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Pediatric Occupational Therapist Training and Career

Find out about the job duties, degrees and training programs of pediatric occupational therapists, as well as licensing requirements and certification options. Learn the job growth and salary projections for this profession.

What You Need to Know

A pediatric occupational therapist helps children with disabilities or injuries improve or regain the motor skills and functions needed for daily activities. The road to become a pediatric occupational therapist requires a master's degree and clinical work before qualifying to be licensed. Practicing pediatric occupational therapists work with children in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals and rehabilitation clinics.

Responsibilities Use therapeutic techniques to help children with injuries or disabilities to function as normally as possible in school, at home or socially
Required Degree Master's degree
Median Salary (2017) $83,200*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Responsibilities Do Pediatric Occupational Therapists Have?

Occupational therapists (OT) assist patients in overcoming physical and cognitive difficulties to achieve and function to their highest potential in their surroundings. Pediatric occupational therapists work with infants, toddlers, school-aged children and teenagers with impaired motor, emotional or mental functions.

Children with physically damaging injuries or developmental disabilities could require the services of pediatric occupational therapists in order to manage in a school, social setting or home environment. School children with hyperactivity, learning disorders, autism or other developmental injuries might need OTs to assist in special education programs. As a pediatric occupational therapist, you can recommend special accommodations or administer therapy, including:

  • Coordination exercises
  • Sensory integration activities
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Handwriting assistance programs

What Training Do I Need?

To become an occupational therapist, you'll require at least a master's degree in occupational therapy from a school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). As of 2018, ACOTE accredited over 150 master's degree OT programs and 22 doctoral programs. You can find degree programs specifically in pediatric occupational therapy or general occupational therapy with a concentration or practicum in pediatric treatment. If your program doesn't include a concentration in pediatric OT, you could also apply for a fellowship in the specialty after earning your graduate degree.

What Courses Could I Take?

You'll study cognitive development and sensory integration as well as gross and fine motor development. From a pediatric standpoint, you might find a school that offers on-campus clinics where you can engage children and their parents in music, visual, writing or interactive programs to gain hands-on experience applying various therapy treatments. Courses related to pediatric occupational therapy could cover topics in behavioral and disability assessment, intervention techniques and sensory program development. You'll usually need to participate in some sort of clinical or practical training either at a campus clinic or local facility.

What Certifications or Licensure Will I Need?

To work as a pediatric occupational therapist, you'll need to obtain a state license. The requirements for licensure vary by state, but you could be required to submit to a background check, meet education requirements and pass a state-issued and/or national exam. Some states have different levels of licensure based on your educational background and the type of treatment you perform.

In some cases, earning voluntary certification through the National Board of Certified Occupational Therapists (NBCOT) could offer a substitute for licensure testing. To maintain your board certification or state license, you'll usually need to submit documentation of completed professional development activities and continuing education.

How Much Could I Earn?

You can work as a pediatric occupational therapist through rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, schools or other government agencies. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of occupational therapists was expected to grow 24% from 2016-2026, (www.bls.gov). While the main driving force was expected to be an increase in older populations, additional federal funding toward services of school-aged children with disabilities was also a contributing factor. Your income could vary depending on your employer and the type of services you offer. As of 2017, the BLS reported that all occupational therapists earned a median salary of $83,200. Those who worked in elementary and high schools averaged about ten percent less than the national median.