Occupational Therapist Job Description
Occupational therapists develop therapeutic treatment plans to help patients overcome injuries, illnesses and disabilities. The aim of occupational therapists is to help patients return to full and satisfying lives by giving them the ability to handle activities required of them at work or in their personal lives. Those who enter this in-demand field can find themselves working in a variety of healthcare facilities with patients ranging from children to the elderly.
Work Environment for Occupational Therapists
Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals and the clinics of physical, occupational and speech therapists. Schools and nursing homes now also routinely hire occupational therapists, who work both one-on-one and with small groups. Patients can range from the elderly who are dealing with physical issues hindering their movement, to cerebral palsy patients who are learning to perform daily tasks.
While their duties can vary depending on the job environment, some typical patients occupational therapist could work with include:
• Older patients with memory issues who might need help with daily tasks, such as working a computer.
• Autistic children or children with sensory integration issues
• Those with chronic pain who want to learn daily exercises that can help them manage their condition
• Patients who recently have had to start using medical equipment, such as wheelchairs or hearing aids
• Families of patients who need help understanding changes they will have to make in their daily lives to help patients deal with new healthcare situations
Occupational Therapists Salary and Employment Outlook
The number of occupational therapists should increase about 33% by the year 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects that as the large baby boom population ages, they will remain more active than previous generations, which will lead to the need for more occupational therapists to help them maintain their independence. Research and experience has also shown that occupational therapy is very successful in helping treat illnesses and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cerebral palsy, autism, Parkinson’s disease and osteoarthritis. Advances in healthcare have also resulted in many people surviving critical problems, and many of these patients later will need extensive occupational therapy.
The median annual salary for occupational therapists was $72,320 in 2010, according to the BLS.
Occupational Therapists Education and Training
Most occupational therapists must earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy in order to secure a job in the field. Some allied health colleges and universities also offer doctorates in occupational therapy. Typically, a master’s degree in occupational therapy will take two years to complete. At some schools, it’s possible to earn a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in a dual program that takes 5 years to complete. Most courses include supervised field work.
Employers also usually prefer occupational therapist job candidates to be certified in occupational therapy by passing an exam administered by the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists. Those passing the exam earn the title of Occupational Therapist Registered. Maintaining that designation also requires taking ongoing courses.
Additionally, all states require occupational therapists to be licensed.
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