Occupational Therapist

How to Become an Occupational Therapist
Occupational Therapist Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of an Occupational Therapist
Occupational Therapist Salaries
Influential Professional Occupational Therapists
Leading Organizations for Occupational Therapists
Top Cities for Occupational Therapy Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist treats patients who have experienced an illness or injury and require help to improve their ability to function more normally in both living and working environments. An occupational therapist can also be known as a physical therapist.

In order to become an occupational therapist, you must be licensed which requires a Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy, plus 6 months of fieldwork, and a passing grade on state and national exams. In high school, the basic required courses would include the sciences of biology, chemistry and physics along with health, art and social sciences.

A Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy is the minimum entry requirement into the field. Most schools require full-time study but there are some that endorse weekend or part-time study programs. Following this career path involves dedication and a strong desire to help people.

While in school, students will study courses in anatomy, biology, psychology, anthropology, liberal arts and sociology. As a provision of licensing, completion of six months of supervised fieldwork is also required.

Students who graduate from an accredited occupational therapist program must then pass a national examination in order to obtain the designation of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR). Some states may have additional requirements.

According to the United States Department of Labor, there were over 99,000 occupational therapists working in the United States in 2006. The majority of these therapists were employed by hospitals. In January 2008, the career of occupational therapist was named in the U.S. News & World Report as one of the Best Careers of 2008.

Occupational therapists can choose to specialize in many areas including pediatrics, vision or hand therapy, physical rehabilitation and sports.

What does an Occupational Therapist do?

An occupational therapist helps people with their physical disabilities as well as learning new skills or helping them adapt to permanent losses. They may work with patients who have suffered from a mental, physical, developmental or emotionally disabling condition. An occupational therapist helps clients to improve their basic motor functions with the goal of having greater independence.

Occupational therapists can assist patients in performing many types of activities including everyday things such as dressing themselves, cooking or eating. Physical exercises can be used to increase the strength and dexterity of a patient while a computer exercise program can be used to help a patient with hand-eye coordination or perceptual skills.

Occupational therapists can also help patients adapt to using equipment such as a wheelchair or eating and dressing aids. Occupational therapists can specialize in working with a particular age group or people that have a particular disability. Such an example would be working with the elderly to help them maintain productive and independent lives.

In a hospital or community setting, evaluation of a workplace environment along with planned work activities and assessing the progress can also be a regular part of an occupational therapist's job. They can also be involved in developing and conducting training programs, counseling, crisis intervention, organizing blood drives, health and wellness fairs, and CPR training for other facility employees.

What skills or qualities do I need to become an Occupational Therapist?

If you are thinking about becoming an occupational therapist, you must possess a genuine desire to help people. The ability to listen to a patient, good communication skills, empathy, flexibility, time management skills, being organized and respectful along with good physical endurance are qualities that any occupational therapist must possess.

Becoming an occupational therapist also requires a keen attention for detail, good interpersonal skills, being able to respond quickly, along with good problem solving skills. Being emotionally and physically able to handle stressful situations is also necessary along with being creative and highly motivated.

A career as an occupational therapist can be very rewarding as patients can benefit directly from the skills that have been learned and applied to the patient.

How much does an Occupational Therapist make?

An occupational therapist, like any other professional, makes different salaries depending upon their place of employment, geographical area and applicable skills. The median salary for occupational therapists in the United States, as of May 2006, is $60,470 annually. The middle 50 percent of American occupational therapists made between $50,450 and $73,710 in the same year. The maximum annual salary for an occupational therapist is $89,450 with such a salary likely including bonuses and benefits such as social security, 401k, disability, healthcare and pension.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Helen P. LeVesconte (1896-1982) was a world-renowned occupational therapist and graduate of the University of Toronto, Ontario. She devoted her life to the development of occupational therapy and an award of merit was named after her.

Again, in 2006, there were over 99,000 occupational therapists working in the United States with a projected 122,000 by 2016. Each of these occupational therapists is dedicated, hard working and committed to their field. There may be few identifiable influential people in this field but this is only because their work goes on behind the scenes.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) has a membership consisting of 52 countries worldwide and is committed to the promotion, advancement and education of occupational therapists.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has a membership of over 36,000 occupational therapists in the United States. The association is dedicated to the promotion of health, quality of life and productivity for individuals through the use of occupational therapy techniques.

There are also occupational therapist organizations within individual U.S. states such as California, Colorado and Arizona, to name a few.

What are the top cities for Occupational Therapy jobs?

As the healthcare industry continues to expand, there is a consistent demand for occupational therapists. Expected to grow faster than average, the number of occupational therapists needed between now and 2016 is expected to increase by 23 percent.

Due to the aging population of baby boomers, employment opportunities for occupational therapists will be in high demand over the next ten years as nursing home populations continue to grow. Occupational therapists will also be in demand for acute care hospitals, as well as orthopedic and rehabilitation settings.

The states of Florida, Texas and California consistently have a high demand for occupational therapists while the cities of Saint Petersburg, Houston and Los Angeles are hot spots.

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