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Occupational Therapist


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Occupational Therapist Job Description

Occupational therapists are trained professionals who help individuals with various illnesses, disabilities, injuries, and mental illnesses achieve the skills necessary to function properly and efficiently in their daily lives. Occupational therapists often work with babies and toddlers, providing early intervention and children and adults who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, autism, and Alzheimer's. Therapists help their patients establish ways to execute their daily activities at home and at work. They show patients how to use equipment or devices that the patients need to move around and/or perform tasks. Therapists contribute immensely to the improvement and quality of life of patients and allow them to achieve various degrees of independence.

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings. Most therapists are employed in rehabilitation facilities, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and privately. They often work alongside speech therapists, physical therapists, doctors, nurses, and they supervise occupational therapy assistants. Occupational therapists collaborate with other medical professionals to devise effective treatment plans. The schedule of an occupational therapist can include days, evenings, and weekends, depending on the hours of the facility where they are employed or the scheduling needs of the patient.

For those wanting to go into the field of occupational therapy, it is important to possess a good deal of patience and have a caring and compassionate nature. One should also enjoy working with people, since the position requires lots of interaction with patients and their families. Occupational therapists also need to be in good physical condition since a large portion of their jobs involves standing for long periods of time and helping patients who have difficulty in getting around.

Occupational Therapist Duties

On a daily basis, [occupational therapists] might perform the following duties:

  • Assess patients and determine their needs
  • Assist patients in completing various activities
  • Show patients how to perform various exercises


How To Become An Occupational Therapist

Becoming an occupational therapist involves obtaining a bachelor's degree in any related field, completing prerequisite classes, and then earning a master's degree from an accredited occupational therapy program. After graduation, a national exam must be passed in order to work as an occupational therapist.

How Long Does It Take To Become An Occupational Therapist?

It usually take six years or more to become an occupational therapist. After completing a bachelor's degree, an occupational therapy master's program will take another two years or longer. Graduates must pass a national test in order to become registered.

Education Requirements

Occupational therapists need a minimum of a master's degree in order to obtain employment. Prior to enrolling in a master's degree program, a bachelor's degree must be obtained. Some programs have a bachelor's/master's degree program that allows students without a bachelor's degree to enter a combined program where both a bachelor's and master's degree in occupational therapy are awarded.

If a student is applying to a traditional master's of science degree program, there are many undergraduate majors that are acceptable when applying so long as the student completes the prerequisites needed for entrance into the program. Possible undergraduate majors could include: biology, kinesiology, psychology, sociology, or a liberal arts degree.

Since entrance into occupational therapy programs is highly competitive, it is important to maintain a satisfactory grade point average throughout undergraduate studies and complete the necessary prerequisites in such courses as anatomy and physiology, psychology, and statistics. Once in an occupational therapy master's program, students can expect to spend the first portion of the program completing coursework and the remainder of the program engaging in fieldwork which involves actual training in an occupational therapy setting. Many programs also have a thesis component where the student will need to complete a research project in the subject matter before graduating.

Certification

There are many certifications that occupational can specialize in. Certificates can be obtained in such specializations as pediatrics and geriatrics. Occupational therapists who specialize in various fields will most likely have the best job prospects as the need for specialized occupational therapists is rapidly increasing.

Licensing

Although there is no formal licensing requirement for occupational therapists, all fifty states stipulate that therapists must be registered. In order to obtain a registered status, graduates of accredited programs must pass a national examination. After successful completion of the exam, therapists can use the title "Occupational Therapist Registered."

After becoming registered, occupational therapists will periodically need to take continuing education classes in order to maintain their registered status.


Job Outlook

The future outlook for occupational therapist jobs is excellent. Many more occupational therapists will be needed in the coming years due to the increasing number of people who stay active later in life and need assistance from therapists to help them sustain their daily activities. Between the years 0f 2012 and 2022, the occupational therapy field is expected to grow by 29% with the addition of 32,800 new positions. Theses jobs will most likely be in rehabilitation and acute hospital facilities. Detailed Occupational Therapist salary data is available here.


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