Health Therapist Training and Education Program Overviews

Oct 14, 2019

A master's or doctoral degree is a common path to a career as an occupational, mental health, or physical therapist. These programs provide the skills to work with both children and adults in achieving a better quality of living.

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Essential Information

There are several options for those wishing to become a health therapist. A master's degree in counseling prepares students to work with individuals with mental health issues. Students concentrate in school counseling for young children or clinical mental health counseling for older individuals.

With a master's degree in occupational therapy, graduates are trained to help injured or ill people perform the tasks of daily living, such as feeding and dressing themselves. The development and life cycle of human beings, as well as the proper ways to assist patients are the focus of the program. Recommendation letters, an interview, and summary form are required before admission to a master's program. The curriculum includes classroom coursework, clinical experience, and fieldwork. Months of supervised practice in the occupational therapy field must also be done as an additional requirement.

A doctoral program in physical therapy teaches students to work with people trying to regain physical abilities. Students are trained to diagnose and treat illnesses preventing individuals from using their body for physical purposes. Doctoral degree students complete clinical rotations and a final project.

Mental Health Therapist: Master of Science in Counseling

A Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling prepares students to function as treatment providers in a number of healthcare settings. Scholars are educated in ways to recognize and handle all types of mental health related issues that plague individuals and groups. The curriculum prepares students for licensure and certification as mental health therapists. Applicants must obtain a high score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). In a counseling master's degree program, students complete core coursework in counseling philosophies and theories, as well as research and evaluation. A thesis project and final exam must be completed. Additional topics covered in the program include:

  • Family therapy
  • Organizational dynamics
  • Adulthood and aging
  • Psychological treatment of children
  • History and systems of psychology

Occupational Therapist: Master of Science in Occupational Therapy

Individuals wishing to obtain entry-level positions as occupational therapists should consider entering into this degree program. A Master of Science (M.S.) in Occupational Therapy program teaches students the fundamentals of physical, mental, and pediatric care. Graduates are trained to utilize physical exercise and techniques to help restore daily activities to patients with injuries or illnesses, including cerebral palsy or brain injuries. Courses include:

  • Community integration
  • Occupational adaptation across the lifespan
  • Professional issues in occupational therapy
  • Critical inquiry
  • Behavioral science

Physical Therapist: Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

A DPT program educates students in the medical area of physical rehabilitation. The program delves into rehabilitation and intervention techniques, as well as motor control, biomechanics, and kinesiology. Job training is given to students to prepare them for work as future physical therapists and researchers at medical facilities. Some prerequisite coursework in physiology and psychology is required. Programs also require students to submit recommendation letters. Doctoral degree programs feature courses in physical sciences and physical therapy treatments. Topics covered include:

  • Regional human anatomy
  • Physiology of exercise
  • Orientation to physical therapy
  • Clinical pathology
  • Manual therapy

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mental health counselors are expected to see a 22% rise in employment from 2018-2028 ( The BLS attributed this projected increase to the use of counselors over psychologists by insurance and healthcare systems. The median wage of mental health counselors was $42,840, as of May 2018, stated the BLS.

The employment of occupational therapists will increase by as much as 18% from 2018-2028, according to the BLS. Occupational therapists had median annual wages of $84,270 as of May 2018. The same year, the BLS reported that occupational therapists who work in home health care settings earned an average of $89,840 per year, while those who work in nursing care facilities reported average salaries of $90,150.

A much faster-than-average growth of 22% in the employment of physical therapists was projected by the BLS from 2018-2028. The BLS published the median annual salary among physical therapists in May 2018 as $87,930. Those working in performing arts companies enjoyed the highest average salary, earning about $107,700 per year.

Licensure and Certification Information

According to the BLS, licensure is required for counselors not working in a school setting. To become licensed, a counselor must complete a master's degree program, clinical experience, and pass a state exam, stated the BLS. Graduates can gain certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors and Affiliates, Inc. In order to gain certification, counselors must complete a master's degree program, possess counseling experience, and have passing National Counselor Examination scores.

The licensure requirements for occupational therapists are regulated by individual states, stated the BLS. However, the requirements for licensure typically include certification and completion of a master's degree. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) regulates certification. In order to gain the Occupational Therapist Registered credential through NBCOT, applicants must pass an exam (

Every state has regulation laws pertaining to physical therapy practice. Some of those laws may differentiate from state-to-state; however, there are general laws that all of them require. In order to receive licensure for physical therapy, individuals must have already graduated from an accredited physical therapy program and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination, according to the BLS. Once done, he or she must also abide by the specific laws for physical therapy governed by their state. Some states require that students will have to pursue continued education to maintain their license.

Health therapists have several specialties to choose from, including mental health, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. A master's or doctoral degree in these areas will prepare a student to work with the public in improving their ability to perform the tasks of living their daily lives.

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