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Piecing Together the Alphabet Soup that is PDUs, CEUs, and CAUs

One Does Not Simply Earn PDUs, or CEUs... or CAUs... or whatever other names you can call professional development units...

Yet, as Occupational therapists, all of us are required to keep up with our state licensure and/or our national certification with continuing education and professional development. In the school setting, as well as within our profession, it is most important that when we are providing services we are utilizing evidence-based practices in order to utilize the most up to date and effective strategies with the populations we serve. This can be a daunting task at times and often I default to looking for the stamp of approved provider status from AOTA in order to ensure my professional development is on point and that my hours will count toward licensure; however is this the ONLY way to obtain professional development that can go toward licensure?

The governing bodies that require proof of professional development or continuing education can make earning professional development feel like an inconvenience. These state governing bodies (i.e. The Board of Occupational Therapy in California), American Occupational Therapy Association, and National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy work together in order to regulate and ultimately legitimize our profession. By providing standards in continuing education and research, occupational therapists are to work with efficacy and consistency throughout multiple states and can be recognized by public school systems, government bodies, and insurance agencies as a viable and necessary service provider.

Although professional development can at times seem daunting (particularly if you have put off earning those CEUs to the last minute) and be a pain to keep track of, it is an extremely important and necessary to growing our profession and maintaining our standing within the education and medical fields. It separates what we do from other professions that may not have the same regulatory bodies and agencies and even promotes appropriate salaries and pay by giving supporting evidence and value to what we know works.

I actually encourage all people to join their state occupational therapy organizations as well as our national organizations such as AOTA, because they do contribute so much to the profession that has promotes and advocated for occupational therapy within not just the medical setting but within the public school setting as well.

Why is professional development so confusing?

Let’s explore the ever-changing and confusing world of professional development in occupational therapy by first reviewing the many names given to professional development by the different regulatory bodies that manage certification and licensure. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) provides a Certification Renewal Activities Chart that lists Professional Development Units (PDUs) and Competency Assessment Units (CAUs). AOTA recognizes both Professional Development Units and Continuing Education Units in the form of contact hours (where 0.1 CEU is equal to 1 contact hour or PDU). NBCOT looks at 1 contact hour equaling 1.25 PDUs if provided by an AOTA approved provider. As for Competency Assessment Units (CAUs), NBCOT seems to have moved toward using this term because they allow us to earn units through not only the traditional courses, but also through activities that many may not consider traditional professional development. Some examples include volunteering, providing in-services, publishing or review published studies, and others that you can find on this chart of approved CAUs from NBCOT.

I have found this chart to be extremely useful in determining which activities are recognized toward professional development as well as the max number of units allowed for each type of professional development. It was truly surprising to learn that quite a few activities outside of the typical classes and seminars may be used toward renewal of your NBCOT certification and state licensure. While I have typically defaulted to only looking for the AOTA approved provider courses as my main means of continuing competency activity in the past, it was eye-opening to recognize the number of activities that can be utilized for licensure renewal and certification renewals was extensive and quite well-rounded. So don’t sell yourself short in taking credit for the awesome extra things you’ve been doing in your practice! Check out NBCOT’s Navigator tool and your state’s licensure requirements and then take advantage of the opportunities for a well-rounded professional development portfolio.

Professional Development can come in many packages. While knowing that you are getting a certain vetted level of continuing education by looking at AOTA approved provides you with security in most states will accepting your continuing education, it is not the only form of professional development. It is the responsibility of you as the occupational therapist seeking renewal to know your requirements and track these appropriately. Development of your portfolio in professional development can lead you to new and exciting job opportunities.

Utilizing the NBCOT navigator tool and self-assessment tools can provide you with clear career goals and a means of monitoring your continuing education, competence, and development within your specialty area. If you are attempting to become an expert in your area, utilizing tools such as the Navigator can provide you with a means to find the gaps in your knowledge and fill in those holes with continuing education that can designate you as an expert in your field. This can assist in making you desirable to school districts, prepared for interviews, or even open up other opportunities for you promote occupational therapy and your skills.

The OT School House, myself, and Jayson have decided to embrace professional development and the opportunities it provides in order to enhance our own personal practice by bringing you blog posts and the OT School House Podcast. Starting the OT School House has lead to both of us developing a greater understanding of occupational therapy practice within the school setting, as well as giving us an opportunity to bring other school-based occupational therapists a resource for the development of their professional portfolios.

With that said, we are now bringing the opportunity for you to earn professional development directly from OT School House Podcast!

In fact, you can earn .75 units of professional development right now simply by listening to Episode 6 of the OT School House Podcast about commonly used assessments in school-based OT.

After you listen, simply visit the show notes and order you professional development certificate of completion. You be directed to take a short quiz that shows you listened to the podcast and gathered the required knowledge. Then, we will send you a certificate of completion. Simple as that!

Thank you for stopping by. We hope you now have a better sense of what is required of you to keep the your license valid. Still have questions, feel free to email us!

Hope to see you again soon!

Abby Parana

P.S. here are some links to established online continuing education providers that we fully support. They range in price and some provide the OT School House with a commission when you use our link or promo code “OTschoolhouse”

  • Medbridge has over 150 courses related to school-based OT practice on an easy to use website.

  • Use Promo code: OTschoolhouse to get your first year of unlimited courses for $200 versus the $250 advertised rate. The OT School House does receive a small commission for any OTs who sign up to use Medbridge with our promo code.

  • has over 70 School-based related courses that you can watch, read, or listen to earn continuing education all for $99 a year.

  • Use the link above to help the OT School House earn a small commission when signing up. This helps us to keep bringing you excellent content.

  • PocketOT is a fantastic blog and resource from long-time Occupational Therapist Cara Koscinski. Not only is she an OT, but she also has children of her own with special needs. she is a great resource and you may even see her name in the conference brochure at your next AOTA conference.

  • OT School House is an affiliate for PocketOT as well.


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