Occupational Therapy Certification Programs

Completing an accredited master's degree program in occupational therapy prepares you for a career helping to rehabilitate people with emotional, physical, developmental and mental disabilities. Continue reading to learn more about educational programs for occupational therapists, including common courses and licensure and certification requirements. Schools offering Occupational Therapy Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Which Occupational Therapy Training Programs Lead to Certification?

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. The typical minimum educational requirement for career entry is graduating from a master's degree program in occupational therapy accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), the accrediting body of the American Occupational Therapy Association. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that ACOTE has accredited almost 200 master's degree or combined bachelor's and master's degree programs in occupational therapy as of 2014 (www.bls.gov). According to ACOTE's website, as of 2016, seven occupational therapy doctoral programs were accredited (www.aota.org).

Though none of these programs are offered completely online, you can find many accredited programs that allow you to take at least some distance-education courses. Specific on-campus and field-experience requirements are addressed on individual program websites. All accredited programs incorporate a minimum of 24 weeks of supervised field experience.

Educational RequirementsMaster's degree in occupational therapy accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE)
Course TopicsHow to evaluate patient needs, establish rehabilitation schedules, neuroanatomy, therapeutic interventions, ethics and leadership
PrerequisitesCourses in biology, physiology, anatomy, psychology, math
Professional CertificationMost states accept the national certification exam offered by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy for licensure requirements
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 Courses Can I Expect?

In both levels of career-entry programs, you learn the essentials of occupational therapy, like how to evaluate patient needs, work with different types of disabilities, establish rehabilitation schedules and maintain patient records. You may choose a career-entry clinical doctoral program if you would like to pursue expertise in occupational therapy research or development, or if you're interested in teaching. Prerequisites for both types of programs typically include courses in biology, anatomy, physiology, English composition, psychology and math.

Most prospective occupational therapists enter master's degree programs. Typical master's program curricula include neuroanatomy, analysis of occupations in terms of client needs, environmental factors, therapeutic interventions, research, ethics and leadership. While field observation and experience is often integrated throughout a 3-year master's program, the third year may be dedicated to supervised clinical practice.

How Do I Become Certified?

Requirements may overlap for voluntary professional certification and state licensure, which is mandatory. Many states have adopted the national certification exam of the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy as the state licensure exam. To be eligible for this exam, you need to graduate from an ACOTE-accredited program. By passing this exam, you're awarded the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) designation. State licensing boards establish the specific eligibility requirements, which vary. You may need to meet additional requirements, for example, if you wish to work in a school setting.

The OTR exam has two parts, a simulated demonstration section and a multiple-choice exam. The exam covers topics in physical disabilities, general practice, pediatrics and mental health. You're also tested on professional standards, patient information documentation, evidence-based interventions and implementation of intervention plans. OTR certification renewal occurs every three years and is maintained through completion of continuing education requirements.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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