What Degree Do I Need to Be an Occupational Therapist?

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What Degree Do I Need to Be an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists are physicians who specialize in occupational therapy and occupational science. Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants employ scientific evidence and a comprehensive approach to improve a person’s capacity to perform daily tasks and activities.

Occupational therapists are important resources for people who are recuperating from an injury, accident, or sickness. To understand the techniques and abilities required for the function of an occupational therapist, special education and credentialing are required. Learning how to become an occupational therapist might assist you in determining whether this is the best career option for you. In this post, we’ll go over the role’s responsibilities and how to become an occupational therapist.

Now, let’s understand

What Are the Duties of Occupational Therapists?

Occupational therapists assist patients with injuries, disabilities, or illnesses in performing an organized set of physical exercises. An occupational therapist’s purpose is to assist patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle and, as a result, improving their livelihood. OTs can assist patients in fully recovering from an injury or sickness, as well as in adjusting their movements to accommodate a healthier lifestyle. To support patients throughout their workouts, this occupation necessitates a certain level of physical power.

  • An OT’s responsibilities could include the following:
  • Consult with patients about their symptoms and challenges.
  • Examine medical records to obtain a full description of the problems that patients are experiencing.
  • Conduct therapy sessions with patients in a clinic, hospital, or at their homes.
  • Make treatment plans for patients to follow at their leisure.
  • Evaluate progress and make necessary changes to plans.
  • Take notes and communicate with other medical specialists.
  • Now that you have seen their duties, we’ll move to the main topic of this article i.e.

What Is the Process of Becoming an Occupational Therapist?

To become an occupational therapist, you must first obtain a high degree of education and then gain field experience. There are various ways to obtain the necessary education and licensure to begin working in the sector, but if you want to finish your study in six to eight years, there is a recommended path for you to take:

Get a Bachelor’s Degree

To become an occupational therapist, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in a related subject. It is advised that you get a degree in biology, kinesiology, health sciences, or physiology. These four areas of study can help you learn more about anatomy and how the body works. You can obtain additional experience outside of the classroom while completing your bachelor’s degree.

While completing your bachelor’s degree program, you can gain field experience by interning with private offices and watching an occupational therapist’s daily job responsibilities. If possible, you can work or volunteer at an occupational therapy clinic or a hospital’s OT unit. Your work experience may be useful in proving your enthusiasm for the industry when applying for a master’s degree program. It can also assist you in gaining hands-on experience with skilled experts.

Acquire a Master’s Degree

You can apply for master’s degrees in occupational therapy after completing your bachelor’s degree. Master’s degrees in occupational therapy might take two to three years. Find an American Occupational Therapy Association-approved program to ensure you can become a licensed occupational therapist once you finish. These programs expand on your fundamental knowledge of industry terminology and subjects such as anatomy and physiology while applying it to occupational therapy practice.

While earning your master’s degree, you’ll get clinical experience by visiting various medical facilities and observing licenced occupational therapists. You begin to undertake fundamental OT processes under the supervision of an experienced professional in the final semesters of your study.

Pass the Exam Administered By the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists

To become a licensed occupational therapist, you must first complete your formal school requirements and then pass the NBCOT Occupational Therapist Registered exam. This is a 4-hour exam that must be taken at an authorized testing location. You can apply for the exam and identify your relevant exam location on the NBCOT website. If you pass the exam, you will be awarded the OTR certification and will be able to apply for your state license. Your OTR qualification is only good for three years. If you fail the exam, you must wait 45 days before retaking it.

Obtain a License in Occupational Therapy

Once they have earned their Occupational Therapist Registered certification, all occupational therapists must apply for state licensure. Your educational background and test score will be considered when applying for a license. It is crucial to note that each state has its own set of extra standards that must be met before you can become a certified occupational therapist. After receiving your state license, you will be responsible for following your state’s rules for maintaining it, which may include completing continuing education.

Select a Specialty and Obtain Specialty Certificates

Although it is not required, you can specialize in one of nine areas of occupational therapy by obtaining the necessary certificates. You can hone your skills in the following areas:

  • Concerns about aging patients
  • Mental handicaps
  • Medical attention for children
  • Patient motor abilities Patient independence outside of the home
  • Patient access to beneficial home equipment, Patient ability to consume and swallow food
  • Rehabilitation for Low Vision
  • After-school care

In order to get a certification, you must pass an exam for each specialization. Certifications can help you extend your career possibilities and boost your earning potential.

 Make a Resume

You can begin exploring for career prospects once you are formally licensed as an occupational therapist in your state and have finished further certifications in your specialty. Before you begin your job hunt, you should ensure that you have an up-to-date resume. Include your applicable education, work experience, certifications, and skill set. Remember that your resume is a template that you may change to meet various job descriptions.

Investigate Your Work Choices

Deciding which career setting is ideal for you is a crucial step to take after becoming a certified occupational therapist. You could prefer to focus your occupational therapy career on a certain population or impairment. Occupational therapists are also needed in hospitals, private practices, occupational therapy offices, and nursing homes. You may also be required to visit patients in their homes. You can obtain extra job experience in one or more of these settings or start your own practice.

What Are the Work Prospects And Opportunities for an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists are ranked 11th on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the 2022 Best Healthcare Jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for occupational therapists in 2020 was $86,280, and occupational therapist employment is expected to expand 17 percent from 2020 to 2030. During that time, an estimated 23,000 new employment are predicted to be created.

Approximately 29% of occupational therapists work in hospitals, while 25% work in rehabilitation offices with physical therapists, audiologists, and speech therapists. The remaining 46% work in schools, home health care, skilled nursing institutions, and other settings. These figures show that there is a growing need for occupational therapists and that this profession pays well in a variety of settings.

What Abilities Does an OT Require?

-Occupational therapists use science in conjunction with a good dose of compassion. OTs must be analytical, but also patient and supportive. They should be interested in science (particularly anatomy and kinesiology) as well as working with the general public. OTs must be outstanding listeners and problem solvers, as well as understand how to teach others successfully.

-Because much of what an OT performs involves educating patients, family members, and caregivers, it is critical that OTs understand how to communicate and educate effectively.

-OTs must also be extremely concerned about safety. One of the most difficult difficulties that fieldwork coordinators (those who provide OT students with real-life clinical experiences) face is students’ lack of safety awareness. Much of an OT’s job revolves around keeping patients and family members safe, which can be difficult. Training safety awareness is a major focus of OT, from teaching family members how to safely assist with washing and toileting to demonstrating safe use of medical equipment.

-Finally, a skilled occupational therapist should be able to collaborate with others on a multidisciplinary team. Much of an occupational therapist’s work entails offering a holistic perspective on what a patient genuinely wants out of the treatment process; hence, being able to successfully express patients’ and family members’ needs and goals to a variety of medical providers is critical.

What Are the Potential Benefits of Working as an OT?

Progression in your career

You will have prospects for growth in your career if you become an OT. You have the option of becoming a clinic owner or specializing and remaining an employee. You can also pursue a variety of non-clinical (alternative) OT careers. While there is clearly increasing market saturation in attractive cities, it is still possible to make a good living as an occupational therapist, particularly in small towns and rural areas.

Another advantage of having a broad scope of practice is that you can work in a variety of settings—and many OTs do move settings over their careers when they need a change of pace. For example, working in more demanding environments, such as SNFs and acute care, is frequent directly out of school. However, once their debt has been paid off, several therapists find themselves working in pediatrics, outpatient care, or mental health settings.


OT is quite rewarding. You work with patients when they are at their most vulnerable, and you teach many of the skills that will allow them to engage in lives they believe are worthwhile. That is invaluable, and many OTs develop long-term connections with patients and their families.

It is worth noting that occupational therapy is a popular second career. Many seasoned professionals are drawn to occupational therapy work because it is meaningful.


Another advantage of occupational therapy is that it is quite easy to get OT jobs wherever you travel. Yes, you may need to get certified in a new state, and you may have to accept a wage drop if you move to a competitive market, but it’s unusual to have no luck at all finding OT work.


Occupational therapists also have a lot of freedom in their jobs. Many professions demand full-time employment or you will have a tough time getting work. When OTs need greater flexibility in their schedules, they are often allowed to work part-time or PRN (work as-needed shifts). However, keep in mind that this may have an influence on wages and benefits!

Is There a High Demand for Occupational Therapists?

Occupational therapy jobs are on the rise, with the employment of OTs expected to climb 17 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This pace is significantly quicker than the average anticipated growth of occupations in the United States.

Having said that, certain cities have a more saturated OT market than others. Demand for occupational therapists will be lower in metropolitan cities and locations with occupational therapy schools than in rural areas.

How Much Does an Occupational Therapist Get Paid?

When you’re thinking about becoming an occupational therapist, you’re definitely thinking about your earning potential. As an OT, your salary is affected by a variety of factors. Years of experience, expertise, location of practice, and setting all have an impact on your pay. Furthermore, some employers pay hourly rates, and others give salaries.

According to one survey, the national average salary is $78,964 per year. You can see that OTs do well financially, but what those figures don’t reveal is that OTs have a quite high debt-to-income ratio.

Furthermore, because so much of OTs’ pay is based on insurance reimbursement rates, many therapists are dissatisfied to discover that they work hard but don’t always reap the benefits in the form of increases or bonuses.


It takes a lot of effort to become an occupational therapist, but it is well worth it. You’ll have a higher chance of being accepted to the school(s) of your choice if you start focusing on outstanding grades, high GRE scores, and impressive volunteer work.

As you pursue your ambition, make sure to stay up to date on the latest trends in the OT industry. There are constantly fresh developments and unique ways to apply your education, and the sooner you start thinking about your OT goals, the sooner you can take advantage of everything your OT school has to offer.

Best wishes and we can’t wait to see you in our fantastic industry!

About the author

Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.