A master degree program in occupational therapy trains individuals to examine and establish rehabilitation programs in order to help patients improve their independence by restoring vocational and daily living skills. Prerequisites typically include a bachelor's degree, cumulative 3.0 GPA, letters of reference, and possibly 40 hours minimum volunteer work in an OT setting. Furthermore, students are expected to have completed coursework in anatomy, sociology, human development, psychology, and statistics.
While most programs take 2-3 years to complete, some schools offer an intense, five-year combined bachelor's degree/master's degree program. The first three years focus on program prerequisites, and the last two years concentrate exclusively on occupational therapy courses. There may be a program requirement for hands-on field training. A master's degree and licensure are generally required to become an occupational therapist (OT). There are specializations that students can focus on, including pediatrics, gerontology, mental health, and others.
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Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy
Master's Degrees in Occupational Therapy usually lead to a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) or Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT). Depending on the institution, the master's degree program can take 2 to 3 years to complete. All programs require extensive field work that can give applicants up to 6 months of full-time experience. The school's program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Course topics are as follows:
- Theory of occupational therapy
- Human occupations
- Case studies
- Occupational therapy administration
- Pediatric, adult and geriatric occupational therapy
- Research methods in occupational therapy
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), job opportunities for occupational therapists should increase by 27% over the 10-year period of 2014-2024. This is especially true in the area of geriatric occupational therapy. In May 2015, the BLS found the average annual income for occupational therapists to be $81,690.
All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. In order to be licensed, occupational therapists must first become certified. Completion of an accredited OT program qualifies the graduate for the national certification examination. The examination is administered by the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After passing the exam, individuals are registered as Occupational Therapists and entitled to use 'OTF' as part of their professional title.
The NBCOT plans to institute a mandatory continuing education policy for certification renewal. Occupational therapists are required to complete several professional development units in administration, work and industry, mental health, rehabilitation, pediatrics, geriatrics, research or orthopedics.
Obtaining a master's degree in occupational therapy is a long and challenging process. Now, prospective students will understand the educational requirements to complete the program, in addition to forming realistic expectations for employment and salary following graduation.