​​​​​​​​​​​​​Knowledge Base


What are the steps to become an Occupational Therapist (OT) or Physical Therapist (PT) in public schools?
Becoming an OT or PT will equip you to practice in many different types of settings, not just public schools.
Regarding entry into Occupational Therapy:
Entry level into occupational therapy programs is at both master’s degree and doctoral levels. The profession is interested in therapists prepared at the doctoral level as there is need for faculty and researchers prepared at that level. However, that is not necessary if your goal is to be a practitioner. The length of Maste​r’s degree programs is typically two years for those having a baccalaureate degree.  Doctoral programs are usually four years long following a baccalaureate. There may be prerequisite courses required that must be completed before entry into the Master’s or Doctoral program.
There are many university programs that offer occupational therapy preparation. The web address below will take you to a page at the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.’s website that provides links to lists of schools for master’s and doctoral level programs.
For entry into Physical Therapy:
Physical therapist entry level education programs in the United States now only offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT). The length of most DPT programs is 3 years with the majority of programs requiring applicants to have earned a bachelor’s degree prior to admission. There are other programs that offer a 3 + 3 format in which 3 years of specific pre-PT undergraduate courses must be completed before the student advances into the 3-year professional DPT program. You can find more information about educational programs for physical therapy at the following website:
You might also consider becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) or Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA). OTAs can work in the school setting under supervision of an OT. PTAs work under the supervision of a PT. Educational programs for OTAs and PTAs are typically at the 2-year Associate Degree level.
Whichever route you decide to take, if you think that your ultimate destination is to work in the public schools, it would benefit you to take some of your student fieldwork (the practicum portion of the educational program) in a public school system.



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