How Do I Become an Occupational Therapist?

An occupational therapist specializes in working with patients who have suffered an accident and who are in the process of recovery. As an occupational therapist, you may help your patients minimize pain, help patients increase motion of the injured area, increase overall strength, and help patients with mental illness use coping skills in daily life. If you would like to help injured individuals reenter their roles in life as a worker, a parent, or a student, you may be interested in learning what types of training are required to become a practitioner in the field. Here is your guide to becoming an occupational therapist to make the learning process easier.

Undergraduate Educational Requirements for Occupational Therapists

All occupational therapists have attended college and earned their degree in order to enter the field. The very first step to becoming a practitioner in the field is to obtain your Bachelor’s degree majoring in biology, physiology, or sociology. You should verify the requirements of an advanced occupational therapy program before you select your undergraduate classes so that you are sure that you fulfill all of the prerequisites.

Once you are enrolled in a Bachelor’s program, you can start searching for internship opportunities so that you can gain on-hand experience as a field worker. By doing this, you will know whether or not you truly want to spend more time in school earning a degree for your licensure.

Requirements to Earn Your License to Practice

Once you earn your Bachelor’s, you can move on to searching for a graduate level Master’s degree program that focuses entirely on Occupational Therapy. When you are comparing programs, be sure to select one that is accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association. You can browse through a list of accredited schools and check the admissions requirements to see if you would qualify. Some of the schools that have accreditation also offer dual programs where you can earn your Bachelor’s and your Master’s degree simultaneously in about 5 years. If you want to find fast track dual programs, you can locate them with theĀ AOTA program search tool.

Once you do about 24 weeks of field work and you complete your advanced level courses, you will earn your degree. Having your Master’s degree will qualify you to take the certification exam that is given by the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists. Once you apply for the exam, pay the fee, and pass the exam, you will then pay the state licensing fee. Once you are granted a state licensed you can legally practice in that state as a practitioner. You do need a license in each state where you will work.

Once you are licensed, you will find that there are many different career routes that you can take. You can work for a state agency, a non-profit organization, a corporation, or even start your own practice. Be sure to keep up with continuing education and renewal schedules. Most states will require professionals to apply for renewals every 2 years to continue practicing within the state and you must have Professional Development Units completed at this time. Enter a field where you can help individuals improve their quality of life and enjoy being a highly paid professional in a stable occupation that gives back.