Occupational Therapy Education Overview
Finding the right Occupational Therapy School for you is one of the most important decisions you will make during your educational journey. There are many factors you will want to consider as you look at various schools and programs.
From finding the ideal learning environment, to finishing your education in a pleasant living environment there are many different angles you will want to evaluate your potential schools from. You will want to spend time considering what level of degree you wish to have when you’ve finished your education and this in turn begs the question, what exactly are you wanting to do in Occupational Therapy (OT) once you’ve graduated? It is thinking about these factors before you do your research on what school you want to attend that will give you the best result.
You will need to ensure that your school is accredited by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). You will also want to put yourself in a situation where you can succeed. This means figuring out what kind of learning environment will give you the best chance of having a successful academic career.
The first decision you will want to consider is what level of degree attainment you wish to achieve? If you want to achieve an optimal result in terms of your career arc, you will need to first determine your precise career goals. Do you want to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant? Do you want to work as an Occupational Therapist (OT) directly with clients? Perhaps you are more interested in Occupational Therapy (OT) from the perspective of management or even in a research capacity working on developing cutting edge techniques and technologies to assist in Occupational Therapy (OT). There are many different potential sub-specializations and niches within the career cluster of Occupational Therapy (OT) and the better idea you have of your final career objective, the more clear your educational path will be.
The Bachelors Degree of Occupational Therapy
With a Bachelor’s of Occupational Therapy, you will be able to go on to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant and work directly with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to deliver maximum results to your patient. This career is one that you can get into quickly after earning your Bachelor’s degree and may be a good fit for those who for various reasons do not feel they can be in school for six to eight years and complete their Master’s of Occupational Therapy.
Your educational needs as a Bachelor’s degree student will differ from those earning more advanced degrees. One advantage of going for a Bachelor’s degree is that there are more schools that offer undergrad programs in Occupational Therapy (OT) than more advanced degrees which will give you a greater selection of campus or online programs to choose from.
The Masters of Occupational Therapy
If you plan on becoming a licensed Occupational Therapist (OT), you will need to plan on earning at least a Master’s in Occupational Therapy (OT). A Master’s from an accredited school is a pre-requisite of becoming licensed as an Occupational Therapist (OT) in every state.
Finding a graduate program that meets your needs will require you to decide if you wish to be a generalist who is capable of working with all patients or if you are wishing to specialize. For example there are some programs that are designed to create specialists who work with disabled children, the elderly or adults recovering from severe injuries. Specialization will narrow your options but will sometimes have higher salaries depending on the hiring body. If you are looking for a specialized program you will need to find schools that offer those programs.
As you select your graduate program, be sure you are informed as to the pre-requisites that are required of you in order to be accepted into the program as this will vary from school to school.
Doctorate in Occupational Therapy
For those who want to go into Occupational Therapy management or research, or for those who wish to be experts in the field, the Doctorate of Occupational Therapy is the ideal program. Standing at the pinnacle of educational attainment the Ph.D. is a rigorous academic program that allows one to understand their field in depth and also enjoy a degree of specialization not offered at other levels of education. A Doctorate will also give you the greatest range of career choices and will make your resume standout in the eyes of prospective employers.
Online Programs vs. Physical Campuses
Once you have your career goals and educational needs mapped out you will need to determine what kind of program you wish to enroll in. One of the decisions you can make to narrow down your list of prospective schools is to weigh the relative merits of online vs. physical campuses. For some programs online degrees are not possible and this of course will need to be taken into consideration.
The benefits of a traditional campus include social interaction and interactive learning with your fellow students and the advantages of being physically present when interacting with a professor. For those who find college classes overwhelming or distracting the ability to take online courses from the comfort of one’s own home or office and all the flexibility that goes with that can be a perfect fit.
Putting it all together
There are many factors to consider as you evaluate and weigh the various schools you may wish to apply to. By starting at the end and determining your career goals you can work backwards from your absolute needs to the more personal decisions around comfort and learning style. The careful consideration of all these facets of your decision will give the best chance at having an optimal educational result.
Remember, a successful academic career will give you the tools and knowledge necessary to smoothly transition into a rewarding career as an Occupational Therapist.