Becoming an Occupational Therapist

When you're exploring different career paths in the field of healthcare and rehabilitation, you may be wondering how to become an occupational therapist. Many students interested in a healthcare or medical career are interested in becoming an occupational therapist because they want to serve a role where they can help people and improve a person's quality of life. Occupational therapists work one-on-one with patients who have been injured or are disabled. They play a similar role as a physical therapist, except that the occupational therapist focuses more on improving the patient's ability to complete daily tasks and increase strength.

Requirements to Become an Occupational Therapist

If you are wondering how to become an occupational therapist, you can begin the research process by reviewing occupational therapist job descriptions or the core curriculum of colleges and universities that offer degree programs in the field. The only way to become a certified occupational therapist in the United States is by completing a masters level degree program in the field, and then passing the national exam. If you only complete a bachelor's degree and get certification, you will be qualified to apply for occupational therapist assistant positions. These are entry-level positions and do not allow you to work with patients unless you are under the supervision of a certified occupational a therapist.

Learning how to become an occupational therapist will take some time, but you can seek advice from a guidance counselor or academic advisor at your school of choice to find out what specific courses you will need to take, and what type of work experience you will need to secure during your educational career. Many schools help students find internships so that they can get some work experience before graduation. Keep in mind that a good portion of your advanced studies will include one-on-one training under the supervision of an occupational therapist, and you will be required to pass a practical exam to demonstrate your experience. You can get this type of work experience in medical, clinical or residential settings, and also pursue various types of certifications and licensures in a particular specialization.

Steps to Becoming an Occupational Therapist

The educational track towards becoming an occupational therapist typically includes the following:

  • High school diploma or G.E.D. with strengths in biology, math, physics and science
  • Bachelor's degree in healthcare
  • Certification
  • Master's level degree in occupational therapy

Students may choose to enroll in advanced occupational therapy degree programs or pursue a doctorate degree if they are interested in research. Still, the basic requirements for becoming an occupational therapist include a master's degree in occupational therapy, and students need to complete a certain number of clinical hours or hands-on training so that they have adequate work experience in their field. First year courses typically include advanced biology, psychology, sociology and anatomy, and these are then followed by more specific courses and hands-on training programs. Anyone interested in becoming an occupational therapist will need to make sure that he or she has the right set of skills and personality traits needed to succeed in this type of role. Occupational therapists must have strong interpersonal skills, be compassionate and supportive, and learn how to inspire respect from clients.