Online Occupational Therapy Degree Programs
Are you looking for a career that is more than a job? Do you want to inspire the people you work with--and be inspired by them? The field of occupational therapy can be very rewarding, helping people overcome the barriers to independent living while earning a good living yourself.
What Occupational Therapists Do
In a nutshell, occupational therapists help their patients overcome obstacles. The types of obstacles are diverse, as are the different specialties within the occupational therapy field. Some occupational therapists work with children who suffer from developmental problems. These can be relatively minor problems, from underdeveloped fine motor skills to difficulties with audio or visual perception, to more severe problems like autism or Down syndrome.
Occupational therapists can also help adult patients recover their motor, reasoning and living skills after a stroke, brain injury or illness that renders them disabled. For patients with conditions such as a spinal chord injury that create a permanent disability, or degenerative diseases such as cerebral palsy that will gradually erode their ability to function work with occupational therapists. Therapists can teach these patients to use specialized equipment such as eating and dressing aids and wheelchairs, allowing the patient to retain as much autonomy as possible.
Occupational therapists teach elderly patients exercises--both mental and physical--that can improve or slow the decline of their functional abilities, and techniques to compensate for diminished abilities so that the patient can remain independent and self-sufficient.
Occupational Therapy Career Requires Education
Becoming an occupational therapist requires a lot of schooling, and more. A minimum of a master's degree in occupational therapy is required, and that's just the beginning. At least six months of fieldwork in the form of an internship, assisting a licensed occupational therapist, or a similar supervised setting is required. You must also pass a state or national licensing exam.
Roughly half of the accredited master's degree programs in the United States offer a combined bachelor's and master's degree program that allows students to earn their master's degree in five or six years. If you aren't sure you're ready to make that kind of commitment to a career in occupational therapy when you first begin college, majors such as biology, anthropology, sociology or psychology are generally viewed favorably by occupational therapy master's degree programs.
Your course load at the graduate level will include instruction on occupational therapy theory and application, as well as study of the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences. Once licensed, occupational therapists are expected to take continuing education courses, and in some states are required to do so.
Career Path for Occupational Therapy
The field of occupational therapy is expected to grow at more than double the average rate of all occupations over the next decade, so opportunities should be plentiful. Much of this growth will be for occupational therapists who work with the elderly as the baby boom generation ages. Further growth will be in schools and working with school-aged children as that population also continues to grow. The median annual salary for occupational therapists grew 5 percent between 2006 and 2007. The 2007 median salary for occupational therapists was $63,790.
Pursue your Occupational Therapy major today…
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