An occupational therapist works in a variety of health care settings to analyze the impact of an occupation on a person’s quality of life. The goal of an occupational therapists’ work is to restore a person’s ability to function in both home and work life, often after an injury or as the result of aging or condition.
Occupational therapists work to improve the lives of people of all ages, from infants to those in midlife and in old age. In all cases, occupational therapists help people face social, physical and emotional challenges.
Today, occupational therapists work in an array of settings including:
- Home care
- Private practice
- Health boards and public health units
- Group homes
- Community based programs
- Vocational programs in schools and other organizations
- Mental health centers
- Recreation facilities
Both the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and the American Occupational Therapy Association Inc. report that demand for graduates with occupational therapy degrees is sharply increasing. The reasons for this increase in demand for qualified occupational therapists includes:
- The population is aging
- More people are surviving injuries from accidents
- Awareness is higher about the needs for people with disabilities
Occupational therapists are in high demand. The U.S. News & World Report named occupational therapist to its “Best Careers 2021” list. This is the second consecutive year occupational therapy received this honor.
The report scored occupational therapy as the best based on five criteria: job outlook, average job satisfaction, difficulty of the required training, prestige and pay. The national median salary in the U.S. for occupational therapists is $63,900.
Getting an Occupational Therapy Degree Results in Careers in Homes, Community
The Canadian association also reports that occupational therapy careers are expanding from hospital settings to home and community care environments.
More occupational therapists are now working for private firms to deliver care in these non-institutional settings. For example, in a 10-year period from 2000 to 2010, the number of occupational therapists working in private practice jumped from just 3% to 25%.
To be allowed to practice occupational therapy in a clinical setting, people must hold a professional license, often requiring a graduate degree in occupational therapy.
In Canada and the U.S., occupational therapists enter the field with a Masters degree. Those who assist occupational therapists often have an associate degree or undergraduate degree.
Online Occupational Therapy Courses, Full-time, Part-time Degrees
Most schools have full-time programs and an increasing number of universities are offering part-time, distance or online occupational therapy degree programs.
Occupational therapy students can expect to take courses in behavioral, physical and biological sciences, occupational theory and skills and earning the degree include a significant amount of clinical placement training.
Young people considering a career in occupational therapy should pay attention to the high school courses taken, including those in chemistry, physics, social sciences, health and biology, and relevant volunteer work in a health care setting.
Getting an occupational therapy degree holds the great promise of jobs in an expanding health care fields, careers with a variety of employer types and meaningful abilities that result in improving people’s lives.