Occupational Therapist

occupational therapistOccupational therapy is an essential part of today’s healthcare system, as professionals working in this field help individuals with a variety of medical conditions complete everyday activities. They help patients develop, recuperate, and expand the abilities needed for living and working tasks. The main goal is to help patients live happier and more fulfilling lives. Those who are considering pursuing a career in the field may ask, what are the educational requirements and career options for an occupational therapist?

Education Requirements

In general, occupational therapists must have at least a master’s degree in occupational therapy from an accredited institution of higher learning. Some individuals complete doctoral degrees in occupational therapy. Applicants usually need a bachelor’s degree in a related area and prerequisite courses, such as biology, anatomy, and physiology. A lot of programs also require students to have previous work or volunteer experience in an occupational therapy environment. Occupational therapy degree programs strive to provide students with a solid understanding of both theory and practice in the field. Programs often focus on occupational science, research methods, clinical reasoning, and evidence-based practice. The core courses commonly include foundations of occupational therapy, psychopathology, occupational therapy practices, therapeutic materials and processes, kinesiology, pediatrics in occupational therapy, adult rehabilitation, adapting environments, and neuroscience. Some programs require students to complete a master’s thesis or comprehensive examination for graduation to demonstrate the competency in occupational therapy. Many programs also include clinical experiences to provide students with an understanding of actual work environments. Master’s degree programs usually take two years to finish and doctoral programs four or more years.

Licensure and Certification

It is mandatory in all states that occupational therapists are licensed to practice. The requirements for licensure include a degree from an accredited program and passing the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists certification examination. Specific states set their own requirements for additional requirements, such as supervised field work, minimum test score, and varying fees. Most states require continuing education to keep licenses current. Some occupational therapists choose to become certified to remain competitive in the field. They must receive a satisfactory score on a certification examination to earn the Registered Occupational Therapist designation. Continuing education courses are required to keep the certification current.

Career Options

Occupational therapists have the ability to pursue a variety of career paths in the field. The most common path is working for public or private medical facilities. Occupational therapists often work for hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Some work for government organizations at the local, state, and national levels. Examples of these settings include state nursing homes, public schools, and branches of the military. Other occupational therapists work for non-profit organizations that help provide care to individuals who could not otherwise afford it. After acquiring significant work experience, many occupational therapists open up their own private practices. These individuals commonly complete business courses to gain an understanding of running a business.

Working as an occupational therapist can be very rewarding and lucrative. Individuals seeking to enter this career should compile a list of potential accredited occupational therapy programs to find one that meets their needs. The American Occupational Therapy Association has a list of these programs.