“How do I become a Certified Hand Therapist?”
“What do I need to do to become a Certified Hand Therapist?”
These are questions I get a lot and to be honest it’s not very easy becoming a CHT, but it’s possible!
I want to help you by creating a roadmap because having a plan in place will help you not feel overwhelmed as you explore the possibility of becoming a CHT.
Why Become a Certified Hand Therapist?
You may be asking, “why should I take the CHT exam and become a certified hand therapist if I am already working as an OT/PT?”
Great question! Occupational and Physical Therapy are great jobs and while you can conduct hand therapy with just an OT or PT license, by adding a CHT certification you’ll be able to take on more complex cases, treat more patients, and earn more money!
In fact, the average certified hand therapist salary can range between $61,500 and $97,500. That’s already a pretty sweet deal and it becomes even better because of the increased job satisfaction you receive due to a more diverse set of patients you’ll encounter.
A certified hand therapist is the first choice for people who have specific needs that affect their hands and upper extremity.
Moreover, a CHT certification will mean that you gain additional knowledge and skills which allows you to further advance your career and make you more competitive due to having an additional certification on top of being a physical or occupational therapist.
This will open up new opportunities and you’ll be able to work more closely with your patients and build more meaningful relationships over time.
If you are interested in having your own business, having your CHT certification allows you to market your business in a certain way, demand more money from insurance companies, and be able to confidently charge higher cash prices.
What Does a Certified Hand Therapist Do?
After getting a CHT certification, you’ll start to administer objective assessments of the upper body extremities in areas such as strength, movement, and sensation.
You’ll then be able to conduct treatments to patients using a range of tools that are only available to certified hand therapists. Such as: sensory re-education, ultrasound, TENS, custom-made pressure garments, formulated home exercise programs, joint mobilizations, and more.
Steps To Get a Hand Therapy Certification
So, how do you become certified? Usually, to become a CHT, you’ll go through htcc.org (the hand therapy commission that accredits you)
- Get a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in OT or PT
Firstly, you need to obtain at least a Master’s Degree in occupational therapy. Without a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate, you will fail to get a certification as an occupational therapy assistant and therefore unable to subsequently become a certified hand therapist.
If you are a physical therapist, however, you can still fulfill this requirement by getting a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in physical therapy.
- Acquire a State License for OT
The next thing that you’ll need to do to get your CHT certification is to acquire a state license for occupational therapy. Most, if not every, physical and occupational therapy graduates already have this as they are building their experience. But, if you don’t have a license yet, be sure to apply for one in the state where you plan to practice hand therapy.
- Immerse Yourself in Hand Therapy Courses
It is also very important that you are intimately familiar with the anatomy of the hand and its various conditions. This is because a hand therapy certification will only be given once you pass the CHT exam, which is an intensive four-hour exam that will test your knowledge and competence to practice hand therapy.
To do this, you need to attend hand therapy courses that will discuss the hands and the upper body’s anatomy and conditions in a more in-depth and comprehensive manner. Sure, your occupational and physical therapy courses have provided you with some of the materials already, but remember that these are just overviewing information that is meant for general practice in contrast to the specialized knowledge that you would gain when you become a certified hand therapist.
- Get Your Hours of Relevant Practice
If the process of how to become a certified hand therapist feels like a chore for you, then remember that these are for the benefit of your future patients. Speaking of which, the next step that you are going to take is to practice for relevant experience. You have to gain hours of practice working with the upper extremity.
To become a certified hand therapist, you’ll need:
- 4,000 hours in hand therapy, upper extremity type of management hours
- A minimum of three years of experience
Then after that, you can take the exam. Now, the exam is a pass or fail. There is no “I almost passed”. There’s not an A, B, C, and D.
It’s pass or fail. You pass, you become a certified hand therapist. If you fail, you are an occupational therapist or a physical therapist that happens to do hand therapy.
4.1 A Workable Roadmap to CHT Certification:
Although a lot of people want to become a CHT it can quickly feel unachievable. So what are some steps you can take so you can feel more prepared and not jump into taking an exam you might not be prepared for?
You might be thinking, “oh, my god, what do I need to do? How do I even get there?”
Well, let me help you create a plan so you can start to see that this is achievable and manageable! Because at the end of the day, you will need to pour hours into receiving your certification but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
So, if you need the hours, grab my free guide: “How to Get a Job in Hand Therapy” because that is the first step; get your hours! The best way to get your hours is by working with anyone who has hands and arms. And no, not everyone has a flexor tendon and not everyone is a stiff PIP contracture!
4.2 Not All Relevant CHT Hours in an Outpatient Setting
We have an opportunity as OTs and PTs to decide that we want to specialize in hand and upper extremity management.
And when you decide that, “yes, that’s what I want to do!” That’s where you’ll feel most creative, the most passionate.
Remember, to get your hours you’ll need to have a job first where you can receive hours for hand therapy. Now, the job might be in skilled nursing, acute care, pediatrics, or hand therapy. There are multiple ways to get hours, have an open mind and think through what opportunities you might have. You don’t have to get your hours in only an outpatient settings, it doesn’t have to be inside a doctor’s office. You don’t have to only work with people who have fractures or lacerations. This may sound obvious, but most people have two hands and two arms! So start opening up your mind to the possibilities there may be! I want you to expand your options on how you can get those hours and get started.
Once you’re working on your hours you’ll still need to have a minimum of three years before you can take that exam. So don’t worry about studying for the exam right away, instead focus on learning as much as you can through your job and through your hours.
4.3 It Comes Down To Learning
Even though you might have a PT or OT degree that doesn’t mean you automatically know how to do the job because you earned this degree. Most of the time, we earn that degree to have the right to do that job. So it’s really important to put yourself into places and positions where you continue to grow and learn.
You will also be thrilled to know that many clinics actually hire and train therapists on hand therapy before you can get a hand therapy certification.
Again, it is very important that you put yourself in areas that give you the necessary experience to qualify for a CHT exam and finally a CHT certification. Exposing yourself to these moments will give you valuable insight into how a certified hand therapist works.
That’s why I’ve developed the free guides to give you a glimpse into what hand therapy can be for you. You get a peek inside my clinic, how I run my clinic, how I train my team, and how I run my mentorship programs.
As a PT or OT you evaluate a person and ask, “What’s your problem? I can help you solve that problem. If you are in pain, I can help you reduce that pain.”
I can help you figure out where those problems are, and I can help you get to your goals by taking little steps. That’s what we do as occupational therapists and physical therapists for others. So when we can do our job, we can get the hours that we need, the years of experience that we need, and then be able to sit down and be prepared for the exam and become a Certified Hand Therapist.
- Take the CHT Exam
The last step of how to become a hand therapist is to finally take the CHT exam.
This exam is a four-hour online exam that consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. The CHT exam comprehensively covers the anatomy and physiology of the hands and the upper body, as well as tools and techniques for treatment, and other components of being a certified hand therapist such as evaluation of conditions and therapeutic interventions to patients.
Find Help To Get Your CHT Certification
Feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start?
I can help you increase your confidence and help you go into that exam a lot more prepared with critical thinking techniques and skills.
Throughout the years of handling my private clinic as a certified hand therapist, I have hired numerous occupational and physical therapists that also aspire to get a hand therapy certification.
I know that their success is my success, so I set out to improve my business by developing programs that transform new OT and PT graduates with no experience into becoming full-fledged and competent certified hand therapists.
With my training and coaching, many of my mentees passed their CHT exams and received their CHT certifications. After all these successes, I was able to grow my programs to reach even OTs and PTs that are beyond my hometown, helping people in their journey on how to become a certified hand therapist.
Are you ready to start your journey to a more fulfilling job and a great certified hand therapist salary? Then join me and hundreds of aspiring people in my hand therapy course and get that CHT certification through my rigorous and consistently actionable program.
Make sure to Grab The CHT Exam Prep Checklist Today, and we’ll send you the step-by-step details about how to prepare for the CHT exam and become THE expert in your area.