How To Become An Occupational Therapist

October 6, 2020

Are you on the lookout for a noble profession? Are you passionate about science, want to help people become healthier versions of themselves, and improve their life? Do you thrive while working with people and want a job with steady pay and immense growth potential? Does a therapist’s occupation interest you?

If you answered yes to all these questions, then you should consider becoming an occupational therapist! Continue reading – this article provides you with all the information you need to begin your journey.

We will cover answers to the following questions in detail:

  • What is occupational therapy?
  • What is an occupational therapist?
  • How to become an occupational therapist?
  • Do you have what it takes to start a career in occupational therapy?
  • Which university provides exceptional occupational therapy courses?

What is Occupational Therapy?

occupational therapy

Occupational therapy can be defined as a type of rehabilitation that assists people struggling with health issues to get back to their meaningful daily activities and lives.

Contrary to quick-fix procedures like pharmaceuticals and surgical interventions that don’t always work, occupational therapies focus on long-term health and well-being. It takes a holistic approach to help patients overcome their clinical condition and change their lifestyle so they can get back to their injury-free life.

“Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations).”

-American Occupational Therapy Association


Earn your degree in ot from NEIT and begin your new career path today!




What Does the Occupational Therapist do?

Occupational therapists can be considered as allied health professionals. They work together with physicians, nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists, respiratory therapists, and many other health practitioners to provide holistic care for their patients.

The job of an occupational therapist differs from other rehabilitation professionals. They use evidence-based treatments to improve both the mental and physical health of the patient. Upon employment, occupational therapists use a true mind-body approach to help patients get back on their feet.

There are many reasons to become an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists enjoy employment security, fulfillment, plenty of employment opportunities, and flexibility.

According to the employment information provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median occupational therapist salary is approximately $84,950 annually, which is well above the national median annual income.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics also says that the job opportunities for occupational therapists are expected to go up by 16% by 2029 compared to 2018. Even the average salary of OTs who have just graduated and don’t have much work experience (five or fewer years of work experience) is a decent $64,000.

5 Basic Steps to Becoming an Occupational Therapist

Step 1: Earn A Bachelor’s Degree

Before applying to occupational therapy schools, it is vital to attain the required education by earning your high school degree and completing an undergrad course with the required prerequisite coursework.

An occupational therapy assistant associate’s degree is a practical starting point for your occupational therapist career journey, these two-year programs prepare you to attempt the Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA) exam.

This is a national exam conducted by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. These programs help you gain knowledge and skills in subjects like:

  • biology
  • anatomy and physiology
  • mental and physical health theory and practice;
  • pediatrics and geriatrics.

Try picking a major related to occupational therapy while you are in school, this will help you in the long run when you’re trying to find employment.

While you are working your way through your bachelor’s degree at school to complete the occupational therapy prerequisites, you should also try to finish your volunteer/observation hours for occupational therapy school.

Depending on the type of program and schools you want to get into, the requirements would differ, but try to find work in at least a few different settings.

Try searching for employment and exploring different types of patient populations by working at a pediatric OT clinic, school-based OT clinic, skilled nursing facility (SNF), hospitals, and an inpatient rehab facility.

earn occupational therapy

Step 2: Take the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) Exam

After you’ve finished your bachelor’s degree program, you can enter the occupational therapy assistant field by passing the COTA exam. This examination is computer-based and comprises of 200 MCQs.

By clearing this exam, you will earn an official NBCOT certificate and wallet card approximately 4-6 weeks after you’ve taken the exam.

Step 3: Advance Your Education

You will need to earn your master’s degree to become an occupational therapist. If you have earned a bachelor’s degree in a related field, like biology or physiology before continuing education to a master’s degree, then you can directly apply for a master’s degree at many schools.

Otherwise, you can still pursue occupational therapy by applying for a combined bachelor’s/master’s program. In these combined degree programs, you will need to take undergraduate and graduate-level courses in occupational therapy. Upon completion, you graduate with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.

Schools offer master’s degrees and doctorate programs that provide both theory and practice to ensure graduates attain comprehensive knowledge of occupational therapy. Fieldwork is required and must be completed under the supervision of an occupational therapist to earn your master’s degree.

Continuing education is always one of the better options for occupational therapists since it opens up various avenues for advancement in your career.

Step 4: Pass the NBCOT

The next step on your journey once you have earned your occupational therapy degree would be to write the NBCOT. It is the national board exam for occupational therapy.

Step 5: Obtain Licensure

Once you’ve become an occupational therapist, you are required to apply for licensure in the states you plan to practice in. Almost all states need occupational therapists to take educational courses throughout their practice to keep their licensure active.

Although licensure requirements differ with each state, they generally require an NBCOT score, academic transcripts, and a background check.

Licensing fees also vary and an average cost of around $50 to $240 although there may be additional fees for fingerprinting and temporary licenses processes.

Do you have what it takes to pursue a career in occupational therapy?

Now that we have answered the question of how to become an occupational therapist, let’s find out if you have what it takes to become one. Before you decide to become an occupational therapist, it is important to know the nuances of opting for a career in occupational therapy. Before you make up your mind, ask yourself

  • Do I have a strong desire to help people and provide care?
  • Am I looking for a flexible career with good growth?
  • Do I see myself advancing in the medical field?
  • Am I ready for a physically demanding job?
  • Am I ready for long hours of work?
  • Will I be able to make the sacrifices I need to make to get the education I require?

What are the desirable qualities of an occupational therapist?

The demands of a therapist’s work may seem difficult sometimes, but individuals with the right temperament and the ability to handle various problems that are thrown in their direction can make this job look less tedious. The following are the qualities that aspiring occupational therapists need to work on:

  • Excellent communication skills: Occupational therapists need to constantly communicate with patients, doctors, other specialists, and caregivers. They are required to listen to their patients’ input since it will be helpful while creating treatment plans. The mentality of each patient is different and occupational therapists are required to be communicators, because they may have to explain complex therapeutic ideas to their patients in a way they can understand.
  • Creativity and persistence: Therapists need to realize that the road to recovery will vary from one patient to another. Sometimes it may take a long time to find the most helpful treatment.

    Learning on the job and coming up with activities on the spot related to a patient’s personality, physical settings, and the equipment available are important skills occupational therapists require.
  • A lot of patience: Patients with different physical limitations may end up as your patients. Occupational therapist’s work requires them to be pleasant and empathetic with patients who are testy and earn their trust.

    Your positive attitude and outlook will help your new and old patients stay motivated and work toward their goals daily. Remember, there is no one-fits-all solution and you will have to spend time with your patients to find activities/programs that will help them.
  • Above-average organizational skills: Occupational therapists will have to work with many people and nobody wants to become an occupational therapist for the paperwork, but it’s unavoidable.

    You’ll need to complete the documentation related to each patient, and you may be required to keep track of things like insurance and referrals. As you gain experience and complete the learning curve, the time you spend on paperwork and its related tasks will decrease significantly.

What skills do occupational therapists need?

Apart from the desirable qualities mentioned above, occupational therapists require a particular skill set to get ahead in this field. Many of these skills are acquired during the education program at school but some are only perfected with a lot of experience at hospitals.

The schooling for occupational therapist and to earn an occupational therapist degree involve a lot of science.

A large part of passing your master’s degree program and becoming an OT requires you to be able to stay interested in science.

OTs need to follow a high level of safety standards. One of the biggest issues that fieldwork coordinators working with students face is students’ lack of safety awareness. Much of an OT’s job surrounds keeping patients and family members safe at their homes.

OTs need to make sure family members learn how to safely assist with bathing and toileting and demonstrate safe use of medical equipment. Students need to learn new and old safety procedures and be able to teach the patients family members how to put them into practice at their homes.

skills that Occupational Therapy

Aspiring OTs have a lot to look forward to, careers in OT may be difficult to kick start but once you have the education certification (Master’s/Doctorate) and job experience required, finding well-paying employment will not be a difficulty. Pursuing your education at a reputed, top-level college will give your certification more value, and careers in OT will be easy to come by.

There are a plethora of schools that offer courses in OT, finding the right occupational therapist school for you is a crucial part of your journey since the degree certification you earn plays an important role in your employment.

You can attain your associate as well as your master’s degree from New England Tech. It is a college that provides the most comprehensive Occupational Therapy Assistant associate program accredited by the (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).


Earn your degree in ot from NEIT and begin your new career path today!




To learn more about the OT courses offered by NEIT and for more information, drop your queries in the given link and we will respond via email.

Other FAQs

How many years of college does it take to be an OT?

The therapist occupation needs students to earn their master’s degree before they can begin practicing. Master’s/Doctorate degree programs for occupational therapists vary in length depending on schools, but most take about two to three years to complete.

What to study to become an occupational therapist?

Depending on the university, the prerequisite courses will be different. In general, students need to have a graduate from a master’s program in OT before they are considered as OTs.

What is the best major for occupational therapy?

Each university has its own set of prerequisite courses you need to complete to qualify for their program. Majors starting with psychology or science are the best ones to pick for aspiring OTs. That being said, there are many options, and people should pursue whatever undergrad major interests them in school. Find more information about the prerequisite courses by visiting the website of your target schools or by sending them an email.

Is it hard to become an occupational therapist?

OT is one of the more difficult careers to kick start, the high level of education certification (Master’s/Doctorate) required to earn a decent living makes this field slightly more difficult to find employment. Nevertheless, post-employment the potential for job satisfaction is near infinite. The current demand for individuals with the right education certification in this field is high and qualified individuals can earn a decent living post-employment.

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