9 Occupational Therapy Specialties to Advance Your Career

With nine very unique specialties to consider, occupational therapists have the opportunity to create a career that they love. After practicing in the same area consistently, they informally tend to specialize in at least one or more.

If you’re going down the occupational therapy career path but unsure of what specialty you’d like to choose, take a look at our list below to help you understand the differences:

1. Gerontology (BCG)

Gerontology Occupational Therapists work with the elderly and aging population.

There are a number of reasons why these individuals may be in need of OT services:

  • A desire to stay in their home as they age
  • Coping with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Living with arthritis
  • Fall prevention for injured or disabled adults
  • Recovering from a hip replacement
  • Coping with low vision
  • Recovering from a stroke
  • Driving safety

Gerontology is one of the more common specialties in occupational therapy, due to the large number of patients.

This OT speciality offers you the ability to work in a variety of settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Rehabilitation Centers
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Homes
  • In-Home Healthcare

2. Mental Health (BCMH)

The Mental Health Board Certification allows this speciality to focus on providing mental health intervention that incorporates wellness and prevention for clients.

In most cases, this OT speciality offers you the ability to work in a hospital or home setting.

3. Pediatrics (BCP)

A child’s routine daily activities like playing, learning, and socializing are important to their development.

Occupational Therapists specializing in Pediatrics work with children and may integrate applied behavior analysis to help them succeed in these activities.

Within this certification is a range of specific services:

  • General functioning such as crawling, walking, feeding, walking, etc.
  • Functional skills for children on the autism spectrum
  • Working with physical or mental disabilities

This OT speciality offers you the ability to work in a variety of settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Rehabilitation Centers
  • Schools
  • In-Home Healthcare

4. Physical Rehabilitation (BCPR)

The Physical Rehabilitation board certification includes significant ability to “design and implement physical rehabilitation interventions that are client-centered, contextually relevant, and evidence-based to facilitate optimal occupational engagement,” according to AOTA.

This is one of the occupational therapy specialties that equates to a wide variety of workplace settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Rehabilitation Centers
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Homes
  • Schools
  • In-Home Healthcare

5. Driving and Community Mobility (SCDCM or SCDCM-A)

As the cornerstone of an OT’s career, Driving and Community Mobility helps clients to improve their mobility through driving, walking, taking public transportation, and more.

These occupational therapy specialties work in a variety of areas throughout the community such as:

Driving or riding in cars, specifically…

  • Teaching the use of adaptive equipment
  • Determining if a patient is fit to drive
  • Providing drive-specific rehabilitation services
  • Advocating for the patient legally regarding court decisions about continuing to drive
  • Teaching teens with disabilities to drive

Public transit options, focusing on…

  • Training someone in a method of transportation he/she is not familiar
  • Consulting with transit companies, city officials or policymakers to advocate for mobility-related issues
  • Facilitating traffic safety programs geared toward those with disabilities

Walking, precisely…

  • Working with the city to ensure ADA compliance via curb-cuts, textured ramps, etc.
  • Providing patient guidance on best routes and times of day

This occupational therapy speciality offers unique working environments, including:

  • Offices
  • Schools
  • In-Home Healthcare
  • Actual Driving

6. Environmental Modification (SCEM or SCEM-A)

The Environmental Modification OT specialty is for practitioners who adapt their clients’ environment to accommodate for participation, safety, accessibility, and independence.

In most cases, environmental modification work is as-needed, making the OT somewhat of a consultant. There are many pros in this speciality, such as:

  • The flexibility to make your own schedule
  • Travel opportunities to work throughout the state and country.
  • Patient advocacy
  • Community networking

7. Feeding, Eating, and Swallowing (SCFES or SCFES-A)

These occupational therapy specialties focus on essential services in the comprehensive management of Feeding, Eating, and Swallowing.

Occupational therapists are involved in:

  • Facilitating the activities of feeding, eating, and swallowing safely
  • Ensuring appropriate set up, equipment, and instruction for the client and relevant others to meet identified nutritional guidelines
  • Ensuring adequate performance of the components of the oral, pharyngeal and esophageal phases of swallow
  • Holistically addressing the physical, psychosocial, and cultural factors associated with feeding, eating, and swallowing.

These specialties in occupational therapy most often work in the following settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Rehabilitation Centers
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Homes
  • Schools
  • In-Home Healthcare

8. Low Vision (SCLV or SCLV-A)

OTs who specialize in Low Vision assist individuals who have poor eyesight that cannot be corrected by lenses, medical intervention, or surgery.

An occupational therapist in this space must have:

  • Experience working with adults suffering from eye disease/conditions or brain injury who have deficiencies in acuity and visual field.
  • Expertise enhancing vision through the use of optical devices and assistive technology.
  • Experience working with optometrists, ophthalmologists and other vision rehabilitation professionals.

In most cases, this OT speciality is practiced in home settings.

9. School Systems (SCSS or SCSS-A)

School Systems Specialty Certification is for occupational therapists who work with students in the school setting.

Students range in age from 3 to 21 and must be eligible for education services under federal, state, and local mandates.

Because of the wide age range, SCSS certified OTs can work in:

  • Preschools
  • Elementary
  • Secondary
  • Transition
  • Or post-school environments in either public or private settings.

Finding the Specialty That’s Right For You

As with any career, it may take some time for you to find occupational therapy specialty that you love. If you’re unsure, we encourage you to take our quiz to point you in the right direction.


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