12 of the Best Occupational Therapy Specialty Certifications to Advance Your Career.

12 of the Best Occupational Therapy Specialty Certifications to Advance Your Career.

Occupational Therapy Specialty Certifications

Think about your career as an Occupational Therapist as a canvas; it’s vast, full of possibilities, and waiting for you to make your mark. But what’s the best way to add more color and depth to this canvas? Specialized certifications! They’re the extra brush strokes that can transform your professional life into a masterpiece. Whether you are thinking of becoming a Occupational therapist or you are a tenured practitioner, becoming specialized can enhance your career as an OT.

Here, we’re going to look at all the different certifications that can help you paint a career that’s not only rewarding but specialized.

Why Picking an Occupational Therapy Specialty Really Matters

Meeting a Range of Needs

If you’re an Occupational Therapist or a COTA, that means you’re in the business of helping people—from children to geriatrics. And guess what? All these different people come with their own set of challenges. Specializing in one area allows you to really dig deep, becoming the go-to person for specific treatments. In other words, it can make you indispensable. Whether you are an entry-level first year professional or a seasoned pro, specialty certifications are a great way to advance your OT and OTA career.

Most Occupational Therapy Assistants and Occupational Therapists have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate. This ensures that they have a baseline level of competency to do their job well. Obtaining a specialization or advanced certificate through a certificate program can help separate good OTs and COTA’s from great ones in the eyes of a clinical practice. This is especially true if you already have years of relevant work experience.

Stand Out in Your Career

When searching for a full time role, a specialized advanced certification can set you apart in a competitive job market. Advanced certifications are often viewed by employers the same as years of experience, relative fieldwork, and professional development. Whether it’s improving your job prospects or opening up avenues for career advancement, specialized training can be your ticket to more specialized roles in the healthcare field or even leading your own practice one day.

If you’re an Occupational Therapist (OT) or Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA), your journey through a rigorous, accredited educational program has equipped you with a strong foundation. Given this robust training, undertaking a certification course and navigating its accompanying certification exam will likely seem more manageable and less daunting in comparison.

Financial Perks

Becoming an expert in a particular aspect of Occupational Therapy can come with financial benefits. Specialized therapists are valuable to institutions, leading to better compensation packages. Therefore, your investment in further education and certification can quickly pay off.

Enhanced Job Satisfaction

The deep dive into a subject matter that you’re passionate about can be immensely rewarding. The specialized work you do can lead to greater job satisfaction, as you’re more likely to engage in roles and settings that align closely with your professional interests and personal values.

Networking Opportunities

Certifications often come with their own communities of practice. Being certified in a specialization connects you with other professionals in the same area, offering valuable networking opportunities. Whether it’s through conferences, seminars, or online forums, specialized networks can be rich sources of knowledge, mentorship, and professional opportunities.

Quality of Care

Arguably, the most significant benefit of becoming specialized is the level of care you can provide. Specializations equip you with advanced knowledge and skills that prepare you to offer cutting-edge treatments and interventions. This specialized training allows you to offer high-quality care, which can translate into better client outcomes.

Specialization isn’t for everyone, and choosing to specialize should align with your career goals and personal interests. However, if you find a niche you’re passionate about and wish to dive deeper, earning a specialized certification can be a transformative step in your professional journey as an Occupational Therapist.

Occupational Therapist Certifications: Setting the Stage

Before diving into the specialized certifications, it’s crucial to understand the landscape. Certifications are generally pursued after you have gained some level of experience post-licensure and meet certain eligibility requirements. They require a commitment of time, financial resources, and continuing education, but it can be very rewarding. The benefits are numerous, from career advancement to higher earning potential to the sheer satisfaction of mastering a specialized skill set.

Board Certification in Pediatrics (BCP)

If your professional interests lean towards working with children, then the Board Certification in Pediatrics (BCP) is an option to consider. This certification equips you with the expertise to address a range of pediatric conditions—whether it’s developmental delays, congenital issues, or acquired disabilities. With a BCP, you are better prepared to implement therapeutic interventions that can make a monumental difference in a child’s life.

Board Certification in Gerontology (BCG)

Aging is a complex process that impacts multiple areas of life, from physical health to social engagement. The Board Certification in Gerontology (BCG) is designed for OTs who wish to specialize in geriatric care, a field of increasing importance given the aging population. This certification provides you with a comprehensive understanding of age-related changes, common geriatric conditions, and best practices in interventions. With a BCG, you can offer meaningful therapy that improves older adults’ quality of life and functional independence. A BCG is also great when combined with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist certification.

Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation (BCPR)

If you are passionate about helping individuals regain physical capabilities after an accident, surgery, or due to chronic conditions, the Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation (BCPR) is a suitable choice. This certification covers a broad spectrum of topics, from orthopedic conditions to adaptive techniques for daily living activities. Obtaining a BCPR signals to healthcare institutions and patients alike that you have attained a high level of expertise in physical rehabilitation.

Board Certification in Mental Health (BCMH)

Mental health is an ever-important aspect of comprehensive healthcare, and the Board Certification in Mental Health (BCMH) offers a path for OTs to specialize in this critical area. This certification is ideal for those who want to work in settings like mental health facilities, hospitals, or outpatient clinics. With a BCMH, you’ll have the skills to address various mental health conditions, employ evidence-based interventions, and contribute meaningfully to interdisciplinary mental health care teams.

Certified Hand Therapist (CHT)

A highly specialized field within occupational therapy, hand therapy focuses on conditions affecting the hands and upper extremities. A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) deeply understands the anatomical complexities of the hand and upper extremities and the various disorders and conditions that can affect this area. Whether you’re dealing with traumatic injuries, postsurgical cases, or repetitive strain injuries, a CHT certification can place you at the forefront of hand and upper extremity rehabilitation. Becoming a CHT is one of the most popular options amongst Occupational Therapists. Learn more on how to become a Certified Hand Therapist.

Neuro-Developmental Treatment Certification (NDT)

For OTs interested in working with individuals with neurological impairments like cerebral palsy, stroke, or traumatic brain injury, the Neuro-Developmental Treatment Certification (NDT) can be a key credential. This certification focuses on the evaluation and treatment of individuals with movement disorders and helps you develop targeted therapeutic strategies to improve function and independence. Other institutions offer this certification outside the one linked here.

Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) Certification

Sensory processing disorders can profoundly impact a person’s daily life. With the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) Certification, you can become proficient in assessing and treating these disorders. This certification is especially useful if you work in pediatric settings or schools where sensory issues are commonly encountered. Other institutions offer this certification outside the one linked here.

Certification in Assistive Technology (ATP)

In today’s tech-driven world, assistive technologies can make a huge difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities. The Certification in Assistive Technology (ATP) equips you with the necessary knowledge to recommend, customize, and implement a wide range of assistive devices. An Assistive Technology Professional works with everything from from mobility aids to communication technologies that can improve a patient’s quality of life.

Certified Low Vision Therapist (CLVT)

Visual impairments can drastically alter an individual’s ability to engage in daily activities. If you’re keen on helping people adapt and thrive despite vision loss, the Certified Low Vision Therapist (CLVT) certification could be an excellent fit. With this credential, you can offer specialized low-vision services, providing assessment and intervention strategies that maximize the client’s remaining vision and improve their overall quality of life.

Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS)

Driving is often equated with independence. The Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) certification is designed for OTs who wish to specialize in driving assessments and rehabilitative programs. With this certification, you can evaluate a client’s cognitive, visual, and motor skills related to driving and provide them with the necessary training and adaptations to ensure they can drive safely.

Lymphedema Certified Therapist (CLT)

Lymphedema, or swelling due to the accumulation of lymph fluid, is a condition that can occur due to various medical conditions or treatments. As a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT), you’ll be trained to provide specialized care, including lymphatic drainage techniques and compression therapy, to manage and reduce symptoms for those affected by this condition. Other institutions offer this certification outside the one linked here.

Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist (CEAS)

The modern workspace can contribute to a range of musculoskeletal issues. The Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist (CEAS) certification prepares you to conduct ergonomic assessments in various settings—from offices to industrial sites. You’ll learn how to analyze work environments and recommend changes to prevent injuries and improve overall well-being. Other institutions offer this certification outside the one linked here.

Other Certifications not Mentioned but Recommended to Explore:

Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS), Certified Autism Specialist

Steps to Obtaining an Occupational Therapy Specialty Certification

Pursuing a specialty certification in Occupational Therapy can be a very rewarding move in your career path as an OT or OTA. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through this exciting journey:

  1. Pinpoint Your Specialty Passion: Reflect on what aspect of Occupational Therapy ignites your interest the most. It could range from geriatric care to mental health rehabilitation to areas as diverse as hippotherapy and physical agent modalities.
  2. Dive into the Certification Details: Just like with our physical therapy specializations, each specialty area comes with unique requirements. Familiarize yourself with the specific criteria for the certification you’re aiming for.
  3. Chart Your Educational Path: Depending on your chosen specialty, you might need to pursue additional academic courses or training programs. Plan how these fit into your career trajectory by reviewing education requirements through sites like AOTA RESNA, LSVT, and NBCOT.
  4. Amass Specialty-Specific Experience: Seek opportunities to gain practical, hands-on experience in your chosen area. This might involve shadowing a specialist or taking on relevant case studies.
  5. Gear Up for the Exam: Invest in your exam preparation is more than just application fees. This includes reviewing study materials, participating in study groups, identifying exam accessibility, and completing practice exams.
  6. Apply for the Certification Exam: When you feel adequately prepared, take the step to apply for the exam. Be mindful of deadlines and gather all the necessary documents.
  7. Confidently Sit for the Exam: Enter the examination hall with confidence. Your hard work and thorough preparation are your best allies.
  8. Stay Certified: After achieving your certification, keep up with the ongoing requirements to maintain it. This often involves continuous learning and professional development.
  9. Expand Your Professional Network: Engage with fellow Occupational Therapy professionals in your specialty and become an advocate. Networking and advocacy can lead to new career opportunities and shared knowledge.
  10. Continuous Self-Improvement: Always be open to further learning and evolving within your specialty. Staying abreast of the latest developments will enhance your practice and benefit your clients.

Final Thoughts

Within the diverse realm of occupational therapy, carving out a specialization can be an asset as a practitioner. As an Occupational Therapist, you should view specialized certifications as indispensable tools that not only enhance your career trajectory but also empower you to offer outstanding patient care in an array of complex situations. This guide has illuminated the variety of specialized certifications that are available for OTs.

Why is focusing on a specific area of expertise so crucial? The answer is grounded in the diverse needs of your clients, from pediatric to geriatric communities and everyone in between. Each age group presents its own unique set of requirements that can be more effectively addressed with specialized training, making you an essential asset in your chosen niche.

 From a career development standpoint, earning a specialized certification distinguishes you in a field that’s becoming increasingly competitive. Such credentials not only add luster to your resume but also create avenues for career advancements, including the possibility of assuming leadership roles or joining specialized clinics.

Lastly, the financial upside of being specialized should not be overlooked. With specialized skills, you’re likely to command a higher salary. Institutions acknowledge the value of specialized skill sets and are usually willing to offer better compensation in return. If you are serious about taking the next step, we recommend checking out the American Occupation Therapy Association’s page on advanced certifications.