What It Takes To Become a Pediatric Occupational Therapist

So, you want to be an occupational therapist. Welcome to the field! Research has shown that occupational therapy, or “OT,” is one of the most rewarding careers, so it is no wonder that OT is one of the fastest-growing fields in the United States. As an occupational therapist, you have the unique opportunity to work with patients 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 and what you would be doing in your practice.

Back to the Basics: What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is an allied health field that is dedicated to helping individuals of all ages to build the skills necessary to participate in daily activities, or “occupations.” While it might seem strange that a young child has occupations to complete, OT for young children with developmental delays will focus on basics skills, such as feeding, swallowing, or sensory perception. In a geriatric patient on the other end of the spectrum, an OT might work on building motor skills needed to avoid falling, for example.

Where does an OT work?
Occupational therapy is a unique field in that you can work in many different settings throughout your career. OTs can be found in clinics, hospitals, private practices, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, schools, and more. The setting in which you work may also be affected by your area of specialty, such as whether you work with a geriatric or pediatric population.

What type of degree is needed?
As occupational therapists are able to work with such a diverse range of patients, extensive schooling and training is required. To work as an OT, you must obtain a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree. Many undergraduate students who wish to pursue a career in the field will major in a related field, such as biology or psychology. Not all graduate programs require the same prerequisite courses for the Master’s program, so this is an important factor to keep in mind when selecting courses prior to graduate school. During graduate school, students will be required to complete field work to gain practical knowledge in the field.

Do OTs need a license?
To practice as an occupational therapist, you must complete the NBCOT (National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy) exam. The process for obtaining full licensure is different from state to state, so it is important to check the requirements for your desired state of practice. You will also need to submit a fee, provide college transcripts, and undergo a background check before practicing.

Do you have questions about occupational therapy or becoming an OT in Chicago?
Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

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