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Occupational Therapy Degree
By an allied health world contributing writer
Published: January, 19 2010
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What type of degree is required to become an occupational therapist?As of January 2008, the entry-level minimum standard to practice as an occupational therapist is a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Prior to this date it was acceptable, although not preferred, to practice with a bachelor’s degree. Currently there are a good number of occupational therapists with doctoral degrees or PhDs. The PhD has more of a research focus whereas the Occupational Therapy Doctorate is a clinical doctorate, based more on clinical practice, applied research, program development, and leadership.
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What prerequisites are required for entry into an occupational therapy program?To apply for a master’s program in occupational therapy a person must earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in psychology or biology. They must also have taken courses in anatomy and physiology, biology, psychology, and anthropology to name a few. Students are also required to complete a volunteer internship with an occupational therapist in a practice setting. The hours required for internship experiences vary from one program to the next. Students must also have a high grade point average, observation log, and excellent letters of recommendation. Oftentimes occupational therapy degree programs involve an interview process as well.
Do a lot of occupational therapy programs have waiting lists?US News and World Report named Occupational Therapy one of the top thirty most sought after jobs in 2009. Because the demand is so high for occupational therapists, coupled with the economic downturn, there is a high volume of people wanting to pursue this field. This can create waiting lists at times to be admitted into these programs.
What kinds of courses are included in an occupational therapist program?Courses included in an occupational therapy program are: anatomy, physiology, psychology, kinesiology, and neurology to name a few.
Are internships or clinical hours required to graduate from an occupational therapy program?Upon completion of coursework, occupational therapy students must complete two three-month internships, which are considered level two fieldwork. A third internship is usually optional. The internships are typically unpaid, supervised by practicing licensed occupational therapists, and the student must meet particular standards in order to pass. Generally the internships occur in a variety of settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and school districts. The practice areas typically are in physical disabilities, mental health, geriatrics, and pediatrics. Once course work and the required level II fieldwork are completed, the student must take a certification exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Certification is required in order to apply for a license to practice.
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Do Occupational Therapists have to take a national board exam?Occupational therapists have to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam, which is very rigorous with multiple-choice questions, many of which are clinical based. Some of these exam questions provides a scenario involving a particular client and describe the clinical picture for that client. The individual taking the exam must evaluate how they would intervene for this fictional client.
The exam takes three to four hours to complete and the pass rate is around 80%. To be eligible to sit for the exam, an individual must have graduated from a master’s degree program, including completing the necessary internships, and have a background check completed as well. Upon passing the exam, the individual earns the title “registered occupational therapist” and can put the initials “OTR” behind their name.
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Do occupational therapists have to be licensed to practice?Occupational therapists must apply to become licensed upon passing their national board exam. Some states require OTs to pass another licensure exam, and other states just require an application is completed and the necessary fees are submitted.
What types of continuing education requirements are in place for occupational therapists?Occupational therapists must maintain 36 continuing education credits every three years to maintain their national certification. Each state also requires continuing education credits in order to maintain licensure, however, the CE credits to satisfy national registration and state licensure can overlap. There are a variety of ways to earn continuing education credits such as clinical courses, conferences, writing an article, speaking on an occupational therapy topic, conducting or publishing research.
Are there other specialty certifications that can be obtained in this field?There are a wide variety of practice areas in which occupational therapists may specialize, such as hand therapy, early intervention, neonatal intensive care, feeding and swallowing, driver rehabilitation, mental health, and assistive technology. Special training and independent certification processes are available in some of these areas. In addition, occupational therapists may pursue certifications in specific assessment and/or intervention approaches such as lymph edema, neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT), sensory integration (SI), floortime, and therapeutic listening.
There are also specialty certifications that can be obtained in different practice areas through the American Occupational Therapy Association such as driving and community mobility, environmental modification, feeding, and low vision. Board certification is also available in the follow areas: gerontology, mental health, pediatrics, and physical rehabilitation.
Occupational Therapy Schools
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- Glen Allen