Thursday, May 15, 2014

OT Student Corner | How to become an OT

I receive a lot of questions from students and prospective students about the field of occupational therapy. Since I'm not the best about responding to emails in a timely manner, I've decided to answer some of the frequently asked questions I've received here on my blog. This post is the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series to answer reader questions about the profession of occupational therapy and OT school.

Today's question: "How do I become an occupational therapist?"

This is by far the question I receive the most, so I thought this would be a good one to start with. 

First you need to go to school. And then pass a national test.

Currently, to become a Registered Occupational Therapist (OTR), you must obtain a Master's degree in Occupational Therapy from an accredited school, and then pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. Another option is to obtain an entry level Doctorate in Occupational Therapy prior to taking the NBCOT exam. A doctoral degree is not currently required, but may be in the future.

To become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA), you must obtain an Associate's degree in Occupational Therapy from an accredited school, and then pass the NBCOT exam.

Let's not forget about Fieldwork!

For all levels of OT education, the completion of Fieldwork is part of the curriculum. Fieldwork is the provision of occupational therapy services as a student under the supervision of an occupational therapist. This is where you get the majority of your hands-on training on how to be an occupational therapist. For Master's and Doctoral level education, Level II Fieldwork takes place in two 12-week rotations. Yes, that is six months of 40-hour clinical weeks! No, you will not get paid for this work, and no you will probably not have time to do any paid work during this time. Plan accordingly, but don't let it hold you back. Occupational therapy is consistently rated as a top job and a fast growing profession. For COTA's, I believe it is two 6-week rotations, but I don't know that for sure. For more information about Fieldwork, check out the AOTA website.

How to find an accredited occupational therapy school in your area.

To find an accredited school for a Doctoral, Master's or Associate's level degree, visit the "Find a School" page on the AOTA website.

One last step. State licensure.

Once you have your desired degree and have passed the necessary NBCOT exam, most states (possibly all states?) require state licensure. In my experience of being licensed in multiple states (okay, just two states), this usually only requires proving that you have graduated from an accredited school, passed the NBCOT exam, passing a background check, and then paying the licensing fee. Some states may also have a short test on rules and regulations related to occupational therapy in that state. This is based on my experience of licensure in California and Massachusetts. It may be completely different in other states, but I doubt it is drastically different. AOTA has a webpage dedicated to state licensure, including a page on how to get a license.

For more information on careers in occupational therapy.

Interested in a career in occupational therapy, click here for more information from AOTA.

Do you have a question about OT school? Are you currently and OT student and have a question about the profession? If so, send me an email [abbypediatricot {at} gmail {dot} com] and I'll try to answer it in an upcoming post!

1 comment:

  1. Just awesome info!!! Thank you sooo much for all the inspirational words and info you have on your blog. I have been researching on how to start my career. I live in Las Vegas and seems to me I keep finding dead ends on finding a OTA program. just a little stall I'm having but when I keep looking at your blog and other social media's. I keep my vision open. Thank you again


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