Occupational therapists help treat patients with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities, aiding them in improving the skills they need in daily life. At occupational therapy schools, students learn to provide patients of all ages with therapeutic responses to physical ailments. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in occupational therapy and may eventually progress to leadership positions. Read on to learn more about what occupational therapy programs entail.
Occupational Therapy Program Perquisites
In order to become an occupational therapist, you are required to earn either a master’s or doctoral degree in occupational therapy. Master’s degree programs take about two years to complete, while doctoral degree programs usually take about three years to finish. Dual degree programs that award a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years are also available. Some occupational therapy professionals choose to begin their careers with a vocational certificate or associate’s degree in occupational therapy in order to gain work experience as an aide or assistant before furthering their education.
The prerequisites for master’s and doctoral degree programs in occupational therapy are generally a bachelor’s degree in any field, a minimum GPA, and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Many programs also require applicants to have volunteer or work experience in the field and some may ask students to complete the following prerequisite courses:
- General psychology
- Abnormal psychology
- Developmental psychology
- English composition
- Anatomy and physiology
- General biology
- Introductory physics
Occupational Therapy Degree Curriculum
Students working towards a degree in occupational therapy are required to complete many foundational courses in the sciences, occupational therapy theory, and research. The remaining coursework typically focuses on client evaluation, interventions appropriate for different client populations, and upper extremity interventions. A growing number of programs blend distance learning with campus-based learning to accommodate students’ busy schedules
Occupational therapy programs also include plenty of hands-on learning experiences. All occupational therapy colleges require students to complete several months of supervised fieldwork in order to gain real-world experience prior to entering the workforce.
Certification in occupational therapy is voluntary, but many occupational therapists choose to become certified by the National Board of Certification of Occupational Therapists. Passing this certification exam allows occupational therapists to use the title of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR).
Occupational Therapists Job Outlook
A career in occupational therapy requires an interest in working closely with people to help them achieve independence and lead satisfying lives. Important qualities to have as an occupational therapist include interpersonal skills, analytical skills, listening skills, compassion, communication skills, and patience.
Occupational therapists work with adults and children who have physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities that interfere with their ability to perform tasks required in daily life. They work in many areas of healthcare, providing assistance with learning disabilities, primary care, physical rehabilitation, mental health services, and equipment for daily living. Settings in which an occupational therapist may find employment include community centers, clients’ homes, prisons, hospitals, and nursing homes.
Employment in occupational therapy is projected to grow at a faster than average rate from 2010 to 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of occupational therapy assistants and aides is expected to increase 44% over the next decade, while jobs for occupational therapists should grow 33%. Occupational therapists will continue to be in demenad as the baby boomer population ages, particularly in rural regions and areas where there are no degree programs in occupational therapy available. In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for occupational therapy professionals were as follows:
- Occupational therapy aides– $26,850
- Occupational therapy assistants– $53,240
- Occupational therapists– $75,400
Occupational therapists evaluate patients’ physical capacities, cognitive skills, social adjustment, and emotional responses, as well as their physical and social environment. Using this information, they plan intervention using a combination of therapeutic activities, training in specialized techniques, and adaptive equipment in order to help their patients achieve independence. Start building a rewarding career helping people lead fulfilling lives as an occupational therapist. Begin by exploring occupational therapy schools on our site today.
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