A master's degree is typically the minimum educational requirement for becoming an occupational therapist. Additionally, occupational therapists must be licensed by the state based upon the results of a state-administered examination. For licensed occupational therapists seeking specialty certification, coursework and program lengths vary depending on the area of study. Continuing education credits are also required of occupational therapists.
Various program specializations include pain management, gerontology, hand and upper extremity rehabilitation.
Occupational Therapist Certification Programs
Students are required to have a bachelor's or master's degree in occupational therapy and may be required to be currently licensed. Program lengths for certificate programs vary. The coursework is dependent on the specialty area of study. Some programs include a research element. Topics of study might include:
- OT evidence-based practice
- Research methods
- OT and gerontology
- Policy and management
- Assistive technology
- Early intervention
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reports that employment for occupational therapists is expected to grow 27% over the period from 2014-2024, especially in the area of gerontology. Occupational therapists with specialized skills, such as those who have completed an advanced practice certificate program, may have increased job prospects. In 2015, the annual mean salary for occupational therapists was $81,690.
Licensing, Certification and Continuing Education
Occupational therapists must be licensed. As of 2010, all states use the national certification examination offered by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy (www. nbcot.org) for licensing purposes. To become certified, applicants must graduate from an approved NBCOT graduate program, complete clinical fieldwork and pass the OTR (occupational therapist registered) national certification examination. Some states require occupational therapists who work in schools or early intervention programs to obtain additional certification or specialized training. Continuing education is required to maintain certification.
Occupational therapists who have already completed their education but are looking to earn more certifications for more specialized work can earn post-graduate certifications. It is important that occupational therapists maintain licensing requirements to maintain and meet licensing requirements.