According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupational therapists must earn a master's degree from an Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education accredited program. Such programs are available online, as are doctoral occupational therapy programs for those considering higher education, but on-campus programs are much more prevalent. The master's degree combines research and practical experience through online coursework and a clinical requirement, which must be completed in person. Doctoral degree programs combine online classes with on-campus requirements that require the student to visit the campus several times throughout the duration of the program. A bachelor's or master's degree is required for application to a doctoral degree program.
All states require occupational therapists to be licensed, and licensing requires having graduated from an accredited program and certification through the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists.
Occupational Therapist Master's Degree
The online master's degree program in occupational therapy is directed at licensed practicing therapists seeking post-professional degrees for career enhancement. The program provides advanced education and combines theory with research and practical experience in occupational therapy topics. Students can build upon their work experience and educational background, while establishing connections with fellow clinicians and improving clinical reasoning skills. Coursework in the online master's program can be directly applied to the student's practice.
Program Information and Requirements
An online master's degree in occupational therapy can be completed in two years and allows students to continue working in their chosen occupational therapy fields while completing the program requirements. Program coursework is available entirely online; however, students are expected to fulfill practical experience requirements in clinical settings.
This master's program utilizes online course management software for lectures and assignments. Students communicate with teachers and fellow students through online chat rooms, discussion boards and e-mail.
List of Occupational Therapist
Prior to graduation, students complete a capstone project in an occupational therapy topic of interest. The project enables students to apply occupational therapy knowledge to a practical situation and utilize critical reasoning skills gained through the master's program.
This online course explores the qualitative and quantitative research methods used in occupational therapy. Students learn methods for conducting research and analyzing research studies.
Occupational Therapy Theory
Online students review theoretical perspectives in occupational therapy and their application in clinical settings. The course covers occupational therapy philosophy and clinical reasoning.
Students study methods for developing educational programs that can be applied in clinical and academic practice. Educational theory and research methods are also covered.
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Occupational Therapist Doctoral Degree
The online doctoral program is designed for working occupational therapists seeking advanced education. The program prepares students for leadership positions in occupational therapy. Students can use the doctoral degree to implement new programs, influence public policy, and enhance critical thinking and research skills.
Program Information and Requirements
The online doctoral degree can be completed in 20 months to four years, depending on the school. Some on-campus work is required for completion of the doctoral degree. Most schools condense the on-campus time into a 2-3 day format several times throughout the duration of the program. Students entering the doctoral program must have a bachelor's or master's degree.
A Web camera is required for some programs. All programs require updated software and Adobe Flash Player. Students learn and interact with instructors through video conferencing, online assignments, discussion boards and e-mail.
Common Occupational Therapist
Some master's level courses may be required for students holding a bachelor's degree prior to starting the doctoral program. Group learning is emphasized in the doctoral program and students are divided into cohorts their first semester; the cohorts remain the same through graduation.
This online course covers the theory and principles of evidence-based practice and its application to clinical settings. Students learn to create practice questions, analyze occupational therapy literature, and find evidence for clinical practices and decisions.
Theory and Practice
Students examine modern and historical theory of occupational therapy practice. Topics include the clinical reasoning processes, current models of occupational therapy practice and scientific theory testing.
Students review the role of the occupational therapist in policy making. Critical analysis of public policies, the impact of policies on delivery methods and the concept of change in social movements are all covered in this course.
According to the BLS, 27% of occupational therapists worked in hospitals in 2014 (www.bls.gov). Other areas of employment include physicians' and therapists' offices and nursing care facilities. Some occupational therapists may work with children or assist patients who have emotional or mental disabilities.
Occupational therapists who work with children can work in schools providing one-on-one support or helping a group of students. Job growth in occupational therapy is expected to increase by 27%, much faster than the average of all occupations, between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, the median wage for occupational therapists was $80,150, according to the BLS. The highest-earning ten percent of occupational therapists earned over $116,030.
Occupational therapy careers will become more in-demand due to an increase in the population of individuals with disabilities requiring therapy according to the BLS. The rise in the elderly population will also increase demand for occupational therapists (www.bls.gov).Therapists who work with the elderly may help patients' live independent lives by identifying safety hazards in the home or assessing their ability to perform basic functions such as driving.
Online degree programs for occupational therapists are available at the graduate level and are designed for students who are already licensed and practicing occupational therapists. Master's degree coursework can be completed entirely online, but doctoral programs require some on-campus requirements. These programs teach students research skills, theories of therapy and education strategies.