How Much Schooling Does an Occupational Therapist Need?

An occupational therapist helps people with physical, mental and emotional challenges improve their daily lives through consistent physical exercises and routines. Read on for more information on the education requirements for occupational therapists. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Occupational Therapist Schooling Requirements

To become an occupational therapist, you will need to graduate from an accredited master's or doctoral degree program in occupational therapy to qualify for licensing. The American Occupational Therapy Association's Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education awards accreditation to occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs (www.aota.org).

Most programs are full-time, although you can complete some on a part-time basis. Coursework will typically cover topics such as biology, physiology, behavioral science and occupational therapy techniques. Accredited programs always include at least six months of supervised fieldwork, which is required to complete your program.

Fieldwork is usually done under the supervision of an experienced occupational therapist. Typically, you will begin by observing. You may ask questions, and you may be given the chance to explain how you would treat a patient. Some schools may give you the opportunity to complete your fieldwork at various therapy centers, so you are able to work with patients of different ages with a range of physical issues or disabilities.

Licensing Requirements

To practice as an occupational therapist in the U.S., you must obtain a license, which requires passing a licensing examination. The exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, which allows you to use the title Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR), is used in some states as the licensing exam (www.nbcot.org). However, each state regulates licensure, and some states may have different licensing tests and other requirements that must be met to become licensed.

Continuing education is typically required to maintain licensure. To maintain the OTR designation, you must complete 36 units of professional development training or coursework within the 3-year renewal period to be awarded re-certification.

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