Occupational Therapist (OT)

To become a licensed occupational therapist and help people regain their functions and become independent individuals, browse through the write up for the job description and salary of the job.

AVG    Annual    SALARY
AVG    Monthly    SALARY
AVG    Hourly    SALARY

How to Become an Occupational Therapist – Requirements, OT Programs, Cost and Salary outlook

Are you looking forward to becoming a licensed occupational therapist (OT)? If yes, then here are the steps you will have to take to become a successful OT. This profession is bound to provide you with a high amount of job satisfaction as you will be involved in making people’s lives better. Before we go into the steps involved, let us understand the job better.

What Do Occupational Therapists Do?

Occupational therapist’s job requires working with people to help them improve their daily lives. OT’s duties are to help people of all age groups learn the basic tasks of day to day life by dealing with their mental health. They work with people who are disabled, old and those who cannot function due to an injury or illness.  The job description involves dealing with the physical, mental and emotional state of people who are unable to function normally.

OT meets their patients and comes up with a plan to help their patients regain their basic skills like walking, using wheelchairs, eating and interacting with people in a social environment. They work in nursing homes, schools, colleges, military, hospitals, wellness programs, rehab facilities, outpatient care centers and a lot more places.

As per the American Occupational Therapy Association, an OT is a healthcare professional who works with patients from every background with temporary or permanent disabilities and helps them perform their daily tasks without the help of others. Thus, helping their patients lead an independent life.

Below is a step by step guide on how to become an Occupational Therapist that will help you understand the requirements needed.

Requirements to Become An Occupational Therapist

  • Get a relevant Bachelor’s Degree or an Associate’s degree: The first step to becoming a successful therapist is to attain a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree. If you are a student who is interested in biology and health in high school and if you take up volunteering work in different OT settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers, then you will have a better chance of attending an OTA program.
  • Attain a relevant Master’s Degree: Before, one had to only acquire a bachelor’s degree in order to become a licensed OT in most states. However, since 2007 all the states except for Colorado began asking for a master’s degree. Make sure that you earn your master’s degree from an accredited college or university. The master’s program includes classroom studies accompanied by fieldwork at hospital setups, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes etc.
  • NBCOT Exam: National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy exam (NBCOT) exam is to be attended to become a successful occupational therapist. Only after passing this exam, you will be able to apply for a licensure in your state. If in case you fail the exam, then you will have to retake the exam after waiting for forty-five days. You will have to pay $540 to apply for the paper application and you will have to pay $500 to register online. There are some states that ask for score report or confirmation notice that might cost you extra. So, make sure that you meet all the requirements by checking with your state licensing board.
  • Licensure Application: After passing the NBCOT exam you will be able to apply for a licensure. Most states need an application fee, a background check, submission of all official documents, and the submission of NBCOT results. The procedure for applying varies from one state to another. After applying for the licensure you will have to wait for some time in order to receive the licensure and begin your career as an Occupational Therapist.
  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs): Majority of the states need their licensed occupational therapist continue with their studies. The number of CEUs one needs in order to maintain their license depends on the state.

Various OT Programs & Courses

Occupational therapy is a field that has been expanding. The scope for an OT is increasing with each passing day. As per BLS, the scope will increase by 27% by the year 2024. There are various programs available for you, if you are an aspirant who is looking forward to understanding the course and curriculum, read further to know about them –

1. Associate Program

This is an entry-level program that enables you to become an Occupational therapy assistant. This 2-year long course needs its students to complete high school or finish their GED/HSED.

In the first year, the students will have to learn about pediatrics, kinesiology, anatomy, physical rehabilitation, medical terms, and human occupations. In the second year, the students will be asked to work with real patients under supervision.

After the completion of the course, the students will find themselves to be eligible for the Associate’s degree which will be awarded to them on passing the examination.

The general Fee structure of this program as mentioned in https://www.sessions.edu are listed below –

Fee Structure Amount
Application Fee $50
Registration Fee $200
Technology Fee (Per Semester) $50
Late Registration Fee $50
Late Tuition Fee $250
Course Re-Enrollment Fee $150
Leave Of Absence Fee $150

2. Baccalaureate Program

This 4-year long course needs its students to complete GED or high school diploma. In this program, you will have both theoretical and practical classes. In this program, you will learn all about human anatomy, biology, neuropsychiatry, rehabilitation and the environment in order to become an occupational therapist. The students will have to attend classes and lab during the course of this program.

Annual Fees for the year 2017 -18 as per www.ibo.org are listed below –

Fee Structure Amount
Diploma Program $11,650
Middle Years Program $10,050
Primary Years Program $8,520
Career-Related Program $1,480
CP-2 Annual Fee $8,500

3. Master’s Degree Program – Entry Level

For this program, the students will have to complete their bachelor’s degree. The student will have to pass the following subjects from any school, the subjects include, psychology, sociology, anatomy, life science, physical science etc.

This 2 -3 year’s course is divided into clinical and theoretical. The classes of patient care, research methods, social conditions, assistive technology etc are taught in the theoretical sessions. Whereas, in the clinical sessions the students work and participate in the hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers etc. The master’s degree is awarded to students after they have successfully completed the program.

To attain a master’s degree in the U.S you will have to pay anywhere in between $8,000 to $120,000. The cost varies from one university to another.

4. Dual Degree Course

The dual degree course is the combination of the bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree course.

There are a few institutions that offer this program. You will have to inquire about the availability of this course in the institute.

5. Occupational Therapy Course – Online

If you are working already and are not able to join offline courses for some reason, then you can join the online occupational therapy courses provided by some institutions. You might have to attend the practical courses, however; by joining the online courses you will be able to learn the theoretical part from anywhere. You can browse through the websites of the institutions that offer online courses.

Top Online Colleges For Doctorate in Occupational Therapy
School Annual Tuition Fee
The University of Alabama at Birmingham $7,660
Nova Southeastern University $9,945
University of Kansas $12,842
Pacific University $13,005
Quinnipiac University $15,600

Cost & Scholarships

The cost of each of the program varies from one another depending on the institute and school from where you want to pursue the course. If you want to pursue any one of the above-listed programs, then you will have to contact the institute directly to know the cost of the program you are looking forward to joining.

When it comes to scholarship, there are many programs that offer scholarships are available. A couple of those are listed below, inquire about them in the institutes and schools.

1. K Wise Scholarship

This scholarship is provided by AOTA to the female aspirants who are pursuing the entry-level degree program after the baccalaureate level.  The requirements for this scholarship are listed below –

  1. The female has to be enrolled full time
  2. She will have to be a member of AOTA or she will have to be a permanent resident of the U.S.
  3. She will have to have the ability to work for the diverse workforce, she will need a record of excellent academic achievements.
  4. The students are granted an amount of $2,500 thrice annually

2. AOTF Scholarship Program

This is a scholarship program provided by the American Occupation Therapy Foundation and the State Occupation Therapy Association. It is for both male and female aspirants.

There are many more scholarship programs available for those who are aspiring to become an occupational therapist. To know more about the scholarship programs, visit the website of AOTA or the Institute for more details.

Scholarships Available Under AOTF Scholarship Program
Scholarship Name Amount
Northcoast Medical Scholarship $5,000
OccupationalTherapy.com Scholarship $5,000
Willard & Spackman Scholarship $2,000
Lela Llorens Endowed Scholarship $1,200
Mary Fiorentino Memorial Scholarship $1,200

Salary Outlook

According to BLS, the annual salary median for occupational therapists in the year 2017 was $83,200 per year and $40.00 per hour. If you are looking for a highly satisfying job in terms of earnings, then being an occupational therapist will be a good option for you. Some of the highest paying states in this field and their annual mean wage are listed below –

Highest OT Salary Paying States
Area Name Annual Mean Wage
Nevada $1,03,280
New Jersey $94,100
Texas $94,530
Virginia $90,720
Oregon $90,060
District of Columbia $93,110
Connecticut $90,760

Nevada is the highest paying state with an annual mean wage of $103280. Whereas, the state that offers the lowest pay is South Dakota paying an annual mean wage of $66990 only.

Career Growth

This field has seen some enormous changes in the last couple of decades. The career growth in this field is impeccable. If you are planning to become an occupational therapist, then the scope for you is immense. There are a huge number of places that need an OT. From schools, colleges, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, nursing homes to residents. States that offer the highest employment level are listed below –

Highest Employment Level States
State Employment
California 10,620
Texas 10,170
New York 9,080
Pennsylvania 7,310
Florida 6,600

Become an Occupational Therapist and make a difference

So, wait no more. Enroll in the courses and become an occupational therapist to help others. You will be able to help people regain their abilities after suffering an illness or injury. You will be able to help people who are disabled in some way or the other, perform the simple tasks in their daily lives. You will feel blessed every time one of your patients hits their milestone.
Know More :