As an occupational therapist, your work is to empower people with illness or disability not merely to survive their conditions, but to thrive and live a happy, independent life.
TheraEx is proud to offer one of the most comprehensive OT job search programs in the industry. With a vast network of reputable healthcare facilities across the country, highly competitive compensation packages, and a dedicated recruiter that will guide you throughout the hiring process and negotiations to ensure you a job setting that meets your personal and professional goals.
A Career In Occupational Therapy Offers Multiple Benefits
Occupational therapists help patients of all ages overcome injuries, disease, or disabilities by teaching them new and easy ways to carry out their day-to-day activities. People who go into this field are usually highly creative, have excellent interpersonal skills, and are genuinely passionate about helping others reach their goals and regain independence.
A career in occupational therapy offers many benefits. OTs have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, from private practices with other allied health professionals such as physical and speech therapists to hospitals, schools or universities, nursing homes, and patient’s homes. And since the job typically takes place at facilities with regular operating hours, most non-traveling occupational therapists have pretty flexible schedules.
The Growing Demand For Occupational Therapists
Occupational therapy is one of the fastest-growing healthcare careers in the United States today. According to the US Bureau of Labor of Statistics, the field is expected to grow 17% from 2020 through 2030, an increase, they report, that’s “much faster than the average for all occupations.”
One reason the demand is so high is that older adults are projected to outnumber kids in just a few decades in the US, which will create an even greater need for OTs to help seniors maintain their quality of life. Another reason is that the need for occupational therapists spans a wide variety of fields. As an occupational therapist, you might decide to specialize in an area of OT that you’re passionate about, such as:
Occupational therapists work with physically and developmentally delayed students to help improve their fine and gross motor skills. OTs also help teachers learn to recognize when students have motor skill problems, which can be difficult to spot. This ensures students get the early help they need to address and treat delays sooner.
Patients dealing with vision problems can benefit from occupational therapy to help them learn new skills and strategies for managing low vision. OTs can address conditions like glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, helping patients restore as much visual function as possible. Occupational therapists can also show patients how to adjust their work and home environments to better suit their vision needs.
Assistive Technology Professional
Occupational therapists who are interested in using assistive devices to help patients should consider this specialty. ATP practitioners use adaptive tools, equipment, and software to treat patients. The OT’s job is to match the device to the patient’s specific needs and teach them how to use it properly.
Pediatric OTs help children develop age-appropriate cognitive, motor, and social skills. They assess the needs of the child and put together a plan for addressing any delays or limitations. For young patients, they may start with daily activities like:
- Brushing their teeth
- Dressing themselves
- Tying their shoes
- Writing their name
- Playing with friends
For elderly patients dealing with physical and mental decline, occupational therapists can help mitigate the struggles that come with aging. OTs teach these patients easier, safer ways to perform everyday tasks to live independently. They’ll also help patients deal with psychological issues common in the elderly, like social isolation and memory impairment.
OTs are not trained in just physical techniques. They also receive holistic training that can be beneficial for patients dealing with mental health problems. OTs can develop treatment approaches that incorporate:
- Cognitive assessment
- Sensory strategies
- Therapeutic alliances
- Group process
- Socio-emotional skills
They can also help patients develop healthier coping mechanisms through the use of everyday activities, like playing cards, writing, drawing, or listening to music.
Patients with diabetes have to make lifestyle changes to manage their condition. Occupational therapists can help patients adjust to these changes by showing them how to:
- stay on track with their diet
- maintain a blood glucose testing routine
- develop an exercise plan
- organize and track their medication
For late-stage patients who are experiencing vision loss or blindness, OTs can help them learn how to use assisted devices, like canes and wheelchairs.
Is Occupational Therapy a Good Career?
Being an occupational therapist requires a lot of kindness, patience, and sensitivity. If you possess these qualities, OT can be an incredibly fulfilling career. Studies report high rates of job satisfaction among occupational therapists: in a recent survey on job satisfaction in occupational therapy settings, about 94% of school-based occupational therapists and 67% of non-school therapists reported a rating of good or better for their overall job satisfaction. Overall, most OTs report they’re compensated fairly and feel fulfilled by their work.
Occupational therapists also enjoy a ton of work flexibility. Since positions are available in many different healthcare settings, OTs have their pick of location, shifts, and workplace environment. There are plenty of per-diem openings, where you work as needed without a long-term schedule. These positions are perfect for employees who want to travel for work instead of committing to one employer.
How To Become An Occupational Therapist
There are a few ways to become an occupational therapist. One option is to complete a two-year occupational therapy assistant associate’s degree from an accredited institution. These programs allow you to gain knowledge and practical skills in subjects like anatomy, biology, physiology, geriatrics, pediatrics, and psychology and prepare you for the Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA) exam, a nationwide certification test administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
Alternatively, you can pursue a bachelor’s degree in a related field, like psychology or biology, and earn a graduate degree from an accredited university. If you decide to go to grad school, you can choose to get a master’s degree in occupational therapy (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational therapy degree (DOT). In both cases, you will have to fulfill a minimum amount of hours of fieldwork in your academic institution or local clinic.
Occupational Therapy Salary & Benefits
Not only is occupational therapy considered one of the most fulfilling and in-demand professions in healthcare, but it can also be a highly profitable career. National estimates indicate that the average OT salary is around $87,000, although it tends to be higher for traveling OTs. Some of the most lucrative areas of work include pediatrics, gerontology, and non-clinical OT, such as product development consulting and home/workplace modifications consulting.