The Scoop on Occupational Therapists

Occupational Therapy sounds like therapy for your job that you don't's a little more complex than that.

Occupational therapists work with people who have problems with their motor skills and can't do "industrious" things. Occupational therapy is the kind of field that can cover just about anything and just about anybody. Since the profession is expected to grow faster than the national average we can expect to learn pretty quickly what Occupational therapy actually means.

What in the World Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Occupational therapists treat patients who have problems doing things that would seem simple to us at work and at home. An OT (Occupational Therapist) isn't just working on motor skills but they are also working on making sure that permanent damage isn't done with the lack-of-use of a certain skill. Imagine a person who has had a brain injury and they haven't used a pair of scissors in a long time, the OT aims to re-teach that skill as fast as possible it doesn't get "unlearned".

Sometimes people have brain injuries or other problems that prevent them from using "normal" things around the house and work. Take those scissors for example. OTs use "adaptive scissors" that have paddle handles instead of little holes for your fingers, thus making the scissors easier to use.

These "adaptive" tools also work well with young students who are learning to use this equipment but are not able to learn on "regular" scissors, etc. In doing so an OT also needs to be able to keep track of a patient's records and monitor their progress because the idea is to be able to STOP doing it in an altered way and to learn to do things in the "regular" way.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Typically, in order to work as an Occupational Therapist you need a Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy. This is the kind of degree you could get from a local university and is usually a 2-year program. Sometimes you can get your Bachelor's and Master's Degrees together in one program (this works great if you are college-aged) and a few schools even offer Doctorates. However, the Master's Degree is the standard in the industry for doing this kind of work.

After you graduate from your Occupational Therapy program you will need to get a license to work as an OT. After passing a written exam you would be titled "Occupational Therapist Registered". That's why you see OTR outside some people's office doors...they like to use the official title.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

An OT can work just about anywhere you could possibly imagine. You could work at a nursing home with elderly patients who have had strokes and need help with their motor skills. You could work at a hospital with the patients who need help with their motor skills and/or life skills. You could work at larger therapeutic practice where you would be using machines and other advanced tools to treat patients. You could even work for a school system and help students who have problems doing certain schoolwork because they have motor skill problems.

Advancing in the profession usually means directing or managing other OTs. If you worked at a hospital or health clinic you might be the "Director of Therapeutic Services" or if you worked for a school system you might be "Lead Teacher for Occupational Therapy." No matter which way you go you'll be supervising other people who do your same job.

Still other OTs could consult on research in their field or even get a Doctorate and teach Occupational Therapy. You may want to work only in "home care" to be able to stay closer to your family or you may even want to work in training Therapists who have just graduated (supervising them while they treat your patients.) There are options for everyone.

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Occupational Therapists Overview

Occupational Therapist Salary:$66,780
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:7 years
# Employed in US:94,800
% Who work Part Time:25%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being an Occupational Therapist

  • You only need a Master's Degree and no internship to get hired
  • You could work in a variety of settings (especially schools if you like kids)
  • There are ways for you to set your own hours and not have to own your own business

The Cons of being an Occupational Therapist

  • Many times the work is tedious because the things people can't do are so small and relearning them is hard
  • Lots of "adaptive" equipment is required
  • The job involves a lot of manual labor in showing someone how to do something as simple as using scissors, etc.