How to become a pediatric occupational therapist

Updated March 23, 2017

Occupational therapists are known for helping individuals learn to remaster everyday tasks in their daily lives following an accident, injury or illness. While many in this profession work with adults, paediatric occupational therapists work specifically with children. If you're interested in working with children and being part of the health care field, you should learn how to become a paediatric occupational therapist.

Graduate with a bachelor's degree. The first step to becoming a paediatric occupational therapist is to get your bachelor's degree. Most occupational therapists planning to work with children get their undergraduate degree in life sciences, biology or pre-occupational therapy.

Earn your master's degree. After completing your bachelor's degree, you can get accepted to a master's program and begin studying occupational therapy. It generally takes two to three years to complete, and includes clinical experiences that allow you to implement in an actual health care facility what you're learning in the classroom.

Perform a supervised experience in the field. Most states require that paediatric occupational therapists perform a supervised experience for a minimum number of hours once they have completed their master's degree. Often this requires you to get a temporary license, which is good for only the time it takes you to complete your supervised experience. You can do your supervised experience in any setting that allows you to work with children, such as a children's hospital or paediatric clinic.

Pass the occupational therapy test. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy administers a national exam that is required for licensure as a paediatric occupational therapist. This is a general exam that will not pertain exclusively to working with children, however, since it is given to all occupational therapists regardless of their specialities.

Apply for your state license. Once you've completed your supervised experience and passed the national test, you can apply for your occupational therapy license from your state. There may be additional documents or forms you must submit to get your license depending upon where you plan to work. This is why it is important to check with the licensing organisation in your state.

Find a job as a paediatric occupational therapist. After the state has approved your application for a license, you can begin working as a paediatric occupational therapist. Children's hospitals, paediatric clinics and children's rehabilitation programs are all places where you can seek out a position.


The application process to get into a master's degree program in occupational therapy differs from one school to another; thus, it is important to learn about each school's application process in advance.


It is illegal in most states to work as an occupational therapist without a license.

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About the Author

Allison Dodge has been a writer since 2005, specializing in education, careers, health and travel. She has worked at educational institutions for more than 10 years. Dodge has a master's degree in education administration.