Therapy Career & Resources
Occupational therapists help mentally, physically, emotionally or developmentally disabled people improve their ability to maintain daily living and working skills. The goal of an occupational therapist is to help patients live an independent, productive and fulfilling life. Occupational therapists assist patients in performing a variety of activities that may range from computer or writing skills to daily needs such as dressing or cooking. Additional exercises may be necessary to improve strength and agility, while other exercises may increase vision and the ability to differentiate patterns. Occupational therapists may also use computer programs to improve skills necessary for independent living. These programs may help with decision making ability and observational skills. In some cases, adaptive equipment may be needed at home or work during the course of therapy including wheelchairs, orthotics, and support for eating and dressing. If a patient's ability to function in their work environment has been impaired, then an occupational therapist will work with the employer to modify the work environment to meet the patient's needs.
Occupational therapists may work in a variety of environments ranging from schools to home health care. Most occupational therapists work a 40-hour week, although more than a quarter work part time. Many occupational therapists work in a hospital setting and provide therapy to acutely ill patients. Others may work in a psychiatric hospital to assist in the treatment of individuals who are mentally ill, retarded or disturbed. Some may work in schools, evaluating and providing therapy to help children participate as much as possible in school programs. Occupational therapists may also work in large rehabilitation facilities. Some may provide home health services which may include driving from appointment to appointment each day. Occupational therapists are increasingly taking on supervisory roles. This allows for assistants to work more closely with the patients as well as reduces of the cost of therapy services.
Education and Qualification
A master's degree or higher is required from an accredited educational program to pursue an occupational therapy career. Educational coursework includes the study of physical, biological and behavioral sciences with specific emphasis on the social, emotional and physiological effects of illness and injury. A six month period of supervised fieldwork is also a requirement. Upon graduation, occupational therapists must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy in order to practice.
Occupational Therapy Career Articles
In 2004, 92,000 jobs were held by occupational therapists according to the U.S. Department of Labor, with the largest number of jobs being held in a hospital setting. Employment is expected to increase above the average of all occupations through 2014. Reimbursement limitations may adversely affect the job market for occupational therapists in the short term, but over the long term, the demand for occupational therapists will increase because the number of people requiring therapy services is increasing. The incidence of heart attacks and strokes in middle-aged baby boomers increases the demand for therapeutic services, as well as the growth in population of elders 75 and older. The future surge in occupational therapy jobs is also due to medical advances which now enables patients with critical problems to survive.
In 2004, the median annual earnings for occupational therapists were $54,660. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between $45,690 and $67,010 was earned by the middle 50 percent. The highest 10 percent earned more than $81,600 and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,430, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.