Speech-Language Pathology SLP

| 29 April 2024

The data in this blog is for general informational purposes only and information presented was accurate as of the publication date.

Speech Therapy vs Occupational Therapy: 3 Key Differences


Searching for a satisfying career that helps people enhance their health and quality of life? If so, speech and occupational therapy may be promising career paths for you. As two popular professions in the healthcare industry, SLPs and OTs enjoy rewarding, well-paid careers—while making a lasting difference in the lives of their patients.1,2

Both speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and occupational therapists (OTs) aim to improve the well-being of their patients. While there are similarities between the two career paths, there are also radical differences.

Read on as we unpack the speech therapy vs occupational therapy debate and discover the route that resonates with you.

What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

SLPs, or speech therapists, are licensed healthcare providers who aim to improve patients’ speech, language, and swallowing abilities. In some scenarios, this may also include assisting patients with oral complications, such as infants who have trouble swallowing or adults who have difficulty with vocalizing.

The work of an SLP also extends beyond addressing speech and language disorders. They play a crucial role in enhancing cognitive-communication and social interaction skills, too.

This includes working with individuals with traumatic brain injuries to improve memory and problem-solving strategies. A speech therapist may also guide those with social communication difficulties to navigate and thrive in communal environments.

Additionally, the expertise of a SLP extends to developing and implementing alternative communication strategies for those unable to speak. They may also use technology and sign language to foster effective communication.

Speech therapists work in a variety of healthcare settings—and with a wide range of individuals. This may include:

  • Stroke victims who need to relearn how to talk
  • Children and adults who stutter or struggle with semantics and syntax
  • Patients with autism, hearing loss or developmental delays

SLPs work with individuals across the lifespan, from toddlers to teens to seniors, and have the opportunity to make an enduring impact on their patients. They’re ranked the 3rd best career in the healthcare profession and 10th out of 100 Best Jobs, according to US News.3,4

What is an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists are also licensed healthcare providers who offer therapeutic support. They focus on the ability to perform essential daily activities, such as bathing, eating and getting dressed. OTs also assist individuals and their family members or caretakers with learning how to use adaptive equipment to make everyday tasks safer and more accommodating.

Occupational therapists specialize in customizing interventions to improve a patient’s ability to perform daily activities. This can include adapting the environment to the individual’s needs in order to promote a higher level of independence. For children with developmental challenges, OTs creatively incorporate play as a form of therapy to enhance motor skills, socialization, and learning abilities.

Assisting aging adults is another pivotal function of occupational therapists. OTs often work to modify the homes and lifestyles of their elderly patients, so they can improve their quality of life while maintaining their freedom and preventing injuries.

Like SLPs, OTs are employed in a variety of healthcare settings. Whether in a clinic or nursing home, OTs empower patients to take charge of their personal well-being and prepare caregivers to help them through this process. OTs also work with patients of all ages. This might mean helping:5

  • Seniors who may be prone to falls and accidents
  • Patients with developmental delays
  • Children and adults who have suffered from an injury

When comparing a career in speech therapy vs occupational therapy, OTs fill a necessary gap between a physician’s diagnosis and the stress of daily living. They can help patients, regardless of their condition or illness, regain a sense of autonomy, power and independence.


Speech Therapy vs Occupational Therapy: How Do They Compare?

Each profession provides a distinct way of helping individuals reach their full potential. If you’re fascinated by language and communication, then speech-language pathology may be a natural fit. You may consider occupational therapy if you’re interested in the mechanics of the human body and its capacity to adapt, relearn, and heal.

When it comes to the occupational therapy vs speech therapy debate, there are other key aspects to consider, including:


Both speech therapy and occupational therapy professionals have a genuine desire to enrich the lives of others, but salary may be a consideration. Here’s how average salaries in speech therapy vs occupational therapy compare:

  • Speech-Language Pathologists – The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that SLPs earn a median income of $84,140 per year.1 SLPs who are employed in nursing care facilities and residential care settings earn a median income of $101,320 annually, while those who provide educational services earn about $77,310 per year.1 The type of medical facility they work in, the state where they practice, and their specialty can all impact an SLP’s salary.
  • Occupational Therapists — According to BLS data, an OT’s median income is $93,180.2 OTs who work in home healthcare environments, for example, pull in a median salary of $101,500 annually.2

Education and Training

If you’re wrestling with the question of occupational therapy vs speech therapy, remember that both require intense training—at didactic and clinical levels.

  • Speech-Language Pathologist – SLPs typically need to earn a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP), a speech pathology degree program that takes about two years to complete.* Then, they can apply for temporary licensure in their state and perform a clinical fellowship. Following graduation, SLPs typically complete a postgraduate fellowship where they work under the supervision of an experienced and certified SLP. Fellowships require a commitment of at least 1,260 hours over 36 weeks. To earn state licensure, SLPs then need to pass the National Praxis exam in Speech-Language Pathology.6 Some states may require additional certifications and credentials.
  • Occupational Therapist – OTs must be educated and trained at the graduate level as well and typically must earn either a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD). At USAHS, our MOT program takes about two years to complete*; and our OTD program generally takes 7 – 3.7 years to finish*. Both programs prepare graduates to sit for the national examination for licensure—a test administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).7


Finally, OTs need to be licensed in the state they choose to work, and requirements may vary by state.8 OTs also must complete supervised fieldwork to obtain licensure.9 For instance, at USAHS, we require prospective students to have the following:

  • For an MOT:
    • A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or an OTA degree with at least 84 college credit hours from a U.S. Department of Education recognized institution for OTA candidates
    • Official transcripts from each degree-conferring institution
    • Current resume or curriculum vitae. Two recommendations – one must be from an instructor or OT practitioner
    • Statement of purpose, answers to OT supplemental questions, and prerequisite coursework completion
  • For an OTD:
    • Applicant must hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
    • Provide official academic transcripts from all degree-granting institutions
    • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae
    • Include two letters of recommendation from professional contacts
    • Statement of purpose, answers to OT supplemental questions, and prerequisite coursework completion
    • Additional written essay is required as part of the application


Speech Therapy vs Occupational Therapy: Key Differences and Similarities

Speech and occupational therapy professionals work in rehabilitation—both professions aim to improve the lives of their patients. Additionally, each role often requires compassion, an eye for detail, and strong communication skills.

In the career debate between occupational therapy vs speech therapy, the key difference is their areas of concentration. While a speech-language pathologist focuses on complications with language, speaking and swallowing, an occupational therapist helps patients gain, or remediate, the skills they need to perform daily functions, regardless of their age, condition or injury. In essence, SLPs target communication barriers while OTs focus on enabling an individual’s independence in life’s tasks through rehabilitation.

This distinction is crucial in multidisciplinary teams, where the unique expertise of each therapist can enrich patient outcomes. Speech and occupational therapy share the same goal of enhancing someone’s quality of life. But at the same time, their paths diverge in the specific aspects of patient care they address, which reflects the complementary nature of their interventions.

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Innovations in Speech and Occupational Therapy Careers

Advancements in technology and research are shaping the future of speech therapy and occupational therapy, creating new opportunities for patient care, diagnosis, and treatment. From virtual reality (VR) applications that simulate real-life scenarios for occupational therapy patients, to sophisticated software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze and improve speech patterns, these innovations will set new standards in therapeutic care.10

Since the pandemic, teletherapy has emerged as a significant development.11 It’s breaking down geographical barriers and making speech and occupational therapy services more accessible to all. This digital approach not only expands the reach of therapists but also introduces a level of flexibility and convenience previously unavailable.11

Moreover, wearable technology is being integrated into OT, enabling continuous monitoring and feedback for patients with physical disabilities or those recovering from strokes.12 Wearables can support more personalized therapy plans and accelerate progress by allowing therapists to adjust strategies in real-time based on insights derived from data.

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Discover the Right Healthcare Profession for You

Ultimately, your occupational therapy vs speech therapy decision will come down to your personal and professional goals. Both career paths boast a wealth of benefits. Beyond salary, you’ll likely have the opportunity to provide your patients with the skills that they need to flourish.

Fortunately, USAHS can help you further navigate this OT-speech therapy decision. Our graduate occupational therapy programs and Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP) are designed to help aspiring healthcare practitioners receive the continuing education and training they need to thrive.

Request information about our MS-SLP and OT programs and apply now to discover the right career path between speech and occupational therapy for you.

* Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, traditional vs. accelerated pathway, credits transferred and other factors.

The entry-level occupational therapy master’s degree program at the Dallas, Texas, campus has applied for accreditation and has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA and its web address is www.acoteonline.org. The program must have a preaccreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.

 Students must complete 24 weeks of Level II fieldwork within 24 months following completion of all prior didactic portions of the program.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, “Speech-Language Pathologists,” BLS, April 17, 2024, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, “Occupational Therapists,” BLS, April 17, 2024, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm
  3. U.S. News & World Report, “Best Health Care Jobs”, U.S. News & World Report, 2024, https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/best-healthcare-jobs
  4. U.S. News & World Report, “100 Best Jobs”, U.S. News & World Report, 2024, https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/the-100-best-jobs
  5. American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., “What is Occupational Therapy?”, AOTA, https://www.aota.org/about/what-is-ot
  6. ETS, “Registering for a Praxis Test,” Praxis, https://praxis.ets.org/test-taker/register-process.html
  7. “NBCOT”, NBCOT, https://www.nbcot.org/
  8. State Affairs Group, “OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY PROFESSION—CONTINUING COMPETENCE REQUIREMENTS,” AOTA, April 2024, https://www.aota.org/-/media/corporate/files/advocacy/licensure/stateregs/contcomp/continuing-competence-chart-short.pdf
  9. “Supervision requirements,” AOTA, https://www.aota.org/career/state-licensure/supervision-requirements
  10. Julie Liss and Visar Berisha, “How Will Artificial Intelligence Reshape Speech-Language Pathology Services and Practice in the Future?,” ASHA, August 2020, https://academy.pubs.asha.org/2020/08/how-will-artificial-intelligence-reshape-speech-language-pathology-services-and-practice-in-the-future/
  11. National Association of Rehabilitation Providers and Agencies, “The Growing Role of Telehealth in Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy”, NARA, July 2023, https://www.naranet.org/blog/post/the-growing-role-of-telehealth-in-physical-occupational-and-speech-therapy
  12. Pablo Maceira-Elvira, Traian Popa, Anne-Christine Schmid & Friedhelm C. Hummel, “Wearable technology in stroke rehabilitation: towards improved diagnosis and treatment of upper-limb motor impairment,” Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 2019;16:142, https://jneuroengrehab.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12984-019-0612-y


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