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From Student to Occupational Therapist: A Career Path Guide

February 09, 2023 · 4 min read

Becoming an occupational therapist is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice. If you're passionate about helping people live their best lives and want to make a difference in your community, then a career in occupational therapy may be right for you. Occupational therapists work with individuals of all ages to help them achieve their goals, manage chronic conditions, and recover from injuries. They help their clients improve their ability to perform everyday activities, such as dressing, cooking, and bathing, and work with them to overcome physical and emotional challenges.

To become an occupational therapist, you'll need to complete a rigorous education and training program, pass a licensing exam, and gain hands-on experience. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you on your journey from student to occupational therapist.

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree in a Relevant Field

The first step to becoming an occupational therapist is to earn a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as psychology, sociology, kinesiology, or health sciences. This degree will provide you with the foundation you need to understand the human body, the impact of physical and emotional conditions on daily life, and the principles of rehabilitation and recovery.

Step 2: Consider a Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy

Once you've completed your bachelor's degree, you'll need to enroll in a master's degree program in occupational therapy. These programs typically take two years to complete and provide you with in-depth training in the skills and knowledge you'll need to become a successful occupational therapist. You'll learn about anatomy, kinesiology, neuroanatomy, and psychotherapy, as well as the clinical and therapeutic approaches used in occupational therapy.

Step 3: Gain Hands-On Experience

Most occupational therapy programs require students to complete a significant amount of hands-on experience before graduation. This experience will typically take the form of clinical rotations, where you'll work alongside licensed occupational therapists in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and community clinics. During your rotations, you'll have the opportunity to apply what you've learned in the classroom to real-world situations and gain valuable hands-on experience.

Step 4: Pass the NBCOT Exam

Once you've completed your master's degree and gained hands-on experience, you'll need to pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. This exam tests your knowledge and skills and is required to become a licensed occupational therapist.

Step 5: Obtain a State License

After passing the NBCOT exam, you'll need to obtain a state license to practice as an occupational therapist. To obtain a license, you'll need to submit an application, pay a fee, and meet any additional requirements set forth by your state's licensing board.

Step 6: Find a Job

Once you've completed your education and passed the NBCOT exam, it's time to start your career as an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, community clinics, and private practices. You can search for job openings online, through professional organizations, or through job fairs and networking events.

Step 7: Continuously Develop Your Skills

Continuing education is an important part of any occupational therapy career. Keeping up-to-date with the latest research, techniques, and best practices will help you provide the best care possible to your clients. Many states require occupational therapists to complete a certain number of continuing education hours each year to maintain their license.

Becoming an occupational therapist is a challenging but rewarding journey. With dedication, hard work, and a commitment to helping others, you can achieve your goals and make a positive impact in the lives of those you serve. Occupational therapy is a dynamic and constantly evolving field, and there are always opportunities to expand your skills, take on new challenges, and advance your career. Whether you're working with children, seniors, or individuals with disabilities, you'll have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others and help them achieve their goals.

by Liza Sushko

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