How Do I Become an Occupational Therapist?

It takes years of hard work to become an occupational therapist, but early planning can make the process go smoothly.

  1. Take a college prep curriculum that includes four years each of math and science.

  2. Seek out volunteer or job shadow opportunities. Some schools actually require volunteer hours before you apply to the professional phase. If you’re committed to volunteering, and stick with it, your volunteer coordinator may become a college reference.

  3. Consider other special opportunities. Misericordia University offers a career camp for prospective occupational therapists.

  4. Research state licensing requirements and college degree programs. Programs for occupational therapists are generally offered at the graduate (master’s or doctoral) level, but there are some combined bachelor’s/ master’ s programs They may admit you freshman or junior year.

  5. It is also an option to enroll as an undergraduate in virtually any field and apply for graduate school later. Good choices for undergraduate major include exercise science and therapeutic recreational therapy. Make sure you complete OT prerequisites. These may include anatomy and physiology, statistics, medical terminology, human development, and psychology. Maintain a 3.0 and do well on graduate school admission tests.

    Make sure your program is acceptable to your local board. Generally this means accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapists (the accrediting arm of the American Occupational Therapists Association).

  6. Complete OT courses and required fieldwork.

  7. Meet your state’s licensing requirements.

  8. Use the connections you made while completing field work (or volunteering) to help you find a job. Professional memberships may be helpful as well. You can search for jobs on the site of the American Occupational Therapists Association. You will also find career resources like tips on resume creation.

Personality Traits of Occupational Therapists

Personality Characteristics: Students have reported being drawn to the career because they sought a helping profession, and because OT allowed them to express their creativity and problem solving abilities. Managerial skills are also useful as therapists often supervise several occupational therapy assistants. (If you’re unsure if the career is right for you, you can join the American Occupational Therapists Association for a live chat.)