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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Last Step, But it Comes with a Price (The Cost of Getting Your OT License)


by Daniel

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Life Hacks

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This is the time when many of you are finishing your Fall semester, and for class of 2021 this is the end of the didactic part of the Master’s program for you! Congratulations! Time flies by right? Once you are done with the COMPS Exam and get some well-deserved rest during the holidays, you will be gone for 8 months doing level-2 fieldwork. Perhaps you may feel like it is too early to start thinking about the NBCOT or OT License application process, but trust me, that will come sooner that you expect it. I wanted to take this time, while it is still fresh on my mind, to share with you the costs I accumulated the last couple of months in the process of getting my OT license. Last week I received an email stating that my California OT License was approved and I am officially an OTR/L!! But first, I had to pay the final license fee.

Breakdown of my expenses from August to November 2020

Breakdown of my expenses from August to November 2020

So…$1,278, that was the total spent to get my OT license. I was not happy about it either. Yes, that is a lot of money and for many students it may not be easy to get that amount of money. This is the reason why I think it’s important to start thinking about it now, even if it’s still a year away. You want to make sure you are planning ahead and if you can set aside some money for when this time comes. I understand that my experience may be different from other students, and keep in mind that these were my costs for 2020 in the state of California. If you are applying for your OT limited permit and/or license, the process and costs may look different. Lastly, the process doesn’t really change but make sure you are checking all the updated requirements.

I remember when I was in the Master’s program I knew I would have to pay for NBCOT exam, OT License, etc. but it wasn’t until I did my research that I realized just how expensive it is. And how does one “save money” while being a full time student, being at fieldwork, and perhaps not having an consistent income? Unfortunately, there isn’t one specific answer for that. However, there are a few things I would recommend as you prepare for the costs of getting your OT license.

  • Apply apply apply for scholarships! Last year I applied to the California Foundation of Occupational Therapy (CFOT) Scholarship and was selected, which is one of the ways I had funds for NBCOT/OT license expenses. If you haven’t already, please check our USC Chan Scholarship Page which includes USC and non-USC scholarship opportunities throughout the year.
  • Select your study materials wisely and talk to former OT students about their experience preparing for the NBCOT exam. You may not have to get every single study material out there. I made that mistake this past year because I panicked and didn’t inform myself prior to buying study materials. As I began studying, I realized there are many free resources to study for the NBCOT. Please see previous blog that talks more about study materials I used, including free resources.
  • Consider the timeline from completing your last level-2 fieldwork to when you will need your OT limited permit and/or license. The reason I bring this up is because you may be able to reduce your costs if you don’t need your OT limited permit for example. For OTD students in the clinical track, we were required to apply for the OT limited permit in order to provide any type of client care. For other OTD tracks or if you are front-loading all your OTD courses, make sure you are in communication with Dr. Bream to understand your timeline and expectations for getting your OT limited permit and/or license. Many of my classmates that decided not to do the OTD, only had to pay for the OT license since they waited to apply for jobs until they passed the NBCOT and their license was approved.
  • For physical study materials (i.e., TherapyEd book, Occupational Therapy Examination Review Guide) check your class Facebook page, Facebook NBCOT study groups, and with former OT students as they may be willing to sell you the study books for cheaper. Also, don’t forget to use your study materials from the program (i.e., Pedretti book)!
  • Start setting money aside now, if possible. If you find yourself working during fieldwork, this may be something worth considering. I was fortunate to work as OTD Student Ambassador during the summer, helping ease the financial burden of all the expenses.
  • Get creative! Start a fundraiser! You may able to raise part of the money by selling food, baked goods, etc.

“Ugh, I have to pay more money to get my license?” Those were my exact words because it is frustrating every time you learn about additional expenses. Perhaps, the tips I provided are helpful for some you, but I think the most important part is that you are aware of those final costs that are going to come no matter what. Haven’t some sense of direction can help you plan ahead the best way that you can. Remember this will be the final step in fulfilling that dream of becoming an OT! You have done the work, and it will all be worth it in the end. If at any point you feel stuck or find yourself in a situation where you cannot afford the costs please reach out to me (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)). Later in the academic year, I will share with you all a blog post specifically to explain the NBCOT and CBOT application process, stay tuned!

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