Hogeschool van Amsterdam

European Master Of Science In Occupational Therapy

Working as an Occupational therapist in the U.S.


Back in 2009 I decided to pursue my dream: working in the U.S. as an occupational therapist. To be able to do so, I needed to pass the license exam at the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Unfortunately, my German three-year university degree was not equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree, so they would not allow me to sit the exam. At that point I was relieved to find out that they would if I completed the European Master of Science in Occupational Therapy programme!

I enrolled in Amsterdam and successfully completed OT- EuroMaster’s programme. This was, however, only the first step towards my ultimate goal of working in the U.S.

Pia Seltmann - Germany

First step: OT-EuroMaster degree

I enrolled in Amsterdam and successfully completed the qualification program and master’s program. This was, however, only the first step towards my ultimate goal of working in the U.S. After I received my degree, I immediately applied for the Occupational Therapist Eligibility Determination (OTED) process. This process determines if an applicant with a foreign occupational therapy degree meets the requirement to take the NBCOT license exam. Gladly I did, and in September of 2014 I passed the exam! Step 2 complete.

NBCOT license exam

Studying for the license exam was nerve-racking and time-consuming. It had been 12 years since I started studying occupational therapy, so it felt weird going back to the beginning of my studies. In addition, exams in the U.S., in general, are very different from what I was used to in Europe. So, I am very glad that I took my time to study and to prepare myself for the exam. It definitely paid off.

Virginia state license

A week after taking the exam I received my registration certificate. It allowed me to execute step 3: apply for a state license. Every state in the U.S. requires occupational therapists to be licensed to ensure they provide the same quality of treatment. Because of my NBCOT registration, I did not have any difficulties to get my Virginia state license. Finally I was able to start working in America!

Living the dream

Overall, it took me four and a half years to be registered, licensed, and ready to work. Compared to a U.S.-educated occupational therapist, that is about the same amount of time. I do not regret any of the choices I have made. While I had to face many challenges during the past four and a half years, I overcame them all and am now an Occupational Therapist OTR/L (Occupational Therapist Registered/ Licensed)!