The OT School House Podcast

Episode 50: Landing a School-Based Occupational Therapy Job


Amanda Clark, OTR/L

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In this episode, Jayson hosts fellow occupational therapist, Amanda Clark, to talk about the differences between a contract school-based job and a district school-based job. After we identify the differences, we talk about how to land your first, or perhaps your fourth School-based Occupational Therapy job.

This podcast does not qualify as a Professional Development Podcast. You can learn more about how to earn professional development credits through the OTSH Podcast for your OT/COTA renewal certification here! 

Show Outline:


    • Most common

      • District, Contract, County/SELPA (California Special Education Local Plan Areas) as they are called in California

    • Contract Jobs

      • Working for a private company that contracts with a school district - working for someone who is getting paid to have you work at a district

      • Pros

        • Mentorship opportunities

        • Salary and benefit negotiations are more common 

        • Travel options

        • More job opportunities over a larger distance if you are willing to move

        • More autonomy

        • COTA jobs are few and far between in district jobs, but contract companies often hire assistants. 

        • May be opportunities to move up in the company beyond being a school OT

      • Cons

        • May feel out of loop with the district employees or changes in policy

        • Benefits may not be as good as in a district. 

        • May work in varied districts/locations (could be a pro)

        • Access to supplies, equipment, buildings, and even a space to work can be a challenge. 

        • Hourly or PRN positions are very common in contract positions. Unless your district is a staggered year-round model, you will make less or even no money during the summer months.

        • Your caseload is more likely to fluctuate as a contractor. Maternity coverage is a common reason districts hire contractors. 

    • District/County jobs

      • Working directly for the county education dept. Or a specific district. 

      • Pros

        • Salary vs. hourly

        • Benefits tend to be good

        • May have more opportunities to collaborate and provide trainings

      • Cons

        • Limited opportunities to “move up” due to not having a credential

        • Limited school budgets



      • EdJoin is a national portal, but most postings are in California 

      • Go to the district websites you wish to work for

      • Linkedin

      • Talk to friends and colleagues. 

      • Referral bonus


    • Resume

    • 2-3 current letters of recommendation

    • Letter of intent

    • OT License and Registration

    • Drivers license and Proof of insurance

    • Copy of your driving record

    • CPR Certification

    • Recent TB test

    • Transcripts 


    • Research the district a little bit

    • Practice answering possible interview questions 

      • What is the OT's role in an IEP?

      • What is an IEP?

      • What is IDEA and ADA? 

      • Understand what FAPE means

      • How might you collaborate with teachers to support students?

      • Understand best practice in regards to delivery of service: collaborative, consultation, and direct and when each is or is not appropriate.

      • Be prepared to describe what a typical session would look like… 

      • How would you explain why you are decreasing services to a reluctant parent? - hint hint... the key phrase they want to hear is “least restrictive environment” 

      • Not just OT questions -  Questions about overcoming obstacles, ethical dilemmas, working as part of a team, as well strengths and weaknesses are almost always a given. 

      • Know OT assessments used in the school setting.

      • Know programs used in the school setting (e.g. Handwriting Without Tears)

    • Likewise, prepare questions that you may have for the interview panel should you be given the opportunity.


    • Negotiations

    • Benefits

    • CEU Stipends/allowances & material allowances

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