Occupational Therapy License Requirements in Montana

Occupational therapists help adults and children function in daily life activities despite disabling conditions and limitations.

The occupational therapy profession is poised for significant growth in Montana. Institutions in the state are preparing by developing the capacity to educate OTs. A 2017 article noted several colleges were hoping to get OT programs underway. 2019 finds a lot of progress with one new program enrolling and another having taken significant steps toward enrollment. Rocky Mountain College, one of the newcomers, had determined after feasibility study in 2017 that it would be an “excellent fit” for Billings – and Montana. The school has offered perspectives about the role in geography in OT access. Rural residents, they state, have face barriers in accessing services. They, like many others, want to see OTs educated here – and OTs remaining here to practice.

The focus of OT is practical goals. These could include feeding and dressing oneself, getting around the community independently, managing household tasks, developing skills needed for employment, participating socially, and using leisure time productively. An occupational therapist takes a holistic focus, looking at multiple systems – biological, neurological, psychological – and how they interact with the environment and the tasks at hand. OTs typically assess and plan treatment for individuals but can provide population level services.

Occupational therapy is a unique discipline, though there is some overlap with other disciplines, including physical therapy and recreational therapy. OTs, like physical therapists, concern themselves with helping people get their bodies to do the things they want them to do. Some use heat application and other physical agent modalities; Montana OTs use these types of treatment only in areas of the body located between the shoulder and the hand. The Cut Bank Pioneer Press featured an experienced occupational therapist who had recently brought her expertise to the region; she explained that occupational therapists are concerned with the biomechanics of the upper body, including hands, arms, and even eyes and ears (http://www.cutbankpioneerpress.com/cut_bank_pioneer_press/news/article_17f20c66-d726-11e8-bd10-b307527b613e.html). Sensory integrative function and perceptual motor skills are specifically referenced in state code as being within the domain of the occupational therapist. So is swallowing: something most people – but not all – take for granted.

OTs are assisted by occupational therapy assistants who typically have discipline-specific education at the associate’s level.

Meeting Montana Occupational Therapy Licensing Requirements

Licensure is mandatory. A prospective OT must complete a recognized program at the master’s or doctoral level. State code mandates six months of supervised practice. A student who enrolls in an ACOTE-accredited occupational therapist program can expect to meet this requirement. ACOTE accreditation standards mandate that students, whether master’s or doctoral, have 24 months of advanced internship (termed “Level II”). Doctoral students have an additional capstone project; this allows them to explore a topic in-depth.

The candidate will seek certification through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. He or she will need to take an examination. NBCOT certification eligibility is generally dependent on completion of ACOTE-accredited programs. There is an alternative method of determining eligibility for international candidates.

Montana licensure is a separate step. Individuals must apply to the Montana Board of Occupational Therapy Practice. Forms are available on the Board website.

Montana sets additional requirements for practice of physical agent modalities. The state’s professional association is a training resource.

Occupational Therapist Work Settings and Employers

The following are among the places Montana OTs may find work:

• Kindred Healthcare
• Frontier Home Health and Hospice
• Billings Clinic
• Northern Montana Hospital
• Florence Therapy and Wellness
• Advanced Therapy Clinic

Occupational therapy is a health discipline, but practitioners also work within school systems. The focus of school-based OT is to minimize disability (and capitalize on strengths) in the school setting.

Occupational Therapy Schools in Montana

Montana schools are focusing on the doctorate as the entry point. Two doctoral programs have been granted ACOTE candidacy status – this is the stage when a school begins enrolling.

The University of Mary, based in North Dakota, operates a satellite campus in Montana. It was until recently Montana’s sole occupational therapy program, enrolling classes of 12 students and awarding a master’s degree. It has received candidacy status from ACOTE for its doctoral program. The University of Mary utilizes the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) for admission.

Rocky Mountain College was granted candidacy status in 2018 and enrolled its first class in January of 2019. It’s set to enroll another in 2020. Materials on the website explain the accreditation process.

The University of Montana has submitted its initial application for accreditation and is in the first stage of the process; it is, as of mid-2019, not ready to admit students. The program will be offered in partnership with Montana State University-Billings.

Montana Occupational Therapist Salary and Career Outlook

The Montana OT profession has been projected to experience 25% occupational growth between 2016 and 2026: above even the national figure of 23.8%.

OT positions are unequally distributed across the state, even adjusted for population. Location quotient (based on OT job concentration) is above average in Missoula. The nonmetropolitan areas in the Western part of the state are also slightly above, according to BLS 2018 estimates. Billings is at .96, near the national average of 1.00. The state as a whole is a little below; it is listed at .89.

Montana occupational therapists earned a median $80, 640, or $35.01 an hour in 2018. Most full-time OTs made between $50,860 (the 10th percentile figure) and $97,920 (the 90th percentile).

Student and Professional Resources

Licensing information is available from the Montana Board of Occupational Therapy Practice (http://boards.bsd.dli.mt.gov/otp).

The Montana Occupational Therapy Association is an additional professional resource (https://www.mtota.org).