• Find Occupational Therapy Schools

How to Become an Occupational Therapist in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of the oldest states in the union and the state in which the Constitution was written, giving it a special place in US history. Pennsylvania is also a state that provides excellent opportunities for its Occupational Therapists. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Pennsylvania had 5,580 licensed Occupational Therapists working in the state per the 2010 census, making it among the best states in which to work. Furthermore, the BLS is expecting that in the decade of 2010 to 2020 the Occupational Therapy sector will increase its size at a rate 33% faster than the average sector. The BLS also has information showing that the 2010 census had a median yearly salary of $70,450 for Occupational Therapists in Pennsylvania.

The State Board of Occupational Therapy Education and Licensure is responsible for licensing and regulating OT professionals in Pennsylvania. There are two levels of licensure in Pennsylvania 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. Temporary licenses require that you work under the direct supervision of a licensed Occupational Therapist who has a minimum of one year of licensure with the state.

If you want to become an Occupational Therapist in Pennsylvania, or an Occupational Therapy Assistant you will need to follow these steps:

Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Certification

Occupational Therapy Assistant Requirements:

  • You must earn an Associate’s degree or higher in Occupational Therapy Assistant program from an American Occupational
  • Therapy Association (AOTA) or the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) certified school.
  • Performed at least 2 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.
  • There is no continuing education requirement in Pennsylvania.
  • You can find the application form to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant here.

PA Occupational Therapist Requirements:

  • 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 (ACOTE) 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.
  • There is no continuing education requirement in Pennsylvania.
  • You can find the application to become an Occupational Therapist here.


For additional information about how to become an Occupational Therapist or Occupational Therapy Assistant in Pennsylvania, please read the following steps.

Step 1: Obtain a Degree in Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

You must graduate from an ACOTE certified degree program with at least an Associate’s degree in order to qualify for licensure as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has ten schools with the required ACOTE curriculum:

  • Community College of Allegheny County/Boyce
  • Harcum College
  • Kaplan Career Institute-Pittsburgh
  • Lehigh Carbon Community College
  • Mercyhurst University McAuley College of Associate Degree Studies
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology
  • Pennsylvania State University-Berks
  • Pennsylvania State University-DuBois
  • Pennsylvania State University-Mont Alto
  • Philadelphia University

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

To practice as a Licensed Occupational Therapist in Pennsylvania, you must possess a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from an ACOTE certified school. There are 13 schools in the state with approved degree programs:

  • Alvernia University
  • Chatham University
  • Duquesne University
  • Elizabethtown College
  • Gannon University
  • Misericordia University
  • Philadelphia University
  • St. Francis University
  • Temple University
  • Thomas Jefferson University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
  • University of Scranton

Step 2: Fulfill the Clinical Work Requirement

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

In order to obtain licensure as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in Pennsylvania, you must complete at least two months of clinical occupational therapy work under the tutelage of a Licensed Occupational Therapist.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

If you are seeking a license as an Occupational Therapist, you must first complete at least six months of supervised occupational therapy work under the direction of a Licensed Occupational Therapist.

Step 3: Pass the National Certification Exam

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

In order to become nationally certified 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 in the 70th percentile.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

If you wish to practice as a Licensed Occupational Therapist in the U.S., you must take Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and score at least in the 70th percentile to obtain national certification.

Step 4: Apply for a Pennsylvania State License

To apply for a license as an OT or OTA, you must complete the following application procedure:

  • Submit a signed and completed application
  • Provide a check or money order payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for the $30 licensing fee
  • Have the NBCOT forward a Verification of Certification to the licensing board
  • Have all attended colleges forward transcripts to the licensing board
  • Request Verifications of Licensure be forwarded from past states in which you have practiced

Please allow several weeks for the board to review your qualifications and issue a license.

Step 5: Maintain Professional Credentials

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

You must pay a $45 license renewal fee at the end of the two year licensure period to maintain you OTA license.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

There is a $55 license renewal fee that must be paid to maintain your Occupational Therapy license following the expiration of your two year licensure period.

If you would like additional information, you may wish to contact the following organizations: