How Long Does It Take To Become An Occupational Therapist?

Some careers allow you to assist others by enhancing their physical fitness and mobility. A vocation as an occupational therapist may be ideal if you enjoy interacting with people and helping them improve their quality of life. 

Becoming an occupational therapist requires at least 6 to 7 years of education. Nevertheless, this may differ based on your chosen educational path. 

It will take about 8 years to become an occupational therapist if you decide to pursue a Ph.D. degree rather than a master’s degree.

This post covers how long it takes to become an occupational therapist, how to accomplish it, what they do, and what qualifications you need.

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What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

An allied health profession called occupational therapy (OT) uses common activities or occupations in a therapeutic way to address physical, mental, developmental, and emotional conditions that affect a patient’s capacity to carry out daily duties. 

As a result, an occupational therapist is a healthcare professional who uses therapeutic strategies to enhance, restore, or maintain a patient’s capacity to carry out daily tasks.

What is an Occupational Therapy School Like?

The levels of occupational therapy education are varied. Before obtaining a master’s degree in occupational therapy, most OTs complete an undergraduate degree in a healthcare-related field. 

Although some colleges offer specialized pre-OT undergraduate programs, most occupational therapists begin their careers with a psychology undergraduate degree. Additionally, you can obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology, teaching, business, or kinesiology. 

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) or Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy are additional degrees available for OTs (MAOT). 

A specialized secondary degree is required to get a secondary degree that will effectively prepare you to sit for the certification examinations with the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

You will learn about the close relationship between occupational therapy and mental health and wellness in occupational therapy school. 

Additionally, anatomy, movement, and kinesiology classes are to be expected. For some programs, such as the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at PLNU, graduate students must take kinesiology and physiology prerequisite courses before applying. 

You’ll need an in-depth understanding of the human body and how various exercises and physical activities affect it. This career focuses on offering a comprehensive strategy for each individual.

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Is Attending an Occupational Therapy School Worth it?

Working with patients and their families to improve their quality of life is one of the most rewarding aspects of becoming an occupational therapist. Supporting a person’s independent living can help reduce the strain on their network of friends and family.

After graduation, you will earn a respectable salary as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with an Associate’s degree, which is far less expensive. Another benefit is that you will have less paperwork and hassle in your day-to-day job. The cons include the requirement for an occupational therapist to supervise your work.

What Schooling Do You Need to Become an Occupational Therapist?

To become an occupational therapist, adhere to these steps: 

Finish your bachelor’s degree. 

Before beginning a more specialized study, aspiring occupational therapists earn a bachelor’s degree. Biology, physiology, mental and physical health theory, practice, pediatrics, anatomy, and geriatrics are all beneficial subjects.

 Although it is not a requirement, candidates seeking admission to a master’s program in occupational therapy may benefit from having a background in the health sciences.

Finish your master’s degree 

Most occupational therapists hold at least a master’s degree in the field. Some schools and institutions offer one-year master’s degree programs for students who have an undergraduate degree in occupational therapy. 

To help students finish their degrees faster, several colleges also provide a bridge program from a bachelor’s to a master’s. 

Students studying occupational therapy take courses on functional anatomy, kinesiology, and behavioral neuroscience. They discover more about occupational therapy practice and scientific research in the area.

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Learn therapeutic skills through fieldwork 

Students must get clinical experience in various healthcare settings either while in school or after receiving a master’s degree. Fieldwork opportunities for students include mental health, geriatrics, physical impairments, and pediatrics. 

Succeed on the board exam 

Before being permitted to practice as an occupational therapist, licensed occupational therapists must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy examination. 

The exam’s questions are designed to gauge a candidate’s aptitude for determining a patient’s needs, learning about that patient’s occupational performance, selecting the best therapy, and managing and supervising occupational therapy services.

Get a license. 

Before they may begin working, occupational therapists must obtain a license from their state. To be eligible for licensing, occupational therapists need to have graduated from a recognized program. 

In most states, occupational therapy post-graduate degrees are accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Candidates must comply with the state’s licensing criteria before applying.

Continue your education to keep your license. 

To maintain their license, occupational therapists must complete continuing education units (CEUs). Professionals who enroll in normal classes after receiving their licensure can earn CEUs. Each state has different requirements for CEUs. 

Today, most CEUs can be completed online. The AOTA awards CEUs and lists authorized organizations to conduct continuing education.

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Determine your area of expertise 

Once licensed, occupational therapists are free to practice as generalists.

 However, occupational therapists can continue their study to complete specific training in poor vision, feeding, eating, and swallowing, driving, community mobility, and school systems. 

Take into account finishing a graduate degree. 

Certain occupational therapists earn a doctorate in occupational therapy. A doctorate in occupational therapy is an option for occupational therapists interested in developing their clinical practice or moving up the managerial or leadership ladder. 

A Ph.D. in occupational therapy research is an option for those interested. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Occupational Therapy?

A minimum of six to seven years are needed to become an occupational therapist. Nevertheless, this may differ based on your chosen educational path. 

Becoming an occupational therapist will take about 8 years if you decide to pursue a Ph.D. degree rather than a master’s. Of course, earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step, typically taking four years to complete. 

This bachelor’s degree should be in biology, kinesiology, psychology, occupational therapy, or a closely connected discipline. 

After earning your bachelor’s degree, you must decide whether to pursue a master’s or a Ph.D. degree. Most doctoral degrees require four years to complete, whereas master’s degrees often take two to three. 

The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education must accredit any program you decide to enroll in. Once you’ve finished a recognized program, you’ll be qualified to apply for an occupational therapist license.

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How Much Does it Cost to be a Licensed Occupational Therapy?

A master’s in occupational therapy typically costs between $15,000 and $70,000. 

For $49,000, Milligan College, a private university in Tennessee, offers a 79-credit master’s degree in occupational therapy.

The cost of a master’s in occupational therapy at the public University of New Mexico ranges from $15,000 for residents of the state taking the most courses per semester to $70,000 for non-residents completing fewer courses more slowly. 

A master’s degree in occupational therapy is typically the minimum required for entrance into the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Numerous occupational therapy doctoral programs are approved, costing $43,000 to $108,000, and requiring three to five years to complete on average.

The National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy offers a board certification exam that costs $500 and can be obtained by taking it. This exam satisfies most states’ requirements for practicing as an occupational therapist. 

The practitioners can use the term Registered Occupational Therapist after passing the test. The normal state licensing costs range from $90-$300.

The extra charges for a student attending occupational therapy school may reach $10,000–$20,000.

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Salary and Job Outlook for Occupational Therapist after Study

Opportunities for work as an occupational therapist are rising in many settings, including those that serve older patients in acute hospitals, rehab centers, and orthopedic settings. 

Occupational therapists with a particular area of expertise, such as those in mental health, pediatrics, gerontology, driving and community mobility, environment modification, and feeding, eating, and swallowing, will be more in demand in the future years.

Overall, it is anticipated that the occupational therapy sector will continue to see high demand and job prospects far into the next decade. 

Between 2018 and 2028, the employment of occupational therapists is projected to expand by 18%, which is substantially more significant than the average growth rate for all occupations. 

As a result, it is anticipated that within the same time frame, there will be a 23,700 increase in occupational therapy jobs. 

The continuous need for qualified occupational therapists to care for patients with chronic illnesses and impairments, including Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, autism, and other ailments, is a significant contributor to this rise.

Licensed occupational therapists should continue to find work in a variety of settings, especially those that provide care for the elderly, such as acute hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and orthopedic facilities. 

Additionally, those with specialized knowledge in particular treatment fields should anticipate greater work chances.

Salary Outlook

The BLS reports that occupational therapists earn a median income of $84,270 annually, significantly higher than the median annual wage for all workers ($38,640). However, demand for them is growing faster than many other careers, both inside and outside the health care industry. 

According to the BLS, the lowest 10% of occupational therapists in May 2018 made $55,490, while the richest 10% made more than $120,750 annually.

Working in hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools, home health care agencies, and nursing homes, beginning occupational therapists are likely to make a salary similar to the national median wage for occupational therapists, which is $84,270 annually.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

Is becoming an occupational therapist challenging?

The high level of education certification (Master’s/Doctorate) needed to earn a respectable living makes occupational therapy (OT) one of the more challenging careers to get started in. This field is also a little bit harder to find employment in. 
However, there is an almost limitless possibility for occupational pleasure beyond employment. People with the appropriate education and certification are in high demand right now, and those who meet the requirements can make a respectable livelihood after leaving employment.

What should one take to become an occupational therapist?

The required prerequisite courses will vary by university. Before being regarded as OTs, students often need to have completed a master’s degree program in occupational therapy.

Do I need a degree to work as an occupational therapist? 

No, all new occupational therapists in the UK must register with the Health and Care Professions Council to practice. Completion of a validated degree program is a requirement for registration.

Is it possible for me to study occupational therapy online? 

No, it would be best to enroll in college to become an occupational therapist. The only available distance learning programs are designed for support workers (e.g., HNC offered at Glasgow Clyde College).


The normal training period for occupational therapists is five to six years. Before finishing a master’s degree and engaging in fieldwork to gain experience, candidates must first earn a bachelor’s degree. Before becoming a certified occupational therapist, you must also fulfill licensure criteria and pass a test.


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