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Requirements for Occupational Therapist Licensure in Iowa

Iowa is part of America’s heartland as well as being a state with plentiful employment opportunities for Occupational Therapists. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics data from the 2010 census, Iowa employs 1,200 Occupational Therapists. Based on the 2010 census and emerging trends in economic statistics, the BLS is currently projecting growth in the sector that is 33% faster than the average for the US economy during the current decade. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics also has data showing that Occupational Therapists in Iowa had a 2010 median yearly salary of $70,990.

The Iowa Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy is responsible for licensing occupational therapy professionals in Iowa. There are two levels of licensure in Iowa the Occupational Therapy Assistant and the Occupational Therapist. While you are waiting to sit for your examination you can apply for a temporary license to practice at either level.
If you want to become an Occupational Therapist in Iowa, or an Occupational Therapy Assistant you will need to fulfill the following steps:

Iowa Physical Therapy Certification

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

  • You must earn an Associate’s degree or higher in Occupational Therapy from an American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) or the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (AOTE) certified school.
  • Performed at least 3 months of occupational therapy work experience under the direct supervision of a licensed Occupational therapist.
  • Pass a criminal background check.
  • Pass the National Board of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT) COTA examination.
  • To renew your license, you must complete 15 Continuing Education contact hours, of which 8 hours must be clinical in nature during every two year licensure period.
  • You can find the application form for the Occupational Therapy Assistant here.

Occupational Therapist

  • You must earn a Bachelor or Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from an American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) or the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (AOTE) certified school.
  • Performed at least 6 months of occupational therapy work experience as part of an internship under a licensed Occupational Therapist.
  • Pass a criminal background check.
  • Pass the NBCOT OTR examination.
  • To renew your license, you must complete 30 Continuing Education contact hours, of which 8 hours must be clinical in nature during every two year licensure period.
  • You can find the application form for the Occupational Therapist here.

To learn the exact details of how to become an occupational therapy professional in Iowa, please read the following.

Step 1: Graduate from an ACOTE Accredited School

If you wish to practice as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in Iowa, you must graduate from an ACOTE certified degree program with at least an Associate’s degree. In Iowa there are four schools with programs approved for Occupational Therapy Assistants:

  • Hawkeye Community College
  • Brown Mackie College- Quad Cities
  • Indian Hill Community College
  • Kirkwood Community College

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

You must graduate from an ACOTE certified school with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in order to qualify for a license as an Occupational Therapist in Iowa. Iowa has one school with the necessary certification for an Occupational Therapist:

  • St. Ambrose University

Step 2: Complete a Practicum or Internship

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

Prior to licensure as an Occupational Therapy Assistant you must complete at least three months of clinical occupational therapy work under the direct supervision of a Registered Occupational Therapist.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

In order to obtain a license as an Occupational Therapist, you must complete at least six months of clinical occupational therapy work under the direct supervision of a Registered Occupational Therapist.

Step 3: Pass the National Certification Exam

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

In order to obtain national certification as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, you must take the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and score at least a 70.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

You must take the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and score at least a 70 in order to obtain national certification as an Occupational Therapist.

Step 4: Apply for an Iowa State License

You must complete the following steps to apply for an Iowa license for an Occupational Therapist or Occupational Therapy Assistant.

  • You must submit a completed, signed application
  • Provide a check or money order for 120 made payable to the Iowa Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy
  • Request that NBCOT send score reports to the Iowa Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy
  • Request that verifications of licensure be sent from prior jurisdictions in which you have practiced
  • Request official transcripts be sent to the Iowa Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy

The Iowa Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy may take several weeks or months to gather all the required document, review qualifications and issue a license.

Step 5: Maintain Professional Licensure

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

During the two year licensure period as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, you must complete 15 continuing education units of which eight must be clinical in order to qualify for license renewal.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

In order to qualify for license renewal at the end of the two year licensure period for Occupational Therapists, you must complete 30 continuing education units of which eight must be performed in a clinical setting.

You may wish to contact the following organizations for further information: