assisting. The speech assistant works under the direction of either the pathologist or therapist. Most of the SLA's job centers around providing services directly to students or clients. SLAs do not create care plans or goals, but follows those developed by the SLP or SLT.
Currently there is a shortage of trained speech personnel. The job market is expected to grow, especially for those who speak more than one language. Speech pathology positions may be full- or part-time. School-based pathologists most often follow the school calendar.