Occupational Therapy (OT) Licensing and Certification
Occupational Therapy (OT) is a medical field which is regulated by the government in all 50 states. The necessary steps to become a licensed Occupational Therapist vary from state to state, though they do overlap in most cases. The basic route to becoming an OT is to:
• Complete undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry, kinesiology, psychology, sociology and anatomy
• Get a master’s degree (or higher) from an accredited program
• Complete a certain amount of hours of supervised fieldwork (usually 24 weeks)
• Pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) mandatory certification examination
• Apply for your Occupational Therapy license
• Continue OT training with courses, workshops and other certifications
Occupational Therapy Certification Programs
The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy provides a national exam for certification of Occupational Therapists. The exam from NBCOT is mandatory in all 50 States in order to become licensed as an Occupational Therapist. Oklahoma is the only State that accepts proof of passing the NBCOT exam as sufficient evidence of having completed the required education and training. The exam for certification can only be taken after completing an Occupational Therapy program and any required fieldwork.
While not mandatory, additional certification is provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association, or the AOTA. The accrediting body used by AOTA is the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, or the ACOTE. Acquiring additional certification from AOTA can provide advantages on your resume to get you increased wages or an edge on a better job position. The fields in which AOTA can certify you are as follows:
• Mental Health
• Physical Rehabilitation
Occupational Therapists can also be certified in the following areas:
• Driving and Community Mobility
• Environmental Modification
• Feeding, Eating, and Swallowing
• Low Vision
Licensing for Uncertified Occupational Therapists
Getting into an occupational therapy career is a process. Recognizing this, most states have programs for temporary, conditional or limited licensing for students who are waiting to take the NBCOT exam, waiting for the results of the exam, or are foreign students waiting for the results of the national exam they’ve taken. Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and Utah are the only states without any form of temporary or limited license.
Most states validate the license for 120 days. Usually, such a permit is only permitted to be issued once and often only to a first time examinee.
Special Requirements for Occupational Therapy Licensure
Outside of the common requirements for becoming licensed as an Occupational Therapist, depending on the state you live in or plan to practice in, there may be additional requirements to obtain licensure. For example, in Alaska, a jurisprudence questionnaire regarding statutes and regulations must be completed. In the state of Florida, the completed OT program must be with a focus on biologic or physical science, psychology and sociology.
Requirements for Foreign Students in Occupational Therapy
For those wanting to move to the United States to practise, there may also be a few extra requirements. Foreign educated people wanting to become licensed occupational therapists may also have to prove their English proficiency. This is done through one test or a variety of tests, including The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Test of Spoken English (TSE), and Test of Written English (TWE). Requirements for scores on these tests may differ from state to state. Foreign students may also have to prove that they are eligible to work in the United States and/or that they have a Social Security Number. If their education was in another country, its history will have to be reviewed to make sure that it meets the requirements of the state in question or of the NBCOT.
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