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How to Become an Occupational Therapist

Nov 06th, 2018 | by Ellen Seder
Ellen Seder

Ellen Seder

November 06th, 2018

Interested in learning how to become an occupational therapist? Wondering how long it takes to become an occupational therapist? We have mapped it out for you below!

What Does an Occupational Therapist (OT) Do For A Child?

Occupational therapists specialize in helping children achieve greater independence in their everyday activities – often times, this is done by improving children’s fine motor skills so that they can learn to perform actions independently. These skills involve the use of the smaller muscle of the hands and are necessary for children to execute their everyday self-care and academic tasks. Self-care tasks can include such things as brushing teeth, getting dressed, opening lunchboxes, and eating. Academic tasks can be made up of using scissors, drawing, typing, and writing. 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.

Skills Needed 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.

Educational & Training Requirements

Both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree are required to become an occupational therapist. How long it takes to become an occupational therapist will be dependent upon a specific school’s program, but completion of both degree programs 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. 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.

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

We take an individualized approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with specific needs. In addition to hosting intensive therapy sessions worldwide, NAPA also provides traditional PT, OT, and SLP services from our Los Angeles, Boston, and Sydney based clinics.

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