Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology


The Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology is a 23 month, full-time, course-based professional Master’s program. It prepares students with knowledge, skills, and professional behaviours to practice as entry level speech-language pathologists. The program uses a problem-based, self-directed learning philosophy. Students will complete course work and clinical practica during their two study years. The program offers students an opportunity to learn in a variety of settings, including clinics, hospitals, schools and homes.

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Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs)

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) help people with Communication and Swallowing difficulties. SLPs assess, treat and advocate for the prevention of communication and swallowing disorders. Learn more about this important profession from:

Speech-Language and Audiology Canada

Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists

College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario


The Ontario Council of University Programs in Rehabilitation Sciences (OCUPRS) published the following document describing the essential skills and competencies required for success in completing a university program in speech-language pathology: Essential-Skills-and-Attributes-required-for-the-study-of-Speech-Language-Pathology


How many times do we have to speak or listen to somebody throughout the day? How many times do we have to read or write? If we tally up all of these occurrences, it is clear that we use communication in almost every minute of our work, school and leisure activities.

SLPs help determine which elements are impaired at each level and which communicative functions are being impacted. Difficulties can affect:

  • Work (e.g., following directions from a supervisor, filling out forms, reading procedural manuals, speaking appropriately with colleagues, etc.)
  • School (e.g., reading and analyzing a novel, writing an essay, taking notes in class, writing a test, reading a textbook, doing an oral presentation, etc.)
  • Leisure (e.g., retelling events of the day, understanding humour and sarcasm, composing an email, watching a movie, discussing politics, etc.)


The muscles involved in producing speech and voice are the same ones that are involved in swallowing, which is why SLPs have an important role to play in the assessment and management of swallowing disorders.

Swallowing disorders are often noticed when someone coughs or chokes while eating or drinking.  However, sometimes there is no sign of trouble until the person develops pneumonia due to food or drink getting into the lungs.  SLPs assess the various stages of swallowing and make recommendations to ensure the person is safe.  Sometimes exercises are needed, sometimes food textures and liquid thicknesses need to be modified, sometimes special positioning is needed, and sometimes alternative forms of nutrition have to be implemented.  Eating is an important social activity with significant quality of life implications, so the SLP must consider many factors when assessing and treating swallowing difficulties.

Program Overview

The MSc(SLP) program is a course-based, full-time program that is 23 months in duration. The program consists of 5 units of study of required courses with no electives. Clinical placements follow each academic unit and vary in length from 2 weeks following Unit I to 8-9 weeks following Unit 5. Throughout the program, there will be a total of 28-29 full-time clinical practicum weeks. Additional half-to-full day audiology placements occur throughout academic blocks in Units 2-4 to supplement audiology hours as needed.

Each Academic Unit includes:

  1. a problem-based tutorial course;
  2. a clinical skills course;
  3. a foundational course (Units I-III) or an evidence-based practice course (Units IV-V);
  4. a seminar course; and
  5. a practicum experience.

Detailed unit and course descriptions can be here: Mac SLP - Summary of Unit and Course Content (rev May 2020)

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the MSc(SLP) program, graduates will have achieved the following program learning outcomes:

  • Have a systematic understanding of human communication and swallowing and their disorders across the lifespan, including key theoretical approaches and concepts that inform our understanding of human communication and swallowing in health and disease.
  • Understand the influence of health, economic, educational, social, and cultural factors on communication and swallowing across the lifespan and in health and disease.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of and critically evaluate published qualitative and quantitative research, and identify gaps in knowledge and research methods to address those gaps.
  • Apply knowledge, critical thinking, and problem solving skills to solve complex clinical problems.
  • Engage in evidence-informed practice to provide efficient and effective client and patient care.
  • Communicate effectively with patients, families, other health providers, community organizations, and colleagues; as a leading member of a team, collaborator, advocate, and representative of the profession.
  • Understand the limitations of his or her own knowledge and recognize the value of other perspectives, methods, and disciplines.
  • Be self-directed learners and reflective practitioners: identify areas for personal growth in knowledge and skills and develop plans to achieve that growth.
  • Can work autonomously and collaboratively across practice flexible and adaptable in changing healthcare contexts.
  • Meet professional standards for integrity and ethical conduct.

Curriculum Map


Travel Requirements

Travel may be required for program-related activities and courses, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • mandatory teaching sessions
  • clinical placements

Students are expected to travel outside of Hamilton, Ontario for clinical placements. Common clinical placement regions outside of Hamilton include, but are not limited to Niagara, Brant, Haldimand-Norfolk, Waterloo, Wellington, and Halton. Some clinical placements may be located in rural, under-serviced, and remote areas. Many placements, rural and urban, require travel throughout the work day (e.g., traveling to schools, seeing clients in their homes, workplaces, and other locations in the community). Sometimes students may travel with their Clinical Instructors but often they must drive separately. Students are responsible for their own transportation, medical and auto insurance coverage, accommodation, and associated costs in order to complete program requirements – there is no funding from the SLP program to assist students with these costs. Students must prepare for costs such as relocation, transportation, rent (in addition to rent for Hamilton residence), commuting, parking, additional medical and auto coverage, and food.

Hours of Study

Evening and/or weekend hours may be required during the course of the academic program, including clinical practica.

Educational Framework

Self-Directed Learning

The philosophy of self-directed learning recognizes that with some guidance, adult learners should be able to take responsibility for their own learning. The more active students are in determining their own needs and learning goals, the more effective their learning is likely to be. Within broad guidelines, MSc SLP students are expected to determine: 1) their own learning needs; 2) how they will best set and achieve objectives to address those needs; 3) how to select learning resources; and 4) whether their learning needs have been met.

An overall goal of self-directed learning is to exercise the student’s capacity to think and discover during the process of gaining knowledge. The MSc (SLP) Program is designed to guide, stimulate, and challenge students in order to produce professionals who will make a difference in practice.

Although the MSc (SLP) Program emphasizes the importance of SDL, it is not a selfpaced program. Attendance and participation in tutorials, clinical laboratories, and other courses is required. It is expected that MSc (SLP) students demonstrate that satisfactory progress has been achieved via self, peer, and faculty evaluation. While the MSc (SLP) Program is student-centred, it is the mutual role and responsibility of faculty and students to create an effective learning environment, to select appropriate learning resources, to effectively facilitate and support learning, and to evaluate the learning process.

Problem-based learning (PBL)*  Learning based on problems represents an alternative to lecture-based, didactic instruction. In problem-based learning, students focus on a problem (or situation) that they or the tutorial group has selected. Students bring to the examination of the problem all of their previous knowledge and experience as well as their ability to think rationally and critically.

As the student begins to ask questions, certain issues become well defined and require a search for additional information. After assembling the appropriate information, students synthesize a solution that includes a re-evaluation of the hypothesis (or hypotheses) that has been formed, to confirm or refute it. The student learns how wrestling with any one problem opens up many other questions. Problem-based learning contributes to the student’s motivation; enhances transfer, integration, and retention of information; and encourages curiosity and systematic thinking. Consistent with the PBL philosophy, we select students not only on academic qualifications but also on personal characteristics and abilities, such as problem-solving ability, self-appraisal ability, the ability to relate to others, motivation to study speech-language pathology, and learning styles that are suited for learning at McMaster.

The educational system at McMaster is not ideal for everyone. Some individuals may enjoy working in tutorials, with self-directed and problem-based learning. Others may need or enjoy a more structured environment, and thus prefer a more traditional lecture-based learning environment.
* Adapted from McMaster University School of Medicine

Intro to Mac SLP

Small-Group Learning. Small-group learning is a natural extension of problem-based learning. To maximize small-group learning, we believe it is important to bring students from various educational and work experience backgrounds together so that the heterogeneity of the group itself becomes a valuable learning resource. Transfer of knowledge is enhanced through the use of problems that encourage students to not only learn content, but also to develop strategies to recognize the ‘analogy' or ‘principle' that can then be transferred to new problems and contexts.

Methods of Evaluation

Some of the student evaluation methods and tools used in the MSc (SLP) Program include:

Tutorial performance of the group as a whole and of each of its members (including the tutor) is evaluated on a regular basis throughout each unit. The final student grade is based on knowledge, use of learning resources, group participation and facilitation, critical appraisal skills, professional behaviours and evaluation skills (i.e., self-assessment, peer-assessment, and tutor evaluation).

Written exams using multiple choice questions (MCQs) or a short answer format are used to assess knowledge.

Modified essay questions (MEQs) are designed to assess aspects of clinical reasoning and problem-solving using a paper problem as a stimulus. The MEQ presents the student with progressive amounts of information about a practice problem in a sequence predetermined by the examiner. At successive stages, the student responds to the information and is asked to make and explain his/her decisions.

Essays are used to evaluate knowledge, critical appraisal skills, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis skills. The essay tests the understanding of principles or relationships, and fosters independent thinking and learning. Furthermore, it is used to develop and evaluate writing skills. Essays are assessed on content, organization, style, and mechanics. A problem write-up which focuses on a particular case scenario/client problem is a variation of the traditional essay.

Direct Observation is used primarily to evaluate technical/behavioural skills. This type of practical examination might be used to evaluate interviewing skills, assessment techniques, and/or use of therapeutic interventions.

Objective and Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is an objective evaluation measure used to assess components of clinical competence. It has the potential for testing a wide range of knowledge and clinical skills, and can be utilized to evaluate a large number of students during one examination period. The OSCE can be used as a formative or summative measure of student performance and also provides valuable feedback to faculty for the purpose of curriculum revision.

The OSCE is structured in such a way as to sample student performance in a variety of areas and to make maximum use of the time available. Students rotate around a series of timed stations. There may be up to 10 stations of 5 or 10 minutes in duration. At each station, students are asked to perform a specific task such as taking a patient history, performing an assessment task, teaching/counselling/advising a patient, writing a report, charting, performing a treatment technique or other clinical procedure, and interpreting findings such as test results. Examiner stations, where an observer is asked to score a student’s performance, usually entail interaction with a standardized patient. Marker stations, where a student is asked to answer written questions, record findings or interpret patient data, do not require an observer but entail subsequent marking.

Evaluation criteria are determined in advance on the basis of course objectives and student learning activities. A standardized rating form is used for evaluation by the examiners. Safety and professionalism are included within the evaluative criteria.

Presentations are also used throughout the program. A health care professional must be able to articulate and defend an opinion or position, and, to present information and ideas in an organized and clear manner. To help the students develop these skills, individual and group presentations are used as evaluation components in most units.

Learning contracts are used to evaluate student performance during clinical placement experiences and for remedial work. The use of a learning contract reinforces the student’s role as an active participant in the process of learning, rather than a passive recipient. In the professional preparation setting, learning contracts allow the student to meet the program objectives and also to pursue individual objectives. The learning contract is a document comprised of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals and is developed by the student and approved by a faculty member. It specifies what the student will learn, how this will be accomplished, within what time frame, and what specific evaluation criteria will be used for each objective. The learning contract reconciles the "imposed" requirements of the program with the learner's own personal goals and objectives. It enables the student to choose his/her own way of achieving the objectives and to self-evaluate the progress towards achieving them.


In accordance with guidelines from the Council for Accreditation of Canadian University Programs in Speech-Language Pathology (CACUP), the program will complete a two-stage process for accreditation. The first phase, completed in the first two years of operation, is the application for Candidate Status.  The second phase, completed after 3 years with Candidate Status, is full Accreditation.

On April 16, 2019, the program's application for Candidate Status was granted. Students graduating from a Candidate program are entitled to register to practice in Ontario.

As required by CACUP, within three years, the program will apply for Accreditation.

Regulation of Practice

All SLPs in Canada must be registered with the appropriate provincial regulatory body to practice in that province. Each regulatory body has a separate and distinct registration process; however, in all circumstances, a degree in Speech-Language Pathology is required.

Please visit the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario for further information.

Contact Us

Speech-Language Pathology Program
McMaster University School of Rehabilitation Science
Institute for Applied Health Sciences (IAHS), Room 410
1400 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON  L8S 1C7
T: 905-525-9140 ext. 27344
F: 905-524-0069

Tuition and other program fees are updated annually.  The current schedule of fees can be found here:

Tuition – scroll down to Master Health - Science, and then scroll down to SLP.
Supplementary Fees

The SLP Program is six terms over two years (3 per year – fall, winter, spring/summer)

Virtual Aphasia Information and Training Sessions 

June Virtual Aphasia Training Poster

When: Saturday, June 6th, 2020 from 9:00 am – 1:30 pm
Where: In the comfort of your own home, virtually using Zoom (a video-teleconferencing platform that can be used on a computer or smart phone).
Why: Learn more about aphasia and how to have better conversations with someone who “knows more than they can say”.
Who: Caregivers, family members, health care professionals, community members, people with aphasia
Cost: Donations welcomed
You must register in advance as space is limited!  Please RSVP to Vanessa Rotundo at or call us at (905) 875-8474.

General Information

Mailing Address:

School of Rehabilitation Sciences
Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
Institute of Applied Health Sciences,
Room 403, 1400 Main St. W. Hamilton, ON L8S 1C7


Contact Us


Directions to IAHS