How to Become an Occupational Therapist

Author: Circle of Care

Becoming an occupational therapist offers a fulfilling chance to impact lives profoundly. It involves academic study, hands-on experience, and passing exams for certification and licensure. Job prospects are promising, with opportunities expected to grow by 12% until 2032. This article provides essential guidance on navigating occupational therapy careers, managing certification, and licensure processes with confidence and expertise.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is a rehabilitation method aimed at improving health by changing habits. Occupational therapists (OTs) focus on educating patients and caregivers, facilitating participation in daily activities, and adapting environments when necessary. As allied health professionals, OTs collaborate with a range of healthcare practitioners to provide holistic care to individuals recovering from illnesses or injuries.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Understanding the diverse role of occupational therapists (OTs) is crucial when considering a career in this field. OTs assist patients in developing, recovering, and enhancing the skills required for daily life and work. Here’s an overview of a typical day for an occupational therapist:

  • Neuromuscular reeducation to improve movement and function
  • Therapeutic activities that simulate real-life scenarios
  • Exercises designed to enhance physical capabilities
  • Manual therapy techniques to alleviate pain and improve motion
  • Training in self-care and home management to foster independence
  • Cognitive skill development to assist with memory, problem-solving, and organization
  • Sensory integration methods to help process and respond to sensory information
  • Assistance with wheelchair management for optimal mobility
  • Wound care for patients with injuries or post-surgical needs

Occupational therapists are equipped with a set of core skills that are vital to their practice. Compassion, empathy, and excellent communication are at the heart of their interactions with patients. Problem-solving skills, patience, and flexibility are equally important as they navigate the complexities of each individual’s therapeutic needs. 

How to Become an Occupational Therapist

Starting the path to becoming an occupational therapist involves a few steps, each building upon the other to ensure you are well-prepared for this rewarding profession. Here’s a breakdown of the process:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Your journey begins with completing an undergraduate degree in a field related to health science, such as biology, psychology, or health science. This foundational education will equip you with the necessary knowledge to excel in advanced occupational therapy studies.

Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree, the next step is to enroll in a master’s program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Typically, this program lasts two to three years and includes extensive coursework as well as practical training.

Complete Fieldwork

Integral to your master’s degree is the completion of fieldwork, which is divided into two levels:

  • Level I Fieldwork: Introduces you to the occupational therapy field, allowing you to observe and understand client needs.
  • Level II Fieldwork: Involves at least 24 weeks of full- or part-time work, where you’ll hone your skills to meet entry-level professional standards.

Pass the NBCOT Exam

Upon completing your master’s degree, you must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. Successful completion of this exam grants you the title of “Occupational Therapist Registered” (OTR), signifying your readiness to practice in the field.

State Licensure

With your OTR title, you’re now ready to apply for licensure in your respective state. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific occupational therapist requirements of the state where you wish to practice, as they can vary (NBCOT).

Maintain Certification

To maintain your certification, you’ll need to engage in continuing education to ensure you’re up-to-date with the latest practices in occupational therapy.

What skills does an occupational therapist need?

As you navigate the path on how to become an occupational therapist, acquiring skills is just as important as meeting the educational and certification occupational therapist requirements. Here are some key competencies you should focus on:

  • Empathy and Compassion: Understanding and sharing patients’ feelings fosters trust and creates a supportive environment.
  • Communication Skills: Articulate complex medical information clearly and listen actively to patients’ concerns.
  • Assessment and Treatment Planning: Evaluate patient needs and develop personalized treatment plans with attention to detail and cultural sensitivity.
  • Therapeutic Interventions: Implement appropriate interventions and teach exercises and activities, being adaptable to different environments.
  • Problem-Solving: Think creatively to address unique patient challenges and modify plans accordingly.
  • Organization: Manage workflow efficiently to ensure timely and effective patient care.

Incorporating these skills into your practice not only prepares you for the varied occupational therapy jobs but also ensures you deliver the highest quality of care. Remember, as an occupational therapist, you are not just treating conditions, you are touching lives and empowering individuals to achieve their fullest potential.

Occupational Therapy Jobs in Texas at Circle of Care

If you’re looking to apply your skills and passion in a dynamic and supportive environment, at Circle of Care we are actively seeking Occupational Therapists to join our pediatric team in locations like Austin, TX. Your role at Circle of Care will be integral in shaping the lives of patients by evaluating their conditions and crafting personalized treatment plans that cater to their unique needs. At Circle of Care, you’ll find more than just a job; you’ll be part of a family-friendly community that radiates warmth, respect, and understanding. We ensure every team member feels valued and supported, fostering an environment where you can thrive both professionally and personally.



Learn More About Our Pediatric Therapy Services at Circle of Care