Educational Requirements for Occupational Therapy Careers
There are multiple educational and professional options available to those interested in the field of occupational therapy. Learn the typical duties for each of these positions as well as the education and licensure requirements.
What Are Occupational Therapy Careers?
Occupational therapy careers include occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapy aides. While occupational therapists must pursue graduate level degree programs, assistants and aides require less education. These professionals work under the supervision of occupational therapists.
|Occupational Therapist Requirements||Master's or doctoral degree|
|Assistant and Aide Requirements||High school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training for aides; associate's degree for assistants|
|Professional Requirements||Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants require a license or certification|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||24% growth (for occupational therapists)*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$84,270 (for occupational therapists)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Kind of Training Do Occupational Therapists Need?
Occupational therapists help individuals who have developmental, physical, mental or emotional deficiencies. Under the guidance of these professionals, patients can improve their mobility, enhance their decision-making skills or learn how to perform common tasks by using specialized equipment. If you'd like to work in this field, you'll need to earn a master's or doctoral degree in occupational therapy. A few schools also offer combined programs that lead to both a bachelor's and a master's degree.
While completion of a specific bachelor's program isn't required in order to enter an occupational therapy master's program, prerequisite courses often include anatomy, human development, abnormal psychology and anthropology. Prerequisite coursework for a doctoral program is often similar to that of a master's program, with the addition of classes in medical terminology and biology.
What About Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides?
Assistants are often responsible for monitoring patients and implementing therapists' treatment plans. Aides typically have fewer clinical tasks; their duties may include setting up equipment and ordering supplies. In most cases, assistants need to complete an occupational therapy assistant associate's program. Most aides have a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training.
Are There Any Other Professional Requirements?
You'll need to become licensed or certified in order to practice as an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant; aides don't need to be certified. Licensure requirements for occupational therapists vary from state to state, but you'll usually need to complete a post-bachelor's program that's accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), a field experience and an exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). To gain licensure as an occupational therapy assistant, completion of an accredited associate's program, some professional experience and the NBCOT assistant's exam is typically required.