Pediatric Occupational Therapy Schools and Degree Programs
Pediatric occupational therapists help children of all ages overcome physical and mental disabilities. To become a pediatric occupational therapist, you need to obtain a degree from an accredited occupational therapy program and become a licensed occupational therapist. With experience, you can also become certified in pediatrics.
What You Need to Know
An occupational therapist (OT) helps patients overcome physical and mental disabilities by guiding them through tasks such as dressing, cooking and using a computer. If you choose to be an OT that specializes in pediatrics, you could find yourself in a variety of environments helping children. You might help guide classroom learning, work with autistic or developmentally challenged children or intervene with infants in danger of developing learning disorders.
|Courses||Health policy, human movement, kinesiology, research methods and neuroscience|
|Degrees||Master of Occupational Therapy; Bachelor's-to-master's degree programs|
|Licensing||Required to practice; administered by the state via national certification exam|
What Kind of Degree Program Should I Enroll In?
In order to become an OT, you'll need a minimum of a master's degree in occupational therapy from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), the accrediting arm of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). There is no degree program focusing solely on pediatric occupational therapy; rather, master's degree programs usually provide education in general occupational therapy and include courses that cover children and adolescents. You'll also work with children during your fieldwork experiences.
Schools that offer ACOTE-accredited occupational therapy programs that contain courses and fieldwork in pediatric occupational therapy include:
- Eastern Washington University
- University of Texas at El Paso
- Mercy College (NY)
- Nebraska Methodist College
- Lenoir-Rhyne University (NC)
- University of New Mexico
Some schools offer bachelor's-to-master's degree programs in occupational therapy, in which you could complete both degree programs in five years. Other programs are designed for students who already have a bachelor's degree in another area; these programs can generally be completed in 2-3 years.
What Courses Will I Take?
Your curriculum likely will include subjects such as kinesiology, health policy, human movement, neuroscience and research methods. You'll also complete a thesis or directed research project and fieldwork. Specific pediatric coursework you might take in a master's program include:
- Occupational performance in early childhood
- Evidence-based practice for children and youth populations
- Occupational therapy theory and practice: pediatrics
- Pediatric evaluation and intervention
- Occupational therapy practice in schools
What Are the Prerequisites?
Common prerequisite courses for occupational therapy master's degree programs include human anatomy and physiology, statistics, abnormal psychology, social and behavioral sciences, natural sciences, mathematics and human development. A minimum grade point average of 2.5-2.75 is often required.
What About Licensure and Certification?
After you graduate from a program, you'll need to become licensed to work as an OT. Licensure is administered by each state and involves a national certification examination.
You can also earn board certification in pediatric occupational therapy from AOTA. Along with a degree and license, you'll need five years and 5,000 hours of experience as an occupational therapist, 500 of which must be in the area of pediatrics (www.aota.org). This certification is renewable every five years. AOTA also offers continuing education courses in pediatric occupational therapy, many of which are offered online.