I am an internationally-educated occupational therapist. I would like to practice occupational therapy in Canada. What steps do I need to take to register to practice?
As of May 1, 2015, all internationally-educated occupational therapists will begin their registration process with ACOTRO, by applying to the Substantial Equivalency Assessment System. SEAS will assess whether or not your education and competencies are substantially equivalent to those of a Canadian-educated occupational therapist. SEAS will cost $3,100 to complete. Learn more about SEAS by visiting our SEAS Frequently Asked Questions.
Anyone who begins the registration process in Canada before May 1, 2015 and completes the process within a year of applying, will not be required to complete the SEAS process.
Visit the Registering in Canada section of our website to learn more about how to register in Canada both before and after May 1, 2015.
I have a degree from a country that is a member of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). Can I work as an OT in Canada?
Not yet. Having a degree from a university that is a member of WFOT does not qualify you to register in Canada. You must meet specific requirements to register to practice as an OT in Canada. Visit the Registering in Canada section of our website. For more information on working in Canada, go to the IEOT portal, GoCanadaOT.
You don’t have to have an educational degree from a Canadian university to work as an occupational therapist in Canada. Generally you need to have an education that is substantially similar to a Canadian degree. Thus, in general, your occupational therapy education must have prepared you to work as an occupational therapist, and have included at least 1000 hours of clinical fieldwork. However, provinces may have differing educational requirements and different ways of determining whether your educational background is more or less the same (or substantially equivalent) as that of Canadians. Please visit the website of the province in which you wish to work to learn more about the specific educational requirements.
If you wish to know more about the education of occupational therapists in Canada visit the Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy University Programs (ACOTUP) website. This site includes a list of accredited occupational therapy education programs in Canada.
How long does the registration process take?
In general, the time it takes to get registered depends on the completeness of your application, your own circumstances, and the registration process in the particular province to which you apply. Please visit the site of the provincial regulator to learn more.
Must I re-register if I move from one Canadian province to another?
Yes. Registration is regulated provincially, so every time you move to a new province, you must re-register. Visit the provincial website of the regulatory body with which you wish to register to learn more. Registration can be an expensive process. You may wish to investigate job opportunities in other provinces before submitting your registration documents.
Do I need to complete an English test to practice as an OT in Canada? If so, what score do I need to achieve on the test?
Language requirements and standards vary from province to province. Visit the provincial website of the regulatory body with which you wish to register to learn more.
I would like to register to practice as an OT in Canada, but my English skills are not strong. What do you suggest?
There are many ways for you to upgrade your English skills. Courses and workshops may be listed on the websites of immigrant and refugee settlement organizations in each province, as well as on the sites of the voluntary societies of occupational therapists in each province. As well, language schools exists in all major Canadian cities. You can also visit GoCanadaOT, the Internationally Educated Occupational Therapists web portal, to learn more.
Do my work hours in my home country count towards my currency hours in Canada?
Every province requires the completion of a certain number of work hours, or currency hours, to be registered, and hours worked in your home country are taken into account. However, the number and calculation of currency hours required for registering in Canada varies from province to province. Visit the provincial website of the regulatory organization with which you wish to register to learn more.
How do I find a job as an OT in Canada?
Jobs for occupational therapists are often listed on the websites of hospitals, government health authorities – including provincial health ministries – business and schools. Some provincial OT societies also post jobs. Try these websites to learn more:
Where can I learn more about working as an OT in Canada?
Try these websites to learn more:
Where can I volunteer to learn more about working as an OT in Canada?
OTs work in schools, hospitals, offices, clinics and in private practice. If you are interested in volunteering in order to learn more about the profession, contact employers directly to find out about opportunities.
With whom can I speak to learn more about registering to work as an OT in Canada?
First, visit the Registering in Canada section of this website. Next, visit the website of the province in which you wish to register. Each site has a registration support person to guide you in the registration process.
Applicants to every province other than Quebec must write the National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam run by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. Please visit the CAOT site for more information on the exam.
I want to come to Canada to work as an OT. Do I have to belong to an organization?
Beyond registering with the regulatory body in the province in which you wish to work, you may be asked to join a union of employees or another professional body, depending on your place of work. Check with your employer.
Do you know where I can find other IEOTs so I can network or communicate with them?
Both the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists - CAOT and the Occupational Therapy Examination and Practice Preparation Program - OTEPP may offer assistance to IEOTs. Provincial occupational therapy societies can also provide support and guidance.
What is SEAS?
A: SEAS is a new assessment process to determine the extent to which an internationally-educated occupational therapist's (IEOT’s) educational qualifications and competencies are substantially equivalent to those of a Canadian-educated occupational therapist. Once fully implemented in 2015, it will be the first step for all IEOTs in the Canadian registration process. SEAS is a multi-stage assessment approach that:
- examines the education that IEOTs originally completed
- allows IEOTs to demonstrate what they know and can do, and
- ensures IEOTs are familiar with the Canadian legislation, ethics and standards of practice that comprise the framework for occupational therapy practice in Canada.
SEAS has four main components:
- Review of the Academic Credential Assessment (ACA)
- Curriculum and Fieldwork - Profession-specific Credential Assessment (PSCA) Review
- Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test (JKAT)
- Competency Assessment Interview
As part of SEAS, all internationally-educated occupational therapists will also be required to demonstrate a minimum level of language proficiency, based on a standard to which all ACOTRO members have agreed upon.
What does Substantially Equivalent Mean for the SEAS process?
A: ACOTRO recognizes that no two educational programmes are the same. Substantially equivalent means that an applicant’s qualifications and competence must be equivalent, but not identical too, in all essential respects to that of a Canadian-educated occupational therapist. IEOTs are not required to demonstrate a higher standard than the established standards for Canadian occupational therapy education or practice, and there may be differences in how an individual IEOT applicant demonstrates substantial equivalence to the Canadian standard. SEAS looks at competencies and qualifications to determine if the substantial equivalency requirement has been met.
What is an IEOT?
A: An IEOT, or an internationally-educated occupational therapist, refers to anyone who has completed their occupational therapy education from an institution outside of Canada. That includes Canadians who have been educated abroad. SEAS applies to all IEOTs regardless of where they were born and raised.
How does SEAS enhance public protection?
A: The new model ensures that all registered OTs demonstrate the minimum level of competencies for safe and ethical practice in Canada.
How is SEAS different from the former IEOT assessment process?
A: Prior to the SEAS, there were significant differences in the way Canadian regulators assessed IEOT applications. Regulators used different language proficiency standards and a variety of external agencies to assess academic credentials. There was also no Canadian educational benchmark for occupational therapists against which to assess an IEOT’s education and competencies. Finally, assessments were largely based on a review of documentation and did not examine an IEOT’s competencies.
SEAS, however, offers an objective and consistent approach, using a number of new assessment tools that have been rigorously developed and pilot-tested. It also includes an in-person competency assessment that allows IEOTs to demonstrate what they know and can do.
SEAS has four main components:
- Review of the Academic Credential Assessment (ACA)
- Curriculum and Fieldwork - Profession-Specific Credential Assessment (PSCA) Rieview
- Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test (JKAT)
- Competency Assessment
As part of SEAS, all IEOTs will also be required to demonstrate a minimum level of language proficiency, based on a standard to which all ACOTRO members have agreed upon.
Can you explain the new SEAS process?
A: The substantial equivalency model includes both qualification recognition and competency verification activities. Qualification recognition focuses on an Academic Credential Assessment (ACA) and a curriculum review or Profession-Specific Credential Assessment (PSCA); these both examine the education documents and transcripts provided by IEOTs. Competency verification focuses on occupational therapy knowledge and jurisprudence, and includes an open-book jurisprudence exam as well as an in-person evaluation of competencies gained through education and previous professional practice experience.
This multi-step process, some of which can be completed on-line, begins with an initial application to ACOTRO and applicants have up to one year to complete the process. Once all of the steps are completed, ACOTRO submits a Disposition Report to the provincial regulator in the province in which an applicant seeks to register. This report indicates whether or not the applicant has met the requirement for substantial equivalency. If the applicant has done so, he or she will then follow further steps outlined by the regulator in order to qualify to write the national certification exam and be registered.
What is an Academic Credential Assessment (ACA) and how do I get one?
A: ACOTRO asks all applicants to seek an Academic Credential Assessment from World Education Services (WES). WES is a service provider that authenticates official transcripts and other education documentation and determines whether the level of an applicant’s education is substantially equivalent to a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree or a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degree. Once applicants have received their report, they allow WES to provide it to ACOTRO as part of their initial application.
Why do I have to use World Education Services (WES) for my Academic Credential Assessment?
A: In an effort to ensure consistency in the evaluation process, and recognizing that credentialing services apply varied criteria to their assessment process, ACOTRO members agreed to use a single credential assessment provider. After a comparative analysis of the Canadian options, ACOTRO chose WES as its service provider.
What is the Curriculum and Fieldwork - PSCA Review?
A: The Curriculum and Fieldwork review allows us to to look closely at an applicant’s curriculum and fieldwork to determine how closely they are related to those completed by Canadian-educated occupational therapists. During this step, applicants fill in a Curriculum and Fieldwork Self-Assessment form, and ACOTRO fills in a PSCA rom. The PSCA form is a tool that we use to complete our analysis. The assessment tool is based on a new Canadian Education Occupational Therapist Benchmark that ACOTRO developed in collaboration with all 14 Canadian universities offering occupational therapy programs.
What is the Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test?
A: The JKAT is an open-book, multiple-choice exam that applicants may take up to two times. The JKAT focuses on the standards of practice and ethics expected of occupational therapists practicing in Canada.
What is the Competency Assessment Interview?
A: The Competency Assessment Interview is comprised of a day-long (usually six hours) in-person interview that allows the applicant to demonstrate competencies they have learned through their education and field work. During the interview, the applicant is given various scenarios to consider and asked to respond to a series of questions based on those scenarios.
May I attend the Competency Assessment Interview virtually through my computer?
A: No. The Competency Assessment Interview is an in-person interview taken at a location determined by ACOTRO and not more than 500 km from an applicant’s place of residence. All assessments will be held in Canada.
Which criteria must be met in order to determine substantial equivalency?
A: An IEOT is deemed to have met the substantial equivalency requirement when all of the following criteria are met:
- The applicant’s ACA report confirms the applicant’s education level is substantially equivalent to a Bachelor of Science degree or Master of Science in Occupational Therapy.
- The applicant has completed a minimum of 1,000 hours of field work as part of the educational program.
- The applicant has sufficiently met the requirements set out in the Profession-Specific Credential Assessment
- The applicant has sufficiently demonstrated the competencies assessed through the Competency Assessment Interview.
- The applicant has received a pass score on the Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test (JKAT).
- The applicant has met the language proficiency requirement.
When substantial equivalency is not met, are applicants given opportunities to upgrade?
A: Substantial equivalency will be deemed not to have been met if the applicant cannot meet one or more of the criteria above. Based on the specific gaps identified through the various assessments, applicants may receive recommendations for gap-filling such as academic upgrading.
Substantial equivalency may be deemed to have been met upon review and confirmation that the required or recommended upgrading has been successfully completed.
When gaps in competencies or qualifications are identified will applicants be provided with information about where to go to fill those gaps?
A: Where possible, ACOTRO will identify the preparatory and bridging or gap-filling education options that already exist in Canada. Over the next two years, ACOTRO will be working with other educational and regulatory partners to identify and develop a range of gap-filling options.
How many times can I write the JKAT?
A: Applicants are allowed two attempts only.
What happens if I fail the JKAT on my second attempt?
A: Failing the JKAT twice is not a stand-alone barrier to meeting the substantial equivalency requirement. You will be considered to have a gap in one or more essential competencies; upgrading or gap-filling options may be recommended by a provincial regulator.
Can those who don’t meet the substantial equivalency criteria ask for a reconsideration of the decision?
A: Decisions will be made throughout the SEAS process as the applicant moves from assessment to assessment. The applicant may seek a reconsideration at each point. In general, reconsideration requests must be sent via ACOTRO to the SEAS Determination Committee. Only those who were not involved in the original decision-making process will be involved in the reconsideration. Once a reconsideration is completed, the decision is considered final.
Applicants must fill in a Request for Reconsideration form within 30 days of receiving a decision. This request for reconsideration is subject to an administrative fee.
How will I know if I’ve met the substantial equivalency requirement?
A: Upon completion of the substantial equivalency process and regardless of the outcome of that process, ACOTRO will provide applicants and the appropriate regulatory body with a Disposition Report within 30 days. The report indicates whether the substantial equivalency requirement has been met.
I’m a U.S. educated occupational therapist who wishes to practice in Canada. Given that English is already my first language, why am I required to formally demonstrate language proficiency?
A: Effective communication is one of the key essential competencies of practice in occupational therapy and is critical for the delivery of safe and effective, quality care. For these reasons all applicants must provide persuasive, objective evidence of language proficiency in English or French. In addition to standardized language proficiency tests (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS), applicants may also meet the requirement by providing evidence by alternative means, such as having completed their education in English.
Are applicants who have completed their education in languages other than English or French allowed to complete SEAS in the language of their choice?
A: No. All components of the assessment will be provided in one of Canada’s two official languages – English or French. As such, ACOTRO accepts documents only in English and French. If an original document being submitted exists in a language other than English or French, the applicant must provide a notarized English translation of the document, with the cost of translation and notarization to be borne by the applicant. ACOTRO will translate and cover all costs associated with the translation of any documents from French into English.
How much will SEAS cost?
A: ACOTRO estimates it will cost about $3,100 to complete all SEAS assessment components. This fee doesn’t include the cost of the Academic Credential Assessment, which the applicant pays for directly, the cost of any language proficiency testing, the cost of electronic proctoring for the home-based Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test and any costs associated with travel or accommodation required to attend the Competency Assessment session.
SEAS is built on a three-point, graduated fee structure that allows applicants to pay only as they progress successfully through the assessment process. The points of payment are:
- Upon initial application and submission of the WES Academic Credential Assessment
- Upon submitting the Profession-Specific Credential Assessment (PSCA) self-assessment form and documentation; and
- When registering for the Competency Assessment
This graduated process - tied to the various stages of the assessment model - ensures that those unlikely to proceed after the initial review of their education program will not be required to pay the fee for the competency assessment.
Will SEAS accommodate applicants with particular needs related to disabilities or religion?
A: ACOTRO will provide appropriate accommodations, within reason and at no cost to the applicant, during the Competency Assessment Interview and Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test to individuals who meet the requirements set out in a prescribed form.
The request for accommodation should be submitted at least 45 days before the confirmed assessment dates. All information will be kept strictly confidential by ACOTRO and used only for the purpose of determining appropriate accommodation.
I’m an IEOT currently going through the process to be registered to work in Canada. How will SEAS affect me?
A: IEOTs who have applied to be registered prior to the launch of SEAS won’t be impacted by the new process. Rather, you will continue through the original assessment process for the province to which you have applied to work. Any IEOT who applies for registration after the implementation of SEAS will automatically be directed through the new SEAS process. But please note: Internationally-educated occupational therapists who have applied for registration with a provincial regulatory organization prior to May 1, 2015, and whose applications are currently being processed by the college, will have one year within which to complete their registration process under the current system, and will not be required to be assessed through SEAS. Any current applicants who don’t complete their registration within the one-year period must apply to ACOTRO to complete the new assessment process.
How do I gain access to the national exam?
A: Once you have met the substantial equivalency requirement, we will send you a letter of eligibility to write the National Occupational Therapy Certification Examination. We will send a copy of the letter to the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, the organization that administers the exam. Before registering for the exam with the CAOT, please contact the provincial regulatory organization in the province in which you wish to practice to learn of its particular requirements with respect to the national examination.
What if I’ve already received a letter of eligibility to write the national exam from the CAOT?
A: You might not be impacted by the new process. If you have received a letter of eligibility to write the National Occupational Therapy Certification Examination from CAOT, and apply, or have applied, for registration with a provincial regulatory organization prior to May 1, 2015, you will continue through the original assessment process as set out by the provincial regulator, and you will not be required to be assessed through SEAS.
But please note: You have one year from the date of your registration application with the provincial regulator to complete your registration process under the current system. You will still be required to be assessed through the new SEAS process if:
- You did not complete your registration process with a provincial regulator within the one-year period mentioned above
- You do not apply for registration with a provincial regulator before May 1, 2015.
Applicants who fall into the category above – that is, those who do not apply for registration with a provincial regulator before May 1, 2015, or complete their registration process within the one-year time frame specified – are urged to apply as soon as possible to ACOTRO to complete the substantial equivalency assessment. Only after they have met the substantial equivalency requirement will they be directed to apply to the provincial regulator of their choice to continue the registration qualification process, which includes writing the national exam. The SEAS process will help determine readiness to write the national exam.
Who can I speak with about SEAS?
 The exception will be IEOT applicants wishing to register in Quebec, who will be required to complete that province's assessment process.