How to become an Occupational Therapist

  • To become an occupational therapist, one should complete an entry level education (high school diploma or general equivalency diploma or GED degree) before enrolling in an accredited associate’s or bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy. One should select an occupational therapy program based on its accreditation status. In general, occupational therapy programs are offered at universities, vocational schools, post-secondary colleges, medical schools, including community colleges. Some candidates usually earn bachelor’s degrees to promote their careers as advanced occupational therapists. Alternately, one can improve employment opportunities by pursuing master’s degrees as well. In fact, to become a Certified or Registered occupational Therapist, one should ensure that the graduation program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Keep reading for more information about how to become an occupational therapist.

  • It has been reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that the occupational therapy graduates from associate’s degree should complete a clinical practicum, or internship. Moreover, the candidates pursuing an occupational therapy degree program take courses in various health fields such as psychology, anatomy, mathematics, behavioral sciences, and physiology. In addition, the graduates of occupational therapy programs should be well trained to evaluate the patient condition and perform diagnostic procedures. They should guide the patients about occupational health hazards and occupational disease prevention.

    Moreover, one should complete a specific coursework in occupational therapy program by learning various types of subjects in order to gain work experience in a clinical setting. Various schools offer different occupational therapy courses; while some offer diploma programs such as Bachelor of Science in pre-occupational therapy therapy. One should study basic subjects like life sciences, human anatomy, physiology, psychology, rehabilitation, liberal arts and sociology. The coursework also includes general health care topics such as occupational disabilities that occur as a result of some risky occupations. One can prefer taking up coursework in the fields of occupational therapy, such as exercise science, emotional rehabilitation, physical education, kinesiology, and therapeutic procedures.

    One should obtain a license on passing an examination officially conducted by the state, even though certification is not required to practice. Sometimes, one may require tests with national recognition like NBCOT to obtain Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) certification. This may require passing of the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) board exam, officially conducted by the professional association of occupational therapists called as the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

    Why to become an occupational therapist ?

    There has been a sudden hike in demand for the occupational therapists as the number of people with occupational conditions has currently increased and thousands of therapists are employed immediately on completion of their accredited occupational therapy programs. This is also due to increasing number of occupational therapy clinics that offer affordable occupational therapy services to large number of patients. Moreover, one can have a lucrative and respected career by treating various occupational disorders and by improving an overall state of wellness in these patients. In addition, one can start earning soon after completing a master’s degree in occupational therapy program and on completing training.

    Currently, the occupational therapists are at a higher demand than before and according to the BLS, the employment for them is more likely to increase by up to 33 percent by the year 2010 to 2020. Occupational therapists tend to get new job openings due to a faster than the average growth of occupational therapy services in future. Apart from receiving competitive salary, one can gain more salary benefits by becoming a certified occupational therapist.

    Moreover, the middle-aged population in future is more prone to develop serious occupation related conditions such as lung cancer, metal poisoning, musculoskeletal injuries, temporary disabilities and various other respiratory disorders that can restrict lung function or irreversibly damage the lungs. The high incidence rate of occupational hazards has currently led to an increased demand in occupational therapy services and treatments thus, increasing the job opportunities at mostly hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, the demand for occupational therapists is currently increasing due to the advances in diagnosing and preventing occupational diseases, invention of effective medications, and by the reinforcement of sophisticated treatments. Moreover, various other factors of the general population, such as air pollution, smoking, metal poisoning, equipment failure, mechanical accidents and serious emergencies, will ensure a continuous demand for occupational therapists.

    Occupational therapist education and degree

    To become an occupational therapist, one should complete an entry-level education (high school diploma or GED or its equivalent) before enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy. One should graduate from a four-year bachelor’s degree in a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. The candidate should enroll in a Master’s program that generally takes 2 years to complete. Alternately, one can pursue a doctoral program also. The occupational therapy program curriculum can include both theory classes and clinical procedures. The state certification can be obtained by passing a certification exam, National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), officially conducted by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.  The candidate can then obtain the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) designation after successful completion of the exam and licensure to practice.

    Read more about occupational therapist education, training and degrees.

    Occupational therapist requirements

    Occupational therapists should first complete an entry level education (school or GED equivalent degree) before enrolling in an undergraduate program. One should at least complete an associate’s degree in occupational therapy offered at an accredited university, college, medical schools and vocational schools for occupational therapists. Those aspiring to advance their careers as advanced occupational therapists should pursue postdoctoral degree. One can also pursue master’s degrees as well if planning to improve job opportunity.

    In general, one should select an occupational therapy program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) in order to become a Certified or Registered occupational Therapist following graduation. The candidate becomes eligible to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) board exam on successful completion of 2 ½ year occupational therapy program. Several certifications in occupational therapy have been offered by the professional association of occupational therapists called as the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

    The occupational therapist should possess a minimum entry-level credential of either an associate’s degree or 2 years of hands-on occupational therapy training experience and pass a certification exam to become a certified occupational therapist (COT). Moreover, one can become a Certified Occupational Therapist by the completion of a Master’s degree program in occupational therapy from an accredited school and by passing the NBCOT board exam. In fact, the NBCOT is also in charge of awarding various advanced level credentials such as the the OTR (Occupational Therapist Registered) certification on successful completion of advanced education, exams and training experience.

    One should understand that every state requirement for becoming a certified occupational is different and based on one’s choice as the OTR certification is voluntary. The number of hours of occupational therapy training varies for different states.  Many schools offer occupational therapy graduate programs that usually last for 2 ½ years, while others may offer occupational therapy courses that may require more than 2 years of occupational therapy education and training.

    Occupational therapist training

    The training program for an occupational therapist includes the following course subjects: one should complete a typical educational coursework that includes medical subjects like human anatomy and physiology. Moreover, one should learn the subjects like liberal arts, psychology, sociology, anatomy, behavioral sciences and physical therapy is sufficient enough to train the candidate for a rigorous post-graduate training. Occupational therapists may require extensive training in courses such as geriatric rehabilitation, rehabilitation for people in crisis, occupational adaptation, and rehabilitation for cases with emotional trauma, and foundations in occupational therapy. The education and training for a certified occupational therapist initially focuses on behavioral sciences, diseases involving respiratory tract, patient care, occupational hazards, and applying clinical practice through hands on experience. In fact, one should complete an occupational therapy program from a school or university accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

    Read more about occupational therapist salary.

    Occupational therapist certification

    On completion of program, one should apply to gain the eligibility for licensure. On approval, the candidate will be eligible to take a national licensing examination, the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy examination (NBCOT) that is administered by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The NBCOT exam consists of questions based on the practice of occupational therapy, as well as mastery in fields such as psychology, anatomy, physiology and behavioral sciences to include a few. The candidate should obtain an OTR certification for license to practice. To become a certified occupational therapist, one should obtain license to practice. According to the BLS, one should obtain the OTR certification one fulfilling the standard requirement for licensure. It can be obtained through the OTR credential after graduating from an entry-level or advanced program accredited by the ACOTE followed by the successful completion of examination.

    Occupational therapist license

    The license for occupational therapists is voluntary and some candidates require license to practice in their respective state of licensure. One should apply for an occupational therapy license to their state licensing board on completion of the program. It is mandatory that all occupational therapists should take and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy examination (NBCOT) officially conducted by the professional association of occupational therapists called as the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. 

    Occupational therapy Licensure Examination

    All graduates of occupational therapy training programs should apply to gain the eligibility for licensure. On approval, the candidate will be eligible to take a national licensing examination, the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy examination (NBCOT) that is administered by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The NBCOT exam consists of questions based on the practice of occupational therapy, as well as mastery in fields such as psychology, anatomy, physiology and behavioral sciences to include a few

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