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Facts About Occupational Therapist

April 13th, 2011

The occupational therapist career is one that is growing and will show increasing demand in coming years. Occupational therapists work with mentally and physically disabled patients, assisting them in coping with the tasks of daily life at their workplace or at home. Let’s take a close look at what this career path entails.

Work

The work of an occupational therapist is to bring people who are experiencing various disabilities back into norms or work and general living. These people may have physical or mental problems that make getting daily tasks taken care of difficult. They may have mobility problems, for instance, due to an injury, making basic tasks like going shopping or moving around the house difficult. Or they may have psychological problems or developmental difficulties that affect their ability to work and handle their daily responsibilities.

This is where occupational therapists come in. They assist these individuals in getting to better activity flows. They do this in a number of different ways:

Physical Exercises

The occupational therapist may use physical exercises to help rehabilitate somebody with a physical disability. They may massage an individual, have them lift weights to increase strength, have them do specific stretches designed to help bring muscles back to better states and so on. This is the same sort of therapy that one may find in physical therapy. But it has the added focus of being geared toward getting individuals to a level where they can work and handle daily tasks effectively. Many occupational therapist jobs deal extensively with the physical level.

Mental/Perceptual Therapy

An occupational therapist will also work on the mental level with patients. If, for instance, someone is having trouble with memory, the occupational therapist may employ memory exercises designed by psychologists in order to rehabilitate that type of mental function. They may also assist individual with their reasoning and problem solving ability by given them various tests or exercises. Along these general lines are perceptual exercises that assist patients in perceptual acuity (i.e. eyesight and so on) motor control and coordination, and so forth.

Technology

Sometimes occupational therapists use various technologies to assist patients. They may use specific machines or for physical exercises, show patients how to use assistive technologies if they need to access them, or use computer programs to administer various psychological tests. Sometimes the even design or build various devices that are specially designed for a particular patient.

Work Environment

Due to the combined mental and physical nature of this work, the job environments in which a physical therapist may find him or herself are quite variable. Occupational therapists jobs may involve working for hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools, long term care facilities, various rehabilitation programs, home care organizations, and so on. Some are self employed, working on a contract basis for a number of different facilities or for individuals on the recommendation of a physician.

Training/Education

Occupational therapist training moves to advanced levels before an individual begins to work in the industry. The majority of occupational therapists have at least a Master’s degree and may even have more advanced degrees. This is to be expected since there are many different types of skill sets that are used in the field. As noted, both psychological and physical therapy modalities are part of this type of work, and both field are accessed at fairly high levels of expertise. Master’s degree programs are offered at 4 year colleges and medical schools around the country.

Having an advanced, post Baccalaureate degree is usually legally required. Furthermore, the educational programs that a physical therapist attends must be accredited by an organization called the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

Licensing and Certification

Licensing is mandatory for occupational therapists. The license is granted to people who complete ACOTE accredited educational programs in occupational therapy. Licensing is often associated with passing a national certification exam given by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successfully completing this exam, a student is given the title of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR). The license and certification are important parts of an occupational therapist’s credentials.

Occupational Therapist Salary

Occupational therapists are paid quite well. The site Salary.com, which has reasonably accurate and up to date figures, gives the median salary for occupational therapists as $73,359. The median 50% range the site gives is between $67,593 and $79,800. This is a skilled trade for which significant educational is necessary, so its practitioners are paid accordingly. It appears that the best paid positions overall are with home care companies. About mid range are health practitioners’ offices and toward the bottom of the list are hospitals and schools. But these latter still pay quite well and offer a comfortable living standard.

Job Growth

The occupational therapy career is expected to grow very fast. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an increase of 26% percent over 2008 demand levels. There is largely due to an increasing elderly population as well as advancement in technologies related to physical therapy. There should be plenty of jobs available in coming years, making this a good field to get into.

A career as an occupational therapist may have a lot to offer you. You can learn a valuable health profession, make a good income, and have the satisfaction of helping people. You will be working with people in a healing way and getting them back toward having more trouble free and active lives. It does require quite a bit of training to go into this field, but you will find that it is probably worth it considering the good you are able to do.

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