How to Become an Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist helps their patients to recover from temporary disabilities, depression, stress-related problems, traumatic injuries, eating disorders, etc. and also permanent disorders like spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. The therapists are trained to perform all the activities for the clients, from working on a computer to catering the basic needs of cooking, dressing, eating, etc. Their work may differ with the type of disability of the client they deal with. If you want to enter this field, you must be physically strong, and emotionally and mentally stable. Want to know the procedure to become an occupational therapist? Go through this article.

Stepwise Procedure to Become an Occupational Therapist

Step 1 – Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

Besides undergraduate level, aspirants are supposed to complete additional training and education programs to become an OT. You first need to pursue a four-year bachelor degree program approved by an authenticated university.

As per the AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association), courses in kinesiology, biology, psychology, anatomy, physiology, therapeutic media, biomechanics anthropology, and sociology can prepare you for the study at a graduate level. Aspirants can also look for schools that conduct an accelerated program or a dual degree course. These programs are of 5 years and at the completion of the course, you obtain a bachelor alongwith a master’s degree.


Step 2 – Earn a Master’s Degree

Master’s degree in occupational therapy is a two-year course that comprises of topics like functional anatomy, medical and social conditions, assistive technology, patient care concepts, and research methods. Classroom work combined with the fieldwork is essential to complete this degree. Fieldwork can be done in various practice settings like rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, school systems, private clinics, acute hospital settings, nursing homes, etc.

Step 3 – Pass the NBCOT Exam

In the United States, the certifying body for all the occupational therapists is NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy). For national certification (required for state licensing), it is essential for the candidates to pass the NBCOT exam. This exam is available in two forms – in a hard copy version and online exam, with the paper version (costing $540) and the digital version (costing $500). A student can re-attempt the Occupational Therapist Registered exam after a gap of 45 days if s/he fails.

Step 4 – Apply for a State License

Occupational therapists must possess a licensure in their respective state. For this, they need to clear the jurisprudence examination which is conducted to judge their knowledge of the regulations and laws in that state. You can take this exam online.

The prerequisites to get certified in your state are as follows:

  • Submit the requisite fee along with a completed and duly signed application.
  • Request the NBCOT to send Verification of Certification or score report as a proof that you have cleared the OTR examination.
  • To establish that you have completed the requisite education, submit official transcripts.
  • If you have worked as an occupational therapist in other state and currently, have shifted to a new state, you are supposed to provide Verification of Licensure.

Step 5 – License Renewal

In order to keep your OT license active, it is essential to renew it after a certain period of time (as stipulated by your state). You will have to pay the renewal fee for the same. Some states require the OTs to undergo continuing education of 36 hours for the license renewal.

Skills Required to Become an Occupational Therapist

Candidates who aspire to become an occupational therapist must have the following skills and abilities :-

  • Communication and observational skills
  • Creative and practical skills
  • Evaluation and report writing skills
  • Ability to work as a team
  • Ability to encourage and motivate others
  • Passion, sensitivity, and patience
  • Administering and planning skills
  • Basic computer knowledge
  • Decision-making, judgement, and problem-solving abilities
  • Capability to think out of the ordinary
  • Proficiency to work under pressure
  • Critical thinking