Occupational Therapy Degree Programs
There are a few levels of degree programs one can take when they start on the path towards a career in the occupational therapy sector. In order to obtain licensure you will need to have a degree program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). The main degree programs are: Occupational Therapy Assistant, Entry Level Master’s degree Occupational Therapist program and the Entry Level Doctoral degree Occupational Therapist program. Each level is specialized for a different career outcome. You will want to carefully consider and plan out your career arc before you apply to a program to ensure that you get the education you need for the career you want. For example if you are looking to quickly complete a program and begin working you may want to consider an Associate’s degree program for Occupational Therapy Assistants. If you want to work at a level where you oversee other Occupational Therapists you may want to look into a Doctoral Program.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Programs
If you are interested in working fairly quickly and are not as interested in high levels of responsibility and pay, an Occupational Therapy Assistant program might be right for you. The program will be short and will give you the required supervised experience you need to become certified right out of school.
You should get the following outcomes from an accredited Occupational Therapy Assistant program:
- Be able to pass the NBCOT OTA examination.
- Understand patient rights and cultural sensitivity.
- Gain the skills to promote purposeful activity that encourages adaptations to mitigate dysfunction in all age groups, disabilities and careers.
- Gain the necessary skills to work under the guidance of an Occupational Therapist to achieve desired outcomes.
- Gain a professional behavioral profile that integrates the Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics.
- Develop an understanding of and commitment to personal professional development.
Master’s Degree Entry Level Occupational Therapist Programs
The Master’s degree Occupational Therapist program is a far more rigorous and thorough development of the knowledge base and skillset you will require to become a professional Occupational Therapist. You will learn a variety of modalities and techniques that are designed to create healing changes and adaptations to dysfunction within your client. You will learn all of the skills that an Occupational Therapy Assistant gains and also the additional expertise to be able to create and execute therapy plans based on client assessments.
Additional competencies you can expect to learn in a Master’s degree level Occupational Therapist program are:
- Ability to accurately assess the needs of a wide variety of clients in different ages groups, occupations and disabilities.
- Ability to create and execute a therapy plan to achieve desired healing outcomes.
- Be able to create advanced documentation notes for yourself and other Occupational Therapists to convey client case information.
- Leadership skills and abilities to explain complex procedures to Occupational Therapy Assistants under your supervision.
- Fulfill the field work components required by most State’s for licensure.
Doctoral Degree Occupational Therapist Programs
At the Doctoral level, you will be learning advanced theory and cutting edge research into Occupational Therapy. You may want to go this route if you are interested in performing Occupational Therapy research in the Academic realm or if you wish to become an administrator that oversees the work of several Occupational Therapists within a healthcare organization. At the Doctoral level you will learn a variety of additional techniques and modalities such as Physical Agent Modalities (PAMS) and additional technological solutions that are emerging. When you study at the Doctoral level you are at the forefront of the field and when you have finished your program you will be able to take your career in any direction you wish.