If you’re an occupational therapist, speech therapist, or physical therapist trying to move into school-based therapy, there are several things to consider. Although experience as a therapist in a hospital, nursing home, or rehab setting is helpful, working in a school setting is different. But with the right game plan and advanced planning, you can transition into school-based therapy. Consider some of the following suggestions:
Define your interests
Although working in a school setting means providing care for children and teens, there are different populations you may work with. For instance, some therapists work specifically with children who have mental health problems or learning disabilities, while other school-based therapists work mostly with children with physical challenges. You might also prefer to work with older teens or preschoolers. Considering your interests may help you narrow your job search.
Revise your resume
Up to this point, if all your experience has been in settings other than a school, it’s time to tailor your resume for a school job. Highlight skills you have that would be beneficial when working with children. Include any classes you took that are related to child development. Have you worked with children before in another capacity, such as a camp counselor or tutor? If so, add it to your resume.
Competition to get a school-based therapy job can be tough. There may not be as many opportunities to work in schools as there are to work in nursing homes or hospitals. But there are jobs out there. Federal laws require children with disabilities to receive services, such as occupational therapy, if they would benefit from it. Still, it can be competitive to land the job you want. That’s where networking can help. Talk to former co-workers and classmates. Attend therapy conferences and join state associations in your field. The more people you meet and let know you’re looking for a school-based job, the quicker you may find something.
Consider a pediatric certification
Although it’s not mandatory, earning a pediatric certification or endorsement in your field may increase your chances of getting a school-based job. Both occupational and physical therapy pediatric certifications are available.
Not all school jobs are full-time. Some jobs require summer work while others don’t. When you’re trying to get your foot in the door, you may have to be a bit flexible with the type of job you’re willing to accept. For example, you may prefer a full-time job working with preschoolers. But in order to get experience, you may have to take a job in a school that is part-time or requires you to work with older children. Although you can hold out for the perfect fit, it may take longer to find.
Consider using a staffing agency
In addition to networking, using a staffing agency may help you find a temporary or permanent position, such as a school-based therapist. A staffing agency can do the leg work and find leads that you may not know are out there.