What is an Occupational Therapist?

A career as an occupational therapist is a wonderful choice for individuals who are eager to commit their lives to helping others. That’s because people in this field spend their days helping disabled, ill or injured people expand their quality of life. As you learn more about occupational therapists, you’ll discover that this well-paid profession comes with many benefits.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Occupational therapists work with patients of all ages who have disabilities or who have been injured or are dealing with serious illnesses. They may facilitate disabled students as they attend school or provide necessary support to elderly survivors of strokes. This is accomplished through a holistic approach that takes the patient’s environment and abilities into consideration.

Typically, the occupational therapist will set goals for a patient that will enable them to develop or recover the skills they need to manage daily tasks. This begins with observing the patient, reviewing their medical history and asking questions about the patient’s desires. A treatment plan is proposed and put into action. Occupational therapists may demonstrate exercises that the patient can perform to increase their range of motion or improve motor skills.

Evaluating the environments in which the patient lives and works is also essential. Occupational therapists may make recommendations regarding how to alter those environments to make them more functional for the patient. Additionally, the therapist counsels and educates people who are close to the patient so that they can assist with the process.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist

People who are considering an OT career will find tremendous resources available through The American Occupational Therapy Association. Getting involved with the association is one way to connect with others who are considering the field and to learn more about professional requirements.

A master’s degree in occupational therapy is the minimum requirement for obtaining a position. It’s imperative that the degree be earned in a program that is accredited by The American Occupational Therapy Association. Accreditation ensures that the degree will be accepted by employers across the country. Occupational therapists must also obtain a license to practice.

Admission to Graduate Degree Programs

Each degree program has individualized admission requirements. A bachelor’s degree with coursework that includes physiology and biology is generally preferred. Some programs feature a combined bachelor’s/master’s program that allows the student to earn both degrees in an approximate five-year period. Students who already hold an undergraduate degree can likely finish a master’s degree program in two to three years. Much of the coursework is completed in the classroom. Nonetheless, accredited programs must also include a minimum of 24 weeks of fieldwork that is supervised by teachers and other OT professionals.

Occupational Therapist Licensing

Each state sets unique licensing requirements. This makes it important for students to carefully review the licensing requirements for the state in which they intend to practice. Before becoming licensed, sitting for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy is compulsory. Continuing education is required to maintain licensure.

Occupational therapists make a positive impact on the lives of their patients every day. With the potential for earning an excellent salary in a field that yields considerable personal satisfaction, it is no surprise that more people are showing interest in becoming an occupational therapist.

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