Occupational Therapist Training Programs and Requirements

Occupational therapist training programs are offered at the graduate level, and requirements for entry to the field generally include a minimum of a master's degree.

Essential Information

Occupational therapists (OTs) help disabled persons gain or regain the knowledge and skills needed to complete everyday activities, such as cooking, eating, dressing and grooming. Occupational therapist training programs prepare students to work with diverse populations, understand patients' needs and determine a course of occupational therapy treatment based on those needs. While master's and doctoral degree programs are common, some colleges also offer combined bachelor's and master's degree programs in occupational therapy, which usually take five years to complete instead of six. All states require occupational therapists to be licensed, and continuing education courses are typically required to maintain the license. Additional certification requirements are generally needed for OTs who wish to work in educational settings.

  • Program Levels in Occupational Therapy: Master's degree; Doctoral program
  • Other Requirements: Six months of supervised clinical experience are required by all accredited programs; State license is required in order to practice as an occupational therapist

Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy

As master's-level students, future occupational therapists participate in skills labs and clinical experiences. They learn about general anatomy with a focus on the nervous system. They also study physiology, movement therapy, activity adaptation and trends in rehabilitation techniques.

Doctoral Program in Occupational Therapy

Often, doctoral programs are intended for occupational therapists who seek advanced clinical roles; OTD programs are more skills-based than Ph.D. programs, which tend to be research-based. At the doctoral level, graduate students learn advanced theories and practice techniques in occupational therapy, as well as instructional methods.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Between 2012 and 2022, occupational therapists could expect job growth of 29%, much faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). As of May 2014, occupational therapists earned an average annual wage of $80,000.

Workshops and Seminars

Professional organizations, such as the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), offer educational conferences, which may last for several days. Attendees can listen to keynote speakers, join continuing education seminars or participate in networking events. Local colleges may also offer seminars, which can last 2-4 hours, on specific occupational therapy topics.

Additional Professional Development

Occupational therapists can often find educational resources on industry websites, such as the AOTA website (www.aota.org). OTs can read blogs and online news articles or connect with peers through discussion boards and special interest group sites. Magazines, scholarly journals and books can also keep therapists up to date on rehab trends and research developments.

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