OTR/L – Occupational Therapy Professional Credentials Explained


What is OTR/L?

Occupational Therapists use OTR/L in their professional credentials.

About Trademarks

Some designations are trademarked or generally only accepted to be used once met by certain organizations. A designation such as OT is not trademarked and more general. OTS (occupational therapy student) is not either. An example of a trademark for occupational therapy is CSRS™ (certified stroke rehab specialist).

OT Credentials Example
A boy holds the letter O, for “Occupational” Therapy


OT – Occupational Therapist

OTD – D is for a doctorate. The occupational therapy profession is shifting towards a doctorate requirement to practice. OTs at one point were only required to have a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree. These individuals were “grandfathered” (“or grandmothered”?) and still allowed to practice occupational therapy.


R = Registered. An OT becomes registered when they pass their board exam after completion of the occupational therapy program and meet the NBCOT requirements. A new grad is likely to be registered first after passing their board exam before becoming licensed. Occupational therapists are required to take continuing education courses to continue to be registered with the NBCOT.


L = Licensed to work in a particular state in the US, an OT must be licensed to work in that particular state. Each state has its own specific requirements to become licensed. Similar to being registered, an occupational therapist must maintain continuing education requirements to continue to be licensed in the state they wish to work. An OT can be licensed in more than one state and must maintain each state’s requirements such as paying each state’s licensure fees. OTs wishing to become travelers must be licensed in each state to practice when they accept a new contract in that state.

About continuing education courses

Continuing education courses can be taken to fulfill both the registered (NBCOT) and licensed (state) requirements. If unsure about a specific course, check with each entity (NBCOT, state) if they accept the course you wish to take. Also, courses are not the only thing you can take to maintain your professional registered and licensed status. You may also mentor, publish, or even take free online modules to meet certain requirements! The key is to start early and not wait until the last minute to scramble and complete these requirements.


You may have seen other variations of OTR/L such as just OT, OTR, or OTL.

Why the differences? Some therapists may omit the R and L (as many people do not even know what OT itself is). Still, other therapists may have let their registered status lapse, thus omitting the registered status. Technically, therapists are required to be licensed to practice in a state, but OTs who do not work in clinical settings such as in academia or research may, therefore, let their licensed status lapse.


You may have seen other credentials after OTR/L variations. These are for specialty certifications obtained. Just like how other professions such as specialty practice areas, so does occupational therapy. In fact, OT has many that exist. Specialty certification is optional and an OT who wishes to practice occupational therapy is considered a generalist, whereas an OT with special certification is considered a specialist. Some examples include CSRS™ and CBIS (Certified Brain Injury Specialist).

These credentials and certifications apply only to occupational therapists in the United States. Each country has its own system for credentialing and awarding specialty certifications.

Next Steps

For additional information, our Occupational Therapy Introduction and Career Guide has a lesson on occupational therapy credentials and certifications. Check this out if you are interested in a career in occupational therapy.