Becoming An Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapist jobs are projected to grow by 29% through the year 2022.  This growth is above average compared to the predicted growth of other professions. 

What is the Difference Between an Occupational Therapist and a Physical Therapist?

It is easy for some people to confuse the professions of occupational therapist and physical therapist.  Both jobs can involve working with disabled patients.  Physical therapy deals more with helping patients regain physical mobility.  A physical therapist helps patients regain movement and deal with pain management.  An occupational therapist focuses more on developing skills needed for everyday living. 

What are Some Things an Occupational Therapist Does?

An occupational therapist treats patients by teaching them how to live independently.  They evaluate the patient, set goals, and come up with a treatment plan.  They evaluate a patient's home and help come up with ways to improve the home in order to assist the patient in daily living.  If new equipment is needed to help perform tasks, the occupational therapist teaches the patient to use it.  An occupational therapist also helps educate the family in how to assist the patient, and may help educate other people in their lives, such as teachers or employers.  The therapist is continually assessing and evaluating the patient in order to best help them. 

Occupational therapists may work in an office specific for occupational therapy.  They may also work in a hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility.  Home health services utilize occupational therapists, as do some schools.

The Path to Become an Occupational Therapist

In order to become an occupational therapist, you must have a master's degree.  Those interested in occupational therapy often get their bachelor's degree in Sociology or Psychology, and then gain admittance to an accredited occupational therapy program.  In order to be accepted to an occupational therapy program, it's important to have at least a 3.0 grade point average and to have volunteer experience working with people with disabilities. 

An occupational therapy program will typically last 2-3 years and will consist of classes such as occupational therapy theory, research, administration, and case studies.  On top of a vigorous course schedule, the therapist candidate must also participate in six months of a supervised clinical experience. 

Like many professions, in order to practice occupational therapy, a candidate must become licensed.  Each state has their own licensing requirements, but all states require that occupational therapists pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.  In order to take the exam, a candidate must have obtained their degree from an accredited program and completed all the required fieldwork.

For more information about the services offered by an occupational therapist, contact a facility such as Hillcrest Nursing Center.