How to Become An Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists assist individuals with physical or mental disabilities and limitations to improve the quality of their life. Occupational therapists teach clients, with mental, physical, developmental, or emotional limitations or disabilities, necessary skills to perform tasks in living and/or working environments Occupational therapists work with clients who have been injured in accidents, have physical limitations or disabilities, or are mentally disabled. Occupational therapists assist in helping clients learn skills they need to perform domestic and recreational tasks. Occupational therapists also assist in developing, recovering, or maintaining the daily living and work skills of their clients to improve basic motor function, reasoning abilities, or compensate for permanent loss of function. Occupational therapists are healthcare professionals focused on instilling the skills needed for patients to live self sufficiently to lead independent, productive, or satisfying lives.

Preparation for a career as an occupational therapist begins before educational training. Occupational therapists must possess specific personality traits to find professional success and effectively manage an often stressful career. Occupational therapists must be compassionate, supportive, understanding, and insightful. Individuals with career aspirations of becoming occupational therapists must also possess strong interpersonal and communication skills as they must be able to inspire respect and build trust with their clients. Occupational therapists must also have a strong imagination to assist or adapt activities based upon clients’ needs in a variety of settings.

To become an occupational therapist you typically need to possess a bachelor’s degree plus work experience or a master’s degree to qualify for employment within a mental, residential, or clinical setting as well as certification or licensure. Educational training and preparation for a career as an occupational therapist can begin as early as high school. Courses like biology, art, social sciences, chemistry, health, and psychology provide a solid basis to built a future education and eventual career upon. In addition, volunteering as a therapy assistant or nurse’s aide within a variety of organizations or health care facilities may give students an added opportunity toward acceptance into a higher degree field.

An associates degree in pre-occupational therapy prepares a student for a career as an assistant to an occupational therapist. An associates degree pre-occupational therapy program also allows students to advance to higher degree. First year courses in biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, liberal arts, and anatomy allow students to advance to more career specific training programs. Students then may go on to courses in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, abnormal psychology, gerontology, urban studies, human sexuality, marriage and family counseling, and other courses to train for future career and educational pursuits and prepare for the certification process. Graduates must then complete a national certifying exam offered through the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education of the American Occupational Therapy Association depending upon state and facility requirements. Additional licensing is often required from a state’s Department of Health Board of Occupational Therapy Practice. Most facilities and states require a continuing education aspect for license renewal every two years. Once certified, a graduate from an associates degree program may work as an occupational therapy assistant under the supervision of a registered occupational therapist or pursue a higher degree.

Most colleges and universities no longer offer bachelor degree programs in occupational therapy. The American Occupational Therapy Association changed qualification requirements to a master degree level in 1999. A bachelor degree program in occupational therapy allows individuals the opportunity to expand educational training. Bachelor level prerequisites allowing for advancement into a master degree program include: anatomy and physiology, neurology, physics, occupational performance, occupational therapy theories, assistive technology, sociology, gerontology, child development, human behavior, abnormal psychology, computer science, and communications. Most bachelor degree programs in an occupational therapy related major such as sociology or psychology to prepare students for to advance to a master degree program.

A master degree program in occupational therapy allows individuals educational training to further knowledge and secure professional goals. A master degree program in occupational therapy combines rigorous classes and supervised clinical experience to expand education and career training. Most graduate degree programs in occupational therapy consist of specialized courses designed to instill and carry out learned theories. An occupational therapy master degree program involves courses like: adaptive learning skills, cognitive rehabilitation, technology in occupational therapy intervention, occupational therapy theory, preventative health care and patient education, human behavior, geriatric occupational therapy, human behavior and development, abnormal psychology, supervision in occupational therapy, human anatomy and physiology, and applied pediatric neuroscience. Graduate students also take part in a required minimum of a 24 week long internship centered upon developmental field work, physical disabilities and psychiatric fieldwork, and occupational therapy seminar. Students who successfully complete all aspects of a master degree program in occupational therapy are then allowed to complete a national certifying exam offered through the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education of the American Occupational Therapy Association depending upon state and facility requirements. Additional licensing is often required from a state’s Department of Health Board of Occupational Therapy Practice. Most facilities and states require a continuing education aspect for license renewal every two years. Candidates who successfully complete educational and licensing requirements may gain entry into employment as occupational therapists or go on to doctoral degree programs.

Doctoral degree programs in occupational therapy allow candidates to be experts in their field. Most doctoral degree programs in occupational therapy allow individuals the opportunity to expand, develop, and research innovative programs and services in the field of occupational therapy. A doctoral degree program consists of highly intensive courses like: foundation in occupational science, seminar in occupational science, occupation and human activity, occupational research and theory, and grant writing. Tremendous amounts of research, completion of a publishable dissertation, and certification. A national certifying exam offered through the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education of the American Occupational Therapy Association depending upon state and facility requirements. Additional licensing is often required from a state’s Department of Health Board of Occupational Therapy Practice. Most facilities and states require a continuing education aspect for license renewal every two years. A doctoral degree enables an individual to establish or expand private occupational therapy practices or become consultants for businesses, educational, or health care systems. A doctoral degree enables an individual to establish or expand private occupational therapy practices or become consultants for businesses, educational, or health care systems.

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