Overall, the employment outlook for occupational therapists is very positive. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow by about 43% over the next eight years. Nursing homes, hospitals, and occupational therapy offices employ the majority of therapists. But some occupational therapists also work in schools. Working as a school-based OT can be an interesting and rewarding setting to pursue your career. If you want to work in a school setting, competition for jobs may be a bit tougher. Jobs as a school-based occupational therapist are often sought after. The good news is there are things you can do to increase your marketability and improve your chances of landing your dream job.
Become an Expert
As a school occupational therapist, you may work with children with a variety of disabilities and medical conditions. You should have general knowledge about all types of conditions, but it can increase your marketability if you become an expert in one or two areas, such as autism spectrum disorders or visual processing issues. You can increase your knowledge by focusing your continuing education classes on specific areas.
Learn Another Language
Being bilingual is an excellent skill for occupational therapists working in a school setting. Although you can’t become proficient in a foreign language in a few weeks, you can start to learn the basics. The language you choose to study is up to you. Keep in mind that if you’re trying to boost marketability, learning French is probably not as in demand as Spanish or Mandarin.
Consider Earning a School System Specialty Certification
This certification is offered through the American Occupational Therapy Association for both occupational therapists and OT assistants. It’s intended for therapists and assistants who plan to work with children ages 3 through 21. Students may be in preschool, elementary, secondary, and post-school settings. In order to earn the certification, applicants must complete a detailed application, which lists school experience and other qualifications.
Pursue Board Certification on Pediatrics
The American Association of Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers board certification in pediatrics. Obtaining a pediatric certification is not mandatory to work as a school-based OT, but it can give your resume a boost. The certification demonstrates your proficiency in pediatrics and highlights your accomplishments in the field. Specific requirements for board certification are available on the AOTA website.
Highlight Your Experience Working with Children
Have you worked with children in the past? Jobs working with kids—camp counselor, preschool teacher, or even coach—all provide good experience. Don’t forget about volunteer work you did or jobs you had in college.
Consider Joining Your State Occupational Therapy Association
Most states have an occupational therapy association. Although they are not specifically for therapists working in schools, joining a professional organization shows your commitment to the profession. Most state associations provide continuing education classes, workshops, and opportunities to network and meet other occupational therapists in your area.