Sometimes, life throws you a curveball. One minute you may be going about your everyday life, and in the next, you’re hit with injury, disability, or illness. People often find it difficult to get back on track with work and other responsibilities, but occupational therapists can help!
Occupational therapy practitioners earn the appreciation of those whose lives they make easier by teaching them how to keep their health at the top level and function normally. To take the first step and reach the point where you can be recognized as a professional, you need to put in the work and time to pursue this practice.
What are the prerequisites to practice occupational therapy? This article delves into a detailed explanation of the educational qualifications (hours and efforts) needed by professional occupational therapists.
Prerequisite for Occupational Therapy School
Occupational therapists need to go through different levels of formal education before they get recognized as full-fledged occupational therapy professionals. In the next section, we will discuss the courses applicants must go through and check out the minimum prerequisites to apply for each of these courses.
Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Degree Programs
Students can begin their occupational therapy journey with the occupational therapy assistant (OTA) associate degree program. In this program, students learn to act as part of the rehabilitation team by:
- collecting data needed for the client’s/patient’s initial evaluation
- carrying out treatment plans
- using technology to help people overcome disabilities
- designing activities to help people reach their goals
After completing the degree requirements, students gain the eligibility to sit for the National Certification Examination for Occupational Therapy Assistants.
An OTA assists a qualified occupational therapist with the planning and execution of treatment programs. As an OTA, you will be required to enter into active practice and work alongside occupational therapists, shadowing them and catering to their needs.
Applicants require a high school diploma, a recognized equivalency diploma (GED), or the necessary federal homeschooling to qualify. Apart from passing a high school examination, some institutions require you to finish additional classes to qualify for admission.
Ensure you check with the institution or university that you want to get into and gather all the information you need to enroll in their OTA programs.
Prerequisites for a Graduate Program in Occupational Therapy
If you’re wondering whether an undergraduate degree is required to become an OT – then yes, it is at most institutions but not NEIT. Graduates of an OTA program who are certified Occupational Therapy Assistants are eligible to apply for the MSOT bridge program at NEIT.
The next step for occupation therapy courses is a Graduate Degree in Occupation Therapy. You can either pursue a bachelor’s in OT or go straight up for a master’s! At New England Tech, certified assistant OTs can take up the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MOT) and move to the next level of responsibility as registered occupational therapists.
This a major step towards building a career as an OT. Most students take this step once they have spent a few years in the occupational therapy space and have an understanding and appreciation for it and the related fields.
After fulfilling the graduate degree requirements, you will qualify to sit for the National Certification Examination for Occupational Therapists. Once you pass this exam, you can practice as a registered OT – allowing you to lead projects rather than simply assisting them.
Here’s a look at the list of things you need to pursue this graduate program –
- Associate’s degree, Bachelor’s degree, or fulfillment of an undergraduate program that directly relates to occupational therapy programs. This includes the likes of Biology, Exercise Science, Health Science, and Sociology. Not all colleges will demand an undergraduate certification in a similar field.
However, students who enroll for occupational therapy degrees often incline towards a field similar to their undergraduate education.
- A minimum GPA is another common OT school essential. This changes from one school/ graduate program to another. Most comprehensive master’s university programs will need a 3.0 GPA or higher to qualify.
- Depending on the school and the programs, students may be required to have a minimum GRE score for this education level. Typically, a GRE of 290 or above is expected from applicants holding a graduate certification.
- Apart from the GPA and GRE required, schools also have a minimum time-period of hands-on clinical experience in order to qualify for the master’s degree program. You may be needed to submit an official record of this time with the minimum prerequisite hours duly finished.
Typically, 40 hours to 100 hours are expected from students who apply to a school or university for a graduate certification.
- The schooling prerequisites for a master’s program include some minimum class materials as well. This includes subjects like Biology, Chemistry, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Statistics, Sociology, and others.
Biology, Chemistry, and human anatomy courses are to be finished with their respective Lab Credit requirement.
Different programs may have different occupational therapy education requirements that potential students must fulfill. So, the time and work you put into your university research will help you get the right information about different OT schools’ prerequisites.
Post-Professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (PP-OTD) prerequisites
The PP-OTD/ doctorate program prepares occupational therapists for leadership roles in developing and evaluating healthcare needs related to occupational performance and societal participation.
Working practitioners who have previously earned their master’s degree in occupational therapy and achieved certification status to practice as an occupational therapist by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) can pursue this program.
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Once you complete this program you will:
- gain knowledge in assessing program development.
- be able to meet the needs and wants of your clients through contemporary tactics.
- receive extensive support in developing and defining your inquiry mode – advanced knowledge of post-graduate research, quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
- gain the ability to apply a range of research tools to plan and organize your research.
Diving Deep Into The Occupational Therapy Profession
Who is an Occupational Therapist (OT)?
An occupational therapy practitioner (OT) helps people of all ages who have physical, sensory, or cognitive problems regain independence in all areas of life. This career path allows you to help people with their emotional, social, and physical needs through everyday activities, exercises, and other therapies.
For instance, OTs help children play, improve their school performance, and execute their daily activities. If you are interested in this career path – that’s awesome as it adds great credit to who you are right from the start!
The attitude needed to succeed in this space comes from a place of empathy, a willingness to help, and a drive to see people work past their issues through the power of occupational therapy!
As an occupational therapist, you will interact with people of all ages – kids, teenagers, adults, and the elderly alike- and help them live their lives to the fullest. OTs are considered to have a noble vocation that is financially rewarding too!
As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median pay for occupational therapists was $84,950 per year, which works out to $40.84 per hour. This is significantly above the national median for all jobs.
What does an OT do?
Before we talk about what an occupational therapy professional is, it is important to understand the full scope of OT. It can be described as a type of rehabilitation that assists people struggling with health-related setbacks to get back to doing their meaningful daily activities.
OTs are also called allied health professionals. The programs they finish allows them to work alongside physicians, nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists, and many other health practitioners. They work together to ensure that their collaborated work results in the holistic care of patients suffering from the ill effects of debilitating illnesses or injuries.
OTs use their unique training and observation to suggest evidence-based interventions to help patients participate in the activities they used to do with ease. This means that OTs’ care is extremely holistic and is very particular to each individual patient.
Why is becoming an occupational therapist a great career choice?
- Career Advancement: OTs can easily switch to clinic owners or opt to specialize and continue working. There are also many different non-clinical OT careers that you can switch to. And since there is a steadily growing market saturation in many cities, there are higher possibilities of making a good living.
- Flexibility: OTs have a decent amount of flexibility in their work-life and timings. Many jobs require people to work full-time, but as an OT, you can be a part-time worker when you feel the need to take some hours off.
- Allows you to help others and make a difference: OTs help people live a fulfilling life. They help people be independent after traumatic injuries, spinal cord injury, strokes, and much more. In a way, through your career, you make a positive and meaningful difference in people’s lives.
- Builds Your Abilities: As mentioned above, as an OT, you work with people of all ages in various settings like educational institutions, hospitals, private clinics, etc. This challenges your imagination and creativity to develop solutions that’ll help your clients lead an independent life! Through your observation, you help patients solve their issues of executing everyday tasks!
What courses should be preferably taken before applying?
If you’ve decided to choose OT as your career path, these are the courses you will need to take up with your undergraduate/graduate degree:
- Medical Terminology
- English composition and writing
This section will discuss the certifications, prerequisite coursework, documentation, and other information that are needed before applying to become an occupational therapist.
Whether you get admitted or not is dependent on the satisfactory completion of every requirement that the school demands. To learn more about the admissions process, visit the given link, and find out everything you need before enrolling.
Applications with prerequisite coursework and degree achievement still in progress during the application process will be considered as long as:
- the student presents and adheres to a timely plan for fulfillment
- the number of prerequisites to be finished is no more than two to three courses
- three-quarters of the experiential and observational hours are fulfilled
The admissions department should receive official transcripts verifying all remaining prior-documents and graduation requirements.
Every state has made a license compulsory for OTs to work. Many of the licensing specifications differ by state, but candidates need to pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
To appear for the NBCOT examination, candidates need to have a certification from an accredited educational program and finish all fieldwork duties.
If you are interested in becoming an occupational therapist, you should check the available programs and their prerequisites.
There are many different programs – from associates to doctorate – for aspiring occupational therapists to pursue. Go for a program that prepares you to:
- assist people of all ages, with varying abilities and disabilities
- become independent in their day-to-day activities
- learn how to carry out treatment plans as a member of the rehabilitation team
- use classroom training in real-life situations through fieldwork
- become eligible to sit for the national certification test.
Make sure you select the program that best suits your abilities! Drop a comment if you have any queries. All the best!
At the New England Institute of Technology, we offer the following programs:
To learn more about the courses offered by NEIT click here:
START YOUR OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY CAREER
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What is an occupational therapy degree?
If you are considering a career in Occupational therapy, you must be truly and completely familiar with the responsibilities of an OT. And an occupational therapist degree will help you with just that! It prepares you to assist people of all ages, with varying abilities and disabilities, to become independent in their day-to-day activities.
How much schooling is needed to be an occupational therapist?
Applicants require a high school diploma, a recognized equivalency diploma (GED), or the necessary federal homeschooling in order to qualify. Apart from passing a high school exam, some schools require you to complete additional courses to qualify for admission. Then, you need to get your MOT and pass the NBCOT examination to become a certified OT.
How many years of college to be an occupational therapist?
It can take anywhere between 5-6 years to become an OT. In case you’re looking for a quicker way, get your OTA (occupational therapy assistant degree) in as little as 18 months, and sit for the National Certification Examination for Occupational Therapy Assistants.
After that, you can pursue New England Tech’s MSOT program directly – which spans up to 2 and ½ years and appear for the National Certification Examination for Occupational Therapists. After clearing this exam, you officially get certified as an OT and can start your practice!
How to get into OT school?
Applicants need to submit official transcripts verifying all the completed prerequisite courses and graduation certificates to the admissions department.