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How to Become an Occupational Therapist

Nov 06th, 2022 | by NAPA Team

NAPA Team

November 06th, 2022

Interested in learning how to become a pediatric occupational therapist? We have mapped out the path for you below!

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do for a Child?

First, let’s cover what an occupational therapist does, or more specifically, what an occupational therapist does for a child. Pediatric occupational therapists specialize in helping children achieve greater independence in their everyday activities, including but not limited to:

  • Helping children develop fine motor skills
    • Oftentimes, an occupational therapist will help develop children’s fine motor skills so that they can learn to perform actions independently. These skills involve the use of the smaller muscles of the hands and are necessary for children to execute their everyday self-care and academic tasks.
  • Helping children with self-care tasks
    • Self-care tasks can include such things as brushing teeth, getting dressed, opening lunch boxes, and eating.
  • Helping children with academic tasks
    • Academic tasks can be made up of using scissors, drawing, typing, and writing.
  • Helping children with physical or behavioral disabilities
    • A child may need occupational therapy due to physical or behavioral disabilities and treatment involves functional activities geared toward improving visual, cognitive, and coordination skills. Occupational therapy is not to be confused with physical therapy.

For more insights on what a pediatric occupational therapist does, read A Day in the Life of an OT

How to Become an Occupational Therapist

As healthcare professionals, occupational therapists are required to demonstrate high levels of compassion, patience, and empathy. Assisting a patient in performing skills they are otherwise unable to do requires patience, understanding, and an ability to coach the child to persist when faced with challenges. Direct patient interaction requires excellent communication skills, and detailed medical documentation requires impeccable written skills.

How Long Does It Take To Become an Occupational Therapist?

OT Educational & Training Requirements

Both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree are required to become an occupational therapist. How long this takes is dependent upon various factors, such as a specific school’s program, but completion of both degree programs typically takes between 5-7 years.

Occupational therapists may have undergraduate majors in a variety of areas such as kinesiology, psychology, anthropology, biology, and sociology; however, specific program prerequisites must be completed to apply to graduate programs in occupational therapy. Typically, prerequisites may include kinesiology, anatomy, and physiology, but may vary by the university program.

Following completion of a Bachelor’s program, an aspiring occupational therapist will apply to obtain their Master’s degree in occupational therapy. Occupational therapy coursework is diverse and includes anatomy, patient care, assistive technology, and exposure to a wide array of social and medical conditions.

Occupational Therapy Fieldwork

As part of your occupational therapy degree program, a student is required to complete approximately 24 weeks of fieldwork. This hands-on learning is done in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. Fieldwork is an integral part of occupational therapy education, ensuring that the aspiring therapist has completed the necessary training for their future career. NAPA Center welcomes students from accredited occupational, physical and speech therapy university programs.

Getting Licensed

Following completion of a Master’s program, the final step to becoming an occupational therapist is obtaining a license to practice. One can become licensed upon successful completion of an accredited occupational therapy program, sufficient fieldwork experience, and a passing score on the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. Thereafter, the aspiring occupational therapist will receive the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) credential, and will officially be a licensed therapist.

About NAPA Center

NAPA Center is dedicated to delivering innovative therapy services to children with a variety of neurological and developmental needs. We strive to provide children and families with hope by offering services in a playful environment that enables clients to maximize their full developmental potential. Our vision is to promote and sustain inventive practice through education and interdisciplinary teamwork. We are committed to providing our therapists with exceptional learning experiences and remain connected with the academic community and current practice by acting as a teaching clinic.

TAGS: Blogs, OT
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