Any professional level career is going to require a specific educational path for you to take if you want to gain and hold a job in the field. The same certainly holds true for occupational therapy. Luckily, all of the requirements and basics are well known, so you can prepare yourself in the proper fashion. No education is necessarily easy, but knowing what to expect and how to go about it all will make the process as smooth, hassle-free and hopefully successful as possible.
Education for occupational therapy begins with finding an accredited school. The right accreditation is a requirement for gaining a license down the road, so you don’t want to just choose any school that you happen to stumble across. Specifically, you’ll need to attend a program with ACOTE accreditation, which is the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. This will be a necessary component to be eligible to take your license exam, so again, it’s of the utmost importance. Luckily there are over 150 different ACOTE accredited education programs available today, and that number is on the rise with new programs in development.
The degree you’ll be going after in most cases will be a masters degree. The vast majority of programs are designed with this end result, while a small handful offer a doctoral level degree in occupational therapy. But in this profession it’s really all about the masters degree, and should be for the foreseeable future.
For students who already hold a bachelors degree, the masters program on its own will last for about five semesters over two years. This is at a full-time pace, although part-time programs are also on the rise, as are weekend and evening programs. In addition to these standalone masters programs, there are also programs that combine a bachelors and masters degree into one overarching program. This will of course take a significantly longer time, but is ideal for those without a degree who know that they want to end up in occupational therapy.
A crucial component of your education is going to be the hands on fieldwork and clinical experience. All accredited programs require a minimum of 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork, and this is really the nitty-gritty, down to business aspect of your education. It’s one thing to learn about something in a book or complete an assignment, but the profession is all about interaction and working with clients directly, and this fieldwork will be crucial for your preparedness and qualifications to actually become a licensed and practicing occupational therapist.
Occupational therapy educational should be a relatively straightforward process. You need to gain a masters degree from an ACOTE accredited school, which will enable you to get your license and then become a practicing professional. If you already have a bachelors degree, the whole process will take just over two years to complete, and your education will completely prepare you to deal with the treatment of patients of all kinds in this exciting and growing field.