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Occupational Therapist Licensure in Tennessee

Tennessee is nestled in the middle of the American South and is possibly best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Tennessee is also an excellent state to start your career as an Occupational Therapist. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that Tennessee had approximately 1,700 licensed Occupational Therapists working in the state, in the year 2010. The BLS is currently forecasting that the Occupational Therapy profession will expand at a rate 33% higher than the average economic sector during the years 2010 to 2020. The BLS was also able to provide data showing that an Occupational Therapist in Tennessee had a median yearly salary of $76,630 according to the 2010 census.

The Tennessee Board of Occupational Therapy is responsible for licensing and regulating the occupational therapy profession in this state. There are two levels of licensure in Tennessee 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.

Tennessee also offers an additional Physical Agent Modalities (PAMS) certification for licensed Occupational Therapists with the necessary additional training. If you have met the requirements of training you can apply for your PAMS certification with the form which you can find here.

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

Tennessee Physical Therapy License and Certificate Requirements

Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA):

  • 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.
  • Provide the board a letter of recommendation from a non-family member attesting to your good character.
  • You must complete the Mandatory Practitioner Profile form which you can find here.
  • Pass the National Board of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT) COTA examination.
  • To renew a license, you must complete 24 Continuing Competency hours during the licensure period.
  • You can find the application form to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant here.

Occupational Therapist (OT)

  • 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.
  • Provide the board a letter of recommendation from a non-family member attesting to your good character.
  • You must complete the Mandatory Practitioner Profile form which you can find here.
  • Pass the NBCOT OTR examination.
  • To renew a license, you must complete 24 Continuing Competency hours during the licensure period.
  • You can find the application form to become an Occupational Therapist here.


To learn more about how to become an Occupational Therapist or Occupational Therapy Assistant in Tennessee, please examine the following steps.

Step 1: Complete Your Occupational Therapy Education

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

In order to practice as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in Tennessee, you must have graduated from an ACOTE certified school with at least an Associate’s degree. There are three schools in Tennessee with the required accreditation:

  • Concorde Career College-Memphis
  • Nashville State Community College
  • Roane State Community College

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

You must possess a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from an ACOTE certified degree program in order to obtain licensure as an Occupational Therapist in Tennessee. There are four schools in Tennessee with the required certification:

  • Belmont University
  • Milligan College
  • Tennessee State University
  • University of Tennessee Health Science Center-Memphis

Step 2: Complete an Internship or Practicum

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

Prior to licensure as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, you must complete two months of clinical occupational therapy work under the supervision of a Licensed Occupational Therapist.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

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

Step 3: Pass the National Certification Exam

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

In order to practice as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in the United States, you must first become nationally certified. You may become certified by taking the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and scoring at least in the 70th percentile.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

You must become nationally certified prior to state licensure. You may accomplish this by taking the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and scoring at least in the 70th percentile.

Step 4: Apply for a Tennessee State License

To apply for a Tennessee license for an Occupational Therapist or Occupational Therapy Assistant, you must complete the following procedure:

  • Submit a signed and completed application
  • Provide a check or money order for the licensing fee; this is $110 for Occupational Therapists and $85 for Occupational Therapy Assistants
  • Request that the NBCOT forward a Verification of Certification to the licensing board
  • Request that any attended colleges forward a transcript
  • Request that any past jurisdictions you have practiced in forward a Verification of Licensure

This may take four to six weeks for the licensing board to gather all documents and issue a license.

Step 5: Maintain Professional Licensure

Occupational Therapy Assistant:

You must complete 24 continuing competency hours during the license cycle in order to qualify for Occupational Therapy Assistant license renewal.

Licensed Occupational Therapist:

You must complete 24 continuing competency hours prior to expiration of your current license, in order to qualify for Occupational Therapist license renewal.

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

Tennessee Occupational Therapy Association