Occupational Therapist License Requirements in Arizona

Occupational therapists help people engage in the activities they need to and want to do – this despite the functional limitations they may have. OTs serve adult and pediatric populations. Limitations may be created by anything from developmental disability to the aging process; this means OTs have a wide patient base. The Arizona Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners has stated that the job involves analyzing the components of an activity – including physical and social dimensions — and making some type of adjustment so that the individual can carry out the activity. This might mean adapting the individual (by developing or restoring skills) or adapting or modifying the activity or environment.

Occupational therapy services are defined to include the following:

• Evaluating and developing function in a number of domains, among them, perceptual-motor, psychosocial, sensory processing, and systemic
• Administering and interpreting tests used for OT
• Developing a plan for intervention and training
• Training a person to use items like prosthetics and assistive technology
• Assessing and adapting the environment

Occupational therapists supervise occupational therapy assistants who help carry out the treatment plan. They work in collaboration with other professionals. The Arizona Occupational Therapy Association states that Arizona does not require physician prescription for occupational therapy, though payers may have mandates (https://www.arizota.org/faq-occupational-therapy-in-az/). Occupational therapists are often on teams that include physical therapists and speech-language pathologists.

Occupational Therapy Foundations for Practice

Many client factors, mental and physical, can limit function. Thus occupational therapists need a broad and deep knowledge and skills base. Educational programs are taught at the graduate level. Programs are competitive, and it can help to go beyond the stated minimums. Midwestern University-Glendale, for example, has set the minimum GPA at 2.75 but gives 3.5 as the average for its most recent class. Academics, though, represent only a portion of readiness. Candidates may be evaluated on how they have demonstrated service commitment in the past and how well they understand and are committed to the occupational therapy profession.

A prospective OT will need to complete a program that holds programmatic accreditation. A list can be found on the website of the American Occupational Therapy Association (https://www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Find-School.aspx). There are programs throughout the nation. Arizona has three schools and a total of four accredited OT programs, two at the master’s level, and two at the doctoral level. Ultimately the individual will need to pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.

NBCOT certification makes one an OTR. There’s still a step to go in the credentialing process. The ‘L’ in OTR/L means licensed. Licensure is awarded by the Arizona Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners.

The licensing authority has set additional requirements for stablishing good character. Applicants must secure recommendations from two health professionals. A fingerprint-based criminal background check is also required. Prospective licensees must read the statutes and rules before applying.

Occupational Therapists in Early Intervention

Occupational therapists who work in early intervention support children’s postural development and adaptive development as well as their functioning in multiple areas. They may adapt the environment, design or select assistive devices, and take steps to prevent future disability. Occupational therapists in early intervention may qualify for loan repayment (https://des.az.gov/services/disabilities/developmental-infant/azeip-jobs-and-qualifications).

There is an additional certification process for occupational therapists who work in the Arizona Early Intervention Program helping very young children who receive special needs services through IDEA. The Arizona Occupational Therapy Association has provided a summation (https://www.arizota.org/faq-occupational-therapy-in-az/).

Arizona Occupational Therapist Work Settings

Occupational therapists may work for large healthcare systems or small offices. Some practices that include ‘physical therapy’ in the name also have occupational therapists onboard. Employers include organizations that provide nursing care and home health services. They also include schools. The following are among the many worksites:

• Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Tucson
• Theracare Pediatric Services
• EntireCare Rehab & Sports Medicine (part of Northern Arizona Healthcare)
• Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy
• Desert Hand and Physical Therapy

Arizona Occupational Therapy Salary and Career Outlook

Arizona is the 4th highest paying state for occupational therapists. Full-time Arizona occupational therapists earned an average $94,800 in 2018. Those at the 10th percentile made $59,520 (or $28.62 an hour); those at the 90th percentile made $130,680 or ($62.83).

In the Prescott metropolitan area, both the average salary and the job concentration are above that of the state as a whole.

The Arizona OT occupation has been projected to grow by 40.8% across the 2016 to 2016 decade.

Occupational Therapy Schools in Arizona

The Northern Arizona University program follows the “practice scholar” model. The program culminates in a doctoral degree. NAU offers a 16-week residency program. This is in addition to a lengthy period of field experience. NAU touts the service learning that forms a cornerstone of the program.

AT Still offers two license-qualifying programs: a master’s entry program and a newer doctoral entry program. Both are fully ACOTE-accredited. Doctoral students earn concurrent certificates in public health – a requirement in most instances.

Midwestern University-Glendale offers a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program that can be completed in as few as 27 months. The school draws students from around the nation, though a majority come from Arizona or California.

Occupational Therapy Student and Professional Resources

Arizona occupational therapists are under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners (https://ot.az.gov/).

The Arizona Occupational Therapy Association serves as the state professional organization (https://www.arizota.org). ArizOTA has several special interest sections: neuro, pediatric, postsecondary transition, and academia. ArizOTA Tucson has a journal club which can help students and professionals alike hone their research abilities and develop their clinical knowledge base.