Occupational therapy is a widely growing field, as the demands for a healthcare provider is increasing every day. The jobs for occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapists are expected to increase by 40% and 27%, respectively between 2014 and 2024, as stated by BLS (1, 2).
The beginners can start with the assistant program, which is the starting point of the profession. They need to do an associate program. After that, they can further go for masters and doctorate degree and other professional courses of occupational therapy for specialization. If you are planning to be an OT or OTA, then you must have the basic knowledge about the field.
What is the prerequisite coursework, eligibility, occupational therapy course requirements, etc. are the important questions whose answers aspirants must know before enrolling themselves in any school. These all are different for every degree or program. So, let’s have a look at them.
Different OT Courses
1. Associate Program
This program is the entry level program for becoming occupational therapy assistant.
The candidate must be a graduate from high school, completed GED/HSED or equivalent. There is no other such requirement, but the students who have completed biology courses or have attended healthcare faculty are given preference.
The duration of the course is 2 years.
During the first year of the course, the students will learn about medical terminology, physical rehabilitation, pediatrics, intervention techniques, kinesiology, human occupation, anatomy, etc.
During the second year, the students mostly work with the real patients in a healthcare environment under supervision.
After completing the course, the students will be eligible for Associate’s degree. The degree will be awarded after successfully passing the examination.
Occupational Therapy Continuing Education Courses
Once you obtain the degree, you can continue the education in other degree programs at the higher level like baccalaureate, masters, masters of science, etc., while working as an assistant.
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2. Baccalaureate Program
You must have a high school diploma or GED.
The length of undergraduate or baccalaureate program is 4 years.
During the course, you will have to attend both the practical and theoretical sessions. In this, you will study about the environment, human biology, health, physical rehabilitation, neuropsychiatry, etc.
During the first year of the course, the students have to attend both classroom and labs. The second year is more about the application of theoretical knowledge. The students have to apply the gained knowledge to practical problems of the therapy.
In the third year, the students learn the techniques used for the therapy in different healthcare settings.
During the 4th year, more clinical sessions are there, and they examine professional issues along with studying statistics and research technique.
3. Entry-level Master’s Degree Program
- For an entry-level master’s degree program, the student must have completed at least bachelor’s degree program. Some of the colleges also accept the students whose bachelor’s degree is still in progress.
- In order to be eligible for this degree program, there are some pre-requisite courses that a student must complete for admission.The coursework can be completed from any school, and it includes sociology, anatomy, human physiology, statistics, psychology, medical terminology, social and behavioral science, life and physical science, etc.
For each of the mentioned subject, the students are awarded some credits, and it is important to have good numbers of credit as these are required for admission.
The course lasts for 2 to 3 years.
- Pre-OT Coursework, which may be required by some of the institutes must be completed from the same before starting the MOT course. It includes applied human development, musculoskeletal anatomy with lab, pathophysiology, nervous system with lab, etc.
- The main coursework is divided into two parts, theoretical and clinical. In the theoretical sessions, classes of assistive technology, patient care concepts, functional anatomy, research methods, medical and social conditions are held. While In the clinical or fieldwork part, which lasts for approximately 24 weeks, the students have to participate in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, private practices, nursing homes, etc. for gaining experience.
The students will be awarded master’s degree after the successful completion of the program.
4. Dual Degree Program
The combined bachelor’s/master’s degree program is not provided by all institutes, and some schools have discontinued these. So, please cross-check with the institute if you are interested in pursuing the course.
A student can enter as a college freshman.
Pre-requisite coursework includes subjects like anatomy and physiology, neuroanatomy, medical terminology, statistics, human growth, and development, etc.
The course lasts from 3 to 5 years.
The theoretical or the classroom sessions include subjects of both the level of graduation like assistive technology, patient care concepts, environment, biology, etc. On the other hand, the fieldwork session is at least 6 months and the students must complete them in order to be eligible to sit for the examination. They are approved by the faculty.
In dual degree program, both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are obtained.
Note: The prerequisite courses requirement, as mentioned above, for different courses are just the common and general demands and may not be same for all the schools and institutes. They may vary from organization to organization and therefore, you should visit the particular school for the accurate information.
Occupational Therapy Online Courses
If you are in a job or want to complete your degree online, then there are many institutes that provide these lectures. The coursework, degree, and the duration remain the same as in the offline mode. In some schools, you may have to take practical sessions on the premises, but the theoretical part can be completed sitting at home or anywhere and anytime. You can check the list of the schools on the Internet to know the available certified courses.
Cost & Scholarship
The cost of the program depends on the program that you want to pursue. The fee varies with the institutes, and the schools may charge for labs, uniforms, etc. For the exact fee structure, you should contact the school you are enrolling in.
To make occupational therapy course more affordable, there are many scholarship programs that are available. These programs can be of immense help for the students who hail from a financially weak background. Some of the important scholarships are as follows.
1. K.M Wise Scholarship
This support offered by AOTA is in the form of money (for the year 2016, three award of $2,500) which is granted to females who are pursuing an entry-level degree program at the post-baccalaureate level. The scholarship is named after E.K. wise and is to meet the diverse need of providing healthcare services in under-developed areas. There are a few requirements like:
- The female must be enrolled on a full-time basis.
- She must be a member of AOTA and either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.
- Must have the ability to serve the diverse workforce, have leadership qualities, and must have a record of outstanding academic achievement.
2. AOTF Scholarship program
The combined scholarship program of The American Occupation Therapy Foundation and state occupation therapy association has over 50 scholarships that are for both male and female candidates. If the students fulfill the eligibility criteria, they have to fill a single form (online) for the reward.
Apart from the above two programs, numerous other scholarships are provided by schools, non-profit organizations, etc. for both general and minority students You can check the website of AOTA, or you can visit the institute for accurate details.
There are more options or fields in which you can further practice occupational therapy and enhance your knowledge base, these are:
- Doctor of Occupational Therapy(OTD)
- Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy (MS)