Didactic courses for distance learning occupational therapy certificate programs can be taken completely online without the need to attend on-site classes, although these programs are quite rare. Depending upon the program or specific specialization, schools may help students arrange for clinical practice experience at therapy clinics near their homes. Many programs require students to already be licensed occupational therapists and/or working in the field before starting the program. Earning a certificate may help fulfill the continuing education requirements needed to renew licensure.
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Graduate Certificate in Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapists help people compensate for many types of deficits brought on by injury or disease. They also help those with mental, physical, developmental or emotional disabilities. Therapies include exercises to improve strength, range of movement, memory and visual acuity, and activities to relearn how to dress, eat, solve basic problems and make decisions. Certificate programs may offer concentrations in specialty therapeutic areas, such as autism, assistive technologies, and neurological physical therapy.
Online students need access to a computer and a fast Internet connection in order to remotely attend live classes, watch pre-recorded lectures, review study material, submit assignments and keep in contact with faculty and fellow students. Students will also have online access to school library resources.
Applicants for a graduate certificate program typically need to have a bachelor's degree in occupational or physical therapy. Certain programs may restrict admission to students who currently work as occupational therapists. Programs require between 10 and 17 semester credits, and students should allow 12-18 months to complete all work.
Course and Class Information
The graduate certificate program in occupational therapy can be taken alone or alongside a master's degree program. Those who complete the program can also transfer credits to a master's degree program.
Evidence-based practice is a treatment methodology that refines each patient's treatment plan by continuously reevaluating the clinical evidence, systematic research and the patient's goals and values. This course helps identify the elements that make up the evidence-based process and draws examples from real case studies.
Treating Older Adults
The treatment of geriatric patients centers around impaired mental function and physical concerns like arthritis, osteoporosis, decreased strength and reduced range of motion. Students learn common assessment methods and therapies, then apply these ideas in field assignments.
Students in this course review commonly used assessment strategies for autism, such as tests of social communication or responsiveness. They then learn to develop treatments that suit the client's individual needs.
Assistive technologies are devices which can help individuals with disabilities improve their functional capabilities. They span a range of items from simple pencil grips and adapted spoons to high-technology wheelchairs and voice synthesizers. Students are acquainted with commonly used assistive technologies and are encouraged to devise and adapt their own devices.
Neurological Physical Therapy
Students review the effects of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's, cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and impairments due to brain or spinal cord injury. Readings and lectures present treatments and intervention strategies that might prove useful for different types of neurological impairments.
Career Information for Occupational Therapists
As the population ages, medical conditions requiring occupational therapy should increase the demand for therapists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), jobs for occupational therapists are projected to grow 27% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average rate of growth for all jobs. The median annual salary for occupational therapists in 2015 was $80,150.
Licensure and Certification Information
All 50 states require occupational therapists to have a license to practice, and most require a master's degree or better to qualify. Some states conduct their own licensure exams, and some rely upon voluntary exam-based certification conducted by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy. The Board confers the designations Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
Online graduate certificate programs in occupational therapy provide advanced training to therapists who want to learn more about topics that can include assistive technologies as well as treatment methods for older adults and patients with autism. Students must attend internships and/or clinical requirements in person, though coursework can be completed online.