What It Takes To Become a Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy (OT) is one of the most rewarding careers and is a fast-growing profession that is becoming more well-known and recognized. Occupational therapy is a profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they need and want to do to become as independent and functional as possible through the therapeutic use of occupations.  As an occupational therapist, you have the unique opportunity to work with clients at all stages of life, from infants to geriatric patients, and everyone in between. If you recently made the decision to pursue a career in the field, you may still have many questions about what it exactly takes to be an OT in the pediatric setting and what you would be doing in your practice.

First things first! You need to become a licensed occupational therapist which provides you the ability to work with any population in any setting as your school prepares you to be a “generalist”. You can then specialize and go into pediatrics. See below for a quick overview of the steps needed to become an OT:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s Degree (some schools offer 3 + 2 programs)
  2. Complete observation/volunteer hours – we have a great position you can apply for called an “occupational therapy practice associate” (OTPA) where you can gain those observation hours – click here to apply!
  3. Study for and take the GRE
  4. Decide on an MOT or DOT program for grad school and apply (it has been mandated that by July 1, 2027, the entry-level degree for an occupational therapist will be at the doctoral level)
  5. Complete level I and II fieldwork placements
  6. Pass the boards (NBCOT)
  7. Obtain licensure in your state (states differ in requirements and fees)

After you obtain your license, you can start applying to jobs in the setting you would like to work. As a new graduate, I highly suggest finding a company that offers a mentorship program to help guide you through your first year as a new OT. At COT we have a wonderful mentorship program for new graduates – click here to join our team! If you are interested in working with kids, keep reading for more information on what it takes to be in pediatrics!

Where does a pediatric OT work?

Occupational therapy is a unique field in that you can work in many different settings, even in pediatrics. A pediatric OT can be found in outpatient clinics, hospitals, schools, and can also provide services via home health or teletherapy. 

What roles does a pediatric OT have?

Pediatric OTs take on many different roles throughout their career. One of the best things about being an OT is there is a lot of room for growth and you are given a wide variety of opportunities. Below are just a few! 

  • Clinician
  • Mentor
  • Fieldwork Educator – at COT we take level I and level II students! If you are in need of a placement, click here to apply to be a student with one of our wonderful clinicians!
  • International Work/Volunteer – COT is currently in partnership with an amazing company called Therapy Abroad – click here for more information on their company and travel opportunities! 
  • Blog writer 
  • Resource creator – here at COT we work with our graphic design team to create helpful resources for therapists, teachers, and families! Check out our website – Therapy Materials Vault

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you enjoy working and collaborating with others?
  • Do you enjoy playing and working with children?
  • Do you enjoy being silly and have an upbeat personality?
  • Do you have good time management skills? 
  • Are you flexible?
  • Do you consider yourself creative and a good problem solver?
  • Are you self motivated? 
  • Are you a strong writer and communicator? 
  • Do you like making a huge impact on others’ lives?

If you answered “yes” to these questions then you could have what it takes to be a successful pediatric occupational therapist!

Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, want to join our team, or if you are interested in completing your fieldwork placements with us!