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Colleges for Occupational Therapy in the U.S.

Occupational therapists work to enhance the life skills of people who have physical, emotional or mental disabilities. These therapists are trained to assist patients in completing tasks that improve memory function and physical dexterity so that they can care for themselves independently. Occupational therapists need a master's degree and state licensure to work in the field.

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How to Select an Occupational Therapy College

Students seeking careers as occupational therapists should consider attending a graduate degree program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that all states require occupational therapy license applicatants to have a master's degree in the field from an ACOTE-accredited school (www.bls.gov). This accreditation is also necessary for people who wish to take the national certification exam, which is offered by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy. Attending an program at an ACOTE-accredited school, therefore, may help students complete the licensure process.

Students without a bachelor's degree who are interested in a career as an occupational therapist might search for schools that offer dual master's and bachelor's degree programs. These programs allow students to obtain both degrees faster than by attending two separate programs. This shortened time can also reduce a student's education costs.

Flexibility in course scheduling is another factor that students might consider when selecting a program. Because master's degree programs typically require students to participate in clinical immersions, internships and externships, students with career responsibilities may opt to enroll in schools that offer weekend or part-time classes.

Occupational Therapy Program Overview

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree program in occupational therapy focuses on introducing students to the general concepts of the field. Their curriculum usually consists of a combination of coursework and supervised clinical sessions. Classes in these programs may cover topics like kinesiology, physical rehabilitation, neurology and communication skills.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degree occupational therapy program curriculum includes coursework in subjects like the therapeutic use of self, occupational science, assistive technology and functional movement. The format of these programs includes coursework, clinical work and supervised internships. Graduates are usually prepared for entry-level positions in the field.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Licensed therapists can obtain a doctoral degree either in occupational therapy or in a related field, such as rehabilitation sciences. These programs prepare students for careers in scientific research, university-level teaching or specialized clinical practice. Students learn the core concepts of occupational science and are typically expected to complete dissertations or participate in residencies.

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