How to Become an Occupational Therapist

by Doug Bennett, Contributor

Occupational Therapy (OT) License and RenewalsOccupational therapy “focuses on the restoration of skills and abilities, helping people participate in things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities that occupy their time,” according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

In this regard the term “occupy” means anything a person is involved with or does on a daily basis. So, it’s easy to see why occupational therapy jobs and travel OT jobs will continue to be in high demand well into the future.

Occupational Therapy Jobs- a Rosy Outlook

Like other allied health career paths, the outlook for occupational therapy jobs and travel OT jobs remains outstanding. Occupational therapy is consistently ranked high in recession-proof and top job lists. U.S. News & World Report ranked occupational therapy assistant #12 and occupational therapist #23 in their list of The 100 Best Jobs for 2017. In their ranking of the Best Health Care Jobs for 2017, occupational therapist was #18.

How does one become an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapy is regulated in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. Most states, D.C. and Puerto Rico require occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants to be licensed, but states differ on the exact requirements and procedures for obtaining a license.

Always be certain to consult the occupational therapy regulatory agency in the state where you plan to practice to ensure you adhere to their specific guidelines. To obtain a license you will need to complete the following steps:

Earn a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited OT educational program

Entry to the occupational therapy profession first requires completion of an MOT, MA, MS or doctoral degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). There are also combined bachelor’s/master’s programs that accept students without a bachelor’s degree—awarding a baccalaureate degree and an entry-level master’s degree in occupational therapy upon completion of the master’s-level academic coursework and fieldwork.

Students must already hold a baccalaureate degree for admission into a doctoral program. Doctoral degree programs offer additional study focusing on clinical practice skills, research skills, administration, leadership, policy and advocacy. Doctoral students must also take a 16-week experiential course and complete a capstone project.

Choosing which school to attend is perhaps the most important step on the path to becoming an OT or OTA. Factors to consider include the mission and size of the college or university, faculty qualifications and expertise, location, program length, cost, degrees awarded and program outcomes, such as the success rate of program graduates on the national certification exam, occupational therapy job placement rates, employer satisfaction with graduates, and student satisfaction with the program.

Satisfy fieldwork requirements Fieldwork experience is a critical component of preparing to become an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant. Fieldwork offers an opportunity to be mentored on clinical practice and conduct other professional duties under the supervision of an experienced practitioner. It can also provide potential leads when later applying for occupational therapy jobs. Pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) examination  

The NBCOT examination is nationally sanctioned and can be taken anywhere it is offered. Your results will be reported to the state regulatory bodies that you specify when you take the exam. After you pass the national certification exam, you are eligible to apply for a license in any state. This streamlined arrangement is especially helpful for those planning to pursue multiple travel OT jobs.

Apply for a license for each state or jurisdiction where you wish to practice

Many states allow OT’s to practice using a temporary license while waiting to take or receive results from their national certification exam. However, if you fail the exam, you may not be allowed to continue to practice. Be certain to consult with the OT regulatory agency in each state where you want to seek travel OT jobs or practice indefinitely.

Come join the exciting, rapidly expanding field of occupational therapy. Club Staffing is recruiting occupational therapists and other allied healthcare professionals to fill travel OT jobs across the U.S. Please apply online to start working with one of our experienced professional recruiters today!

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