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The occupational therapy field is more competitive than ever before and with more and more students graduating with OT degrees, the job market is becoming increasingly competitive. One of the best ways you can stand out in amongst competing job candidates is to take the time to specialize in an area you feel passionate about. Whether you want to work with children, or try your hand at hand therapy, there’s never been a better time to specialize. Here seven of many OT specializations and certifications that may spark your interest.
Becoming a Certified Hand Therapist, or CHT, is a popular choice among both OTs and Physical Therapists (PTs). These therapists specialize in treating hand-related conditions and injuries, as well as providing post-surgical therapy services. Hand Therapists primarily work in hospital-based or private outpatient clinics. The certification process is rather difficult, but well worth it if this is an area you are interested in, as many hand therapy job openings require either a current CHT status or a clinician who is interested in or actively pursuing completion. Certification requires 4,000 hours of experience in hand or solely upper extremity rehabilitation as well as passing a certification exam.
Occupational Therapy positions in pediatrics make up a huge portion of the profession’s workforce. Demonstration of excellence within this clinical area is important, and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers experienced OTs the opportunity to obtain advanced certification in pediatrics. The association touts advanced certification as one of the “most recognized tools for showing you have the expanded capabilities to excel.” Obtaining this board specialization, which is also offered in the areas of gerontology, physical rehabilitation, and mental health, traditionally was completed via submission of a portfolio, but this year will now be received only through examination as well as demonstration of 3,000 hours of work in the field and 500 hours related specifically to OT intervention in pediatrics. As pediatric OTs treat many children with Autism, you may also assist with advancing your career by becoming an Certified Autism Specialist (CAS).
Vision rehabilitation is a growing field for OTs. Occupational Therapists specializing in low vision educate clients on adaptive techniques, recommend devices, and provide interventions seeking to improve the functional independence of individuals with visual impairments resulting from disease, congenital conditions, or other underlying conditions. Certification in low vision is obtained through the American Occupational Association through completion of a portfolio and documented experience in the specialty area. Certification also exists for low vision rehabilitation through programs within the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham as well as the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies at Salus University.
Certified Neuro-related Specialists
A challenging yet very rewarding specialty, working with individuals recovering from neurological events takes place within acute hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and outpatient clinics. Clinicians who begin working in this arena often become strongly passionate about all things neuro-related. Two certifications exist that will demonstrate your knowledge and passion and potentially assist with obtaining a position at a stellar facility. If you are interested in this field, consider setting a goal to become either a Certified Brain Injury Specialist Trainer (CBIST) or Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist (CSRS), both of which require passing an examination after meeting the application requirements. Similarly, OTs seeking neuro-related work at an outpatient clinic may be interested in obtaining status as a Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist (MSCS) to assist with the diverse clientele they see with neurological conditions.
As corporations continue to seek improved workplace environments, reduced risk for injuries for their staff, and proper workplace positioning, OTs have the potential to advance their position in this field alongside physical therapists and chiropractors as ergonomic professionals. Working in this area most likely will require the appropriate credentials. The Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics offers certifications in ergonomics, human factors, and user experience. With ongoing growth of technology products, user experience design in particular is well-suited to match with traditional OT values of reaching daily living independence in accordance with an individual’s unique abilities.
Occupational Therapists pride themselves on maintaining a holistic mindset and treating a “whole person” rather than just the condition or “affected part” (such as an arm). How better to do this than by addressing environmental factors within the home to help an individual maintain their independence and safety. Home modification specialists help people make the changes necessary to remain in their homes. The American Occupational Therapy Association offers a Specialty Certification in Environmental Modifications (SCEM), although other programs also exist. The association provides a listing of all OTs in the United States who have obtained the certification and, as the list is quite small, this may be a needed area for more OTs to work in! Read this Non-Clinical PT interview with an OT currently working a home modification business as well as this article addressing the positive relationship between OTs and Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS).
Assistive Technology and Wheelchair Seating
Occupational Therapy and assistive technology seem like the perfect fit. Similar to OTs working in the home modification business, occupational therapists can be instrumental in identifying appropriate technology to increase an individual’s independence. This is best accomplished through extensive training and knowledge of available technology as well as completion of an Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) certification through the Rehabilitation and Engineering Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). This certification is challenging to obtain. With a master’s degree in occupational therapy, you will be required to obtain 1000 hours of work in assistive technology within a six year timeframe and pass an exam. Similarly, RESNA offers a Seating and Mobility Specialist certification, which qualifies a clinician to measure and fit individuals for appropriate custom wheelchairs.
Not only will the pursuit of advanced education increase your odds for obtaining an awesome job, it also demonstrates your commitment to the profession and just may ignite a passion that will lead to further career development opportunities in the future.