If you’re looking for a fulfilling career that allows you to help others and make a difference in their daily lives, then becoming an occupational therapist is something to consider. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages to develop and maintain everyday skills, such as walking or brushing their teeth, that they may have lost due to an accident, advanced age or a disability. To get into this field, you need a background of college courses to earn a degree in occupational therapy.
Many schools offer a combined BS/MS program for people interested in becoming an occupational therapist. In addition to core classes, students take a variety of professional courses, along with fieldwork in different settings. Once they earn a bachelor of science degree, students enter a two-year graduate program in occupational therapy. To be eligible to take the national certification exam for licensure as an occupational therapist, a student must have a master’s in the field.
For this pre-professional component, undergraduate students take a broad range of general education courses that serve as prerequisites for the degree. These include core curriculum courses, such as language arts, math, science and philosophy. During this time, students are also required to maintain a minimum GPA, which varies depending on the school. Volunteer work in an occupational therapy setting is another common requirement for students seeking their BS in the field.
Professional courses directly related to occupational therapy make up another portion of the degree. These classes give students the necessary background knowledge in the field. Courses in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, neuroscience and kinesiology are mandatory at most schools, in addition to classes that focus on working with specific age groups, such as children or the elderly. Other occupational therapy courses are required as well, but the specifics of each vary from college to college. All classes in the program are designed to give students the “book smarts” they’ll be using when they start the next stage of the degree.
Fieldwork is the hands-on component that provides students with the real-world experience of working in an occupational therapy setting. In several levels of fieldwork, you’ll be dealing with different age groups and in various facilities so you gain a better understanding of the field as a whole. In the fieldwork portion of the program, expect to spend several days or weeks at a time working with patients and carrying out other professional responsibilities while under the supervision of your instructor.