Graduate pediatric occupational therapy degree programs emphasize topics such as pediatric therapy techniques and occupational therapy research. Some colleges and universities offer the option of earning bachelor's and master's degrees in pediatric occupational therapy simultaneously. Experienced therapists may also opt to enroll in a post-professional degree program, providing career opportunities in academia or obtaining administrative training for the occupation.
A thesis, research project, clinical internship, teaching fellowship or dissertation may be required of aspiring pediatric occupational therapists, depending on the degree program level. Board certification in pediatrics is also available.
Prerequisites for a master's degree program include a bachelor's degree and occasionally undergraduate coursework in anatomy, psychology, physiology and medical terminology. A master's degree is required for admission to a doctoral program.
Master's Degree Programs in Pediatric Occupational Therapy
Some schools offer distance learning within a master's program, allowing some coursework to be completed online. Individuals seeking a master's degree in pediatric occupational therapy should ensure the program they select is accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association. Only students who graduate from an accredited program are eligible for state licensing.
Students in pediatric occupational therapy master's programs learn how to treat injured children by addressing various therapeutic areas, such as abilities in sensory processing, learning and attention, self-care, hand-eye coordination and socialization issues. Many programs provide instruction on how to create individual treatments, evaluate self-care skills and consult with school systems about potential issues. Some of the subjects commonly covered in a master's program include:
- Advances in pediatric therapy techniques
- Adolescent physical and psychological development
- Professional communication and consultation
- Assessment and evaluation of community and pediatric occupational therapy programs
- Rehabilitation instrumentation, visual impairment and trauma counseling
In order to graduate, students must either complete a thesis, comprehensive exam or research project. Internship participation is typically required through on-campus or affiliated clinics.
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Doctoral Degrees in Occupational Therapy
Doctorate degrees in occupational therapy may be required for licensure in some states. Doctoral programs are primarily geared toward professional occupational therapists or those with a master's degree seeking to expand a career into academics or administration. Students are exposed to philosophical issues occupational therapists face and the methods and techniques used to perform research and scholarly presentations. Doctoral programs may be structured to focus solely on occupational therapy with a concentration in pediatric rehabilitation or cover a wider range of study in a health science program.
Most doctoral programs in occupational therapy culminate with a comprehensive research dissertation. Programs may require students to participate in clinical internships or teaching fellowships, depending on the focus of the program. Common classes related to pediatric therapy include:
- Laws and ethics in clinical practice
- Childhood communication disorders
- Adolescent motor skills rehabilitation
- Fundamentals of occupational therapy research
- Clinical labs and methods of physical therapy
Pediatric occupational therapists have several employment avenues to consider. Graduates of a doctoral program may seek employment in the field of:
- Speech-language pathology
- Recreational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Prosthetics and rehabilitation
- Athletic training
Licensing and Certification
All states regulate occupational therapy practitioners via a licensure process. Although eligibility qualifications for earning a license can vary from state to state, the majority require applicants to hold at least a master's degree and pass a national certification exam. Voluntary certification in pediatric occupational therapy is also available through the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Employment for occupational therapists is predicted to rise by about 27% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2015, an occupational therapist's median income was reported by the BLS at approximately $80,150 annually.
Individuals interested in pediatric occupational therapy can enroll in a master's or doctoral program that will provide them with foundational knowledge of and hands-on experience with pediatric therapy techniques and occupational therapy research. Some coursework may be available online and licensure requirements vary by state.