is nbcot renewal required for occupationa therapy pin

Is NBCOT Renewal a Requirement for OT Practice?

We have published several prior articles about occupational therapy licensing, and I sometimes get asked questions about NBCOT certification renewals as well.

I haven’t written about this yet, so I wanted to compile a list of several frequently asked questions with answers that I found through my research while writing this article, and while I was working on my NBCOT renewal myself. I do not work for NBCOT personally and have no relationship with them, so if you have any other specific questions, be sure to reach out to them directly here.

Note that this post is all about NBCOT renewal after you have already passed the NBCOT exam as an OT or OTA. Every OT practitioner will have to initially pass the NBCOT exam to begin practicing OT.

First, the basics of NBCOT renewal requirements

At the time of publishing this article, the current requirements of renewing your NBCOT certification (after you have passed the NBCOT exam) are as follows:

1. Complete the required minimum of 36 professional development units within the last three years
2. Read and agree to the NBCOT Certification Attestation Statement
3. Submit a completed certification renewal application
4. Pay the required fee of $65 every three years

I want to add in case you’re a new OT/OTA that completing your NBCOT renewal every three years is different from your state license renewal. It is a national certification and is not affiliated with individual states. You will also have to keep up with your state’s occupational therapy license renewals as well.

The good news is that you can usually use the same continuing education courses for both national and state license renewals as long as they’re in the same time frame requirement.

What are the benefits of maintaining your NBCOT certification?

While it can feel a bit repetitive to have to renew your state’s occupational therapy license as well as a national certification, there are several benefits to maintaining your NBCOT certification.

These include:

  • Maintain the national certification requirement that some states and employers require to practice
  • Staying nationally certified holds you to the highest standard of OT licensure
  • Helps you stay up-to-date with evidence-based continuing education 
  • You get access to thousands of free evidence-based journal articles and free continuing ed tools
  • National certification provides a national standard for OT (as states’ requirements can vary)
  • You get to maintain your “R” in OTR or “C” in COTA 
  • You won’t have to worry about whether future jobs require it since you’ll already be certified
  • It’s not very expensive, only costing $2/month at the price of $65/3 years

What continuing education can you use for NBCOT renewal?

You can apply many various OT continuing education activities towards your NBCOT certification, such as in-person seminars, online courses, mentoring, journal reviews, fieldwork supervision and completion of NBCOT’s own free Navigator assessments. The Navigator tool is nice because it’s even more interactive than just passively watching videos, so I would recommend you give it a try for at least a few PDUs.

Along with using the NBCOT Navigator for competency activities related to adult rehab and acute care, I’ve also been using MedBridge online continuing education for the rest of my CEU requirements this cycle, as I haven’t been able to make it to any in-person seminars these last few years.

If you are considering using MedBridge yourself, you can check out my full review and get a promo code of $150 off your subscription here. I am an affiliate of MedBridge which means I may make a commission of purchases at no additional cost to you. 

To ensure that your continuing education activity is accepted, along with a list of other approved activities, you can review NBCOT’s full list here

As mentioned above, as long as the CEUs are approved by NBCOT, you can use the same CEUs that you use for your current state license renewal so you do not have to add 36 additional units to what you’ve already done for your state’s OT license. 

Is NBCOT renewal required to practice OT?

The answer to this is that it depends. Not all states require NBCOT license renewal after you pass the initial exam. Jeff from the OT Dude researched this question in depth and actually found that many states do not require NBCOT renewal (you can see his research here).  

What I have noticed in my personal job search experiences, however, is that a fair number of OT jobs do look for maintained NBCOT certification. Because of this, I choose to maintain my certification and keep the “R” in my OTR/L title despite also being licensed in my home state.

If you’re settled in your career and don’t plan on switching jobs, and your workplace doesn’t require NBCOT renewal, I could see where letting it lapse would not be the end of the world. It would also mean one less fee to pay and one less administrative task to worry about. You’ll of course want to do your own additional homework before making the decision not to renew.

What happens if you don’t renew your NBCOT certification?

While I personally choose to keep up my NBCOT renewal for possible future job prospects in particular, you can see that it’s not always an absolute necessity to renew it depending on your job situation and what state you live in. I do appreciate the peace of mind of having the highest certification and not ever needing to worry about retaking the NBCOT exam in the future. 

At the time of publishing this article, if you let your NBCOT certification lapse and then you want to renew it, you do not have to retake the NBCOT exam. You can get it reinstated by fulfilling various CEU/PDU requirements that they list here

However, starting in 2027, if your certification has lapsed for over 9 years you will need to retake the NBCOT exam, get a background check and pay a hefty fee of $515.

Deciding not to renew is a personal decision and you’ll want to take your time with weighing the pros and cons for your unique situation. It can be quite a process to renew a lapsed certification, whether you are an OTR or COTA, so do keep that in mind.

Lastly, if you let your renewal lapse, you will no longer be able to use “OTR/L,” you will instead use “OT/L” or “OTA/L” instead of “COTA/L.” This may or may not feel that important to you. I do know several practicing OT/L’s that are not bothered by their missing R. They are still licensed OTs and maintain their continuing education through their state licensure requirements.

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I hope this article cleared up some questions you may have about renewing your NBCOT certification. For more information about NBCOT renewals and requirements, you can find everything you need to know on the NBCOT platform here.

What do you think? What would you add to this for someone trying to decide whether or not to renew? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. 

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