Occupational therapy schools are on the rise, and the entire profession is as well. With job growth from 2008 through 2018 projected to be about 26%, creating tens of thousands of new viable positions, more students are also interested in attending OT schools than ever before. Before you make up your mind, you should know a little bit more about the schools, and how you can choose between them.
First, it’s important to learn a little about the options that you’ll have for occupational therapy schools, and some key distinguishing factors. Currently there are over 150 different accredited OT schools in the United States, and that number is on the rise. The vast majority of those programs offer masters degrees, and only a handful over doctoral degrees in the field.
Accreditation is very important, as you must complete an Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) program in order to be able to take the national certifying exam, which is what you need to be a licensed professional. Therefore, any school that you consider attending must carry ACOTE accreditation, and other OT schools should not be considered as reputable or worthwhile at this time.
Many of the available OT schools offer combined bachelors-masters programs, although there are also many standalone masters programs available as well. Depending on where you are with your education, this will be important as a means to separate schools from one another and narrow down the selection.
It’s also important to note the difference between entry-level programs and postprofessional programs. Entry-level programs are designed to get you the masters degree and prepare you to become a licensed professional. Postprofessional programs are for those already in the field, and who typically are looking to add education and training for a specific specialization or niche within the field.
In part due to the nature of the training and education you’ll need, at this time there are no occupational therapy schools which offer completely online programs. There are several dozen OT schools which offer distance learning courses as a certain percentage or component of the rest of their program, but there are no solely online ACOTE programs.
That means that the location of a school is going to need to be a primary factor in your decision making process. Right now there are OT schools available in 45 states, plus Washington D.C., which gives you a pretty good chance of living near an accredited program that could meet your needs.
Plus, a growing number of occupational therapy schools are beginning to offer part-time or weekend programs to meet the needs of individuals who are already working, or potentially have families. This is a great way to encourage more prospective students to head back to school and gain the education they need for a new career. If you’re already holding down a job, consider finding part-time, evening or weekend programs a priority.
Another crucial component to choosing between occupational therapy schools will be the hands-on education you receive, as well as the potential opportunity for internships, job placements, and more. Having at least 24 weeks of clinical, hands-on training is a must for all ACOTE programs, and knowing who will be instructing you, where you’ll be working, and with what organizations or facilities is important and may steer you in the direction of one school over another.
There are certainly many factors to consider when it comes to choosing the best occupational therapy school. Also remember that all of the typical concerns with any educational program – financial aid, program size and so forth – should be factored in as well. Luckily there are plenty of OT schools to choose from today, so you should have no problem finding a school which matches your needs and will provide you with the education and training you need to get a head start on an exciting new career in a growing, intriguing field.