Employment is projected to increase much faster than the average, as
rapid growth in the number of middle-aged and elderly individuals increases
the demand for therapeutic services.
Beginning in 2007, a master’s degree or higher in occupational
therapy will be the minimum educational requirement.
Occupational therapists are increasingly taking on supervisory
roles, allowing assistants and aides to work more closely with clients under
the guidance of a therapist, in an effort to reduce the cost of therapy.
More than a quarter of occupational therapists work part time.
Occupational therapists (OTs) help people improve their ability to perform
tasks in their daily living and working environments. They work with individuals
who have conditions that are mentally, physically, developmentally, or
emotionally disabling. They also help them to develop, recover, or maintain
daily living and work skills. Occupational therapists help clients not only to
improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also to
compensate for permanent loss of function. Their goal is to help clients have
independent, productive, and satisfying lives.
Occupational therapists assist clients in performing activities of all types,
ranging from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as dressing,
cooking, and eating. Physical exercises may be used to increase strength and
dexterity, while other activities may be chosen to improve visual acuity and the
ability to discern patterns. For example, a client with short-term memory loss
might be encouraged to make lists to aid recall, and a person with coordination
problems might be assigned exercises to improve hand-eye coordination.
Occupational therapists also use computer programs to help clients improve
decision making, abstract-reasoning, problem-solving, and perceptual skills, as
well as memory, sequencing, and coordination—all of which are important for
Therapists instruct those with permanent disabilities, such as spinal cord
injuries, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy, in the use of adaptive
equipment, including wheelchairs, orthotics, and aids for eating and dressing.
They also design or make special equipment needed at home or at work. Therapists
develop computer-aided adaptive equipment and teach clients with severe
limitations how to use that equipment in order to communicate better and control
various aspects of their environment.
Some occupational therapists treat individuals whose ability to function in a
work environment has been impaired. These practitioners arrange employment,
evaluate the work environment, plan work activities, and assess the client’s
progress. Therapists also may collaborate with the client and the employer to
modify the work environment so that the work can be successfully completed.
Occupational therapists may work exclusively with individuals in a particular
age group or with particular disabilities. In schools, for example, they
evaluate children’s abilities, recommend and provide therapy, modify classroom
equipment, and help children participate as fully as possible in school programs
and activities. A therapist may work with children individually, lead small
groups in the classroom, consult with a teacher, or serve on a curriculum or
other administrative committee. Early intervention therapy services are provided
to infants and toddlers who have, or are at risk of having, developmental
delays. Specific therapies may include facilitating the use of the hands,
promoting skills for listening and following directions, fostering social play
skills, or teaching dressing and grooming skills.
Occupational therapy also is beneficial to the elderly population. Therapists
help the elderly lead more productive, active, and independent lives through a
variety of methods, including the use of adaptive equipment. Therapists with
specialized training in driver rehabilitation assess an individual’s ability to
drive using both clinical and on-the-road tests. The evaluations allow the
therapist to make recommendations for adaptive equipment, training to prolong
driving independence, and alternative transportation options. Occupational
therapists also work with the client to assess the home for hazards and to
identify environmental factors that contribute to falls.
Occupational therapists in mental health settings treat individuals who are
mentally ill, mentally retarded, or emotionally disturbed. To treat these
problems, therapists choose activities that help people learn to engage in and
cope with daily life. Activities include time management skills, budgeting,
shopping, homemaking, and the use of public transportation. Occupational
therapists also may work with individuals who are dealing with alcoholism, drug
abuse, depression, eating disorders, or stress-related disorders.
Assessing and recording a client’s activities and progress is an important part
of an occupational therapist’s job. Accurate records are essential for
evaluating clients, for billing, and for reporting to physicians and other
health care providers.
Occupational therapists in hospitals and other health care and community
settings usually work a 40-hour week. Those in schools may participate in other
activities during and after the school day. In 2004, more than a quarter of
occupational therapists worked part time.
In large rehabilitation centers, therapists may work in spacious rooms equipped
with machines, tools, and other devices generating noise. The work can be
tiring, because therapists are on their feet much of the time. Those providing
home health care services may spend time driving from appointment to
appointment. Therapists also face hazards such as back strain from lifting and
moving clients and equipment.
Therapists increasingly are taking on supervisory roles. Because of rising
health care costs, third-party payers are beginning to encourage occupational
therapist assistants and aides to take more hands-on responsibility. The cost of
therapy should decline if assistants and aides work more closely with clients
under the guidance of a therapist.
Occupational therapists held about 92,000 jobs in 2004. About 1 in 10
occupational therapists held more than one job. The largest number of jobs were
in hospitals. Other major employers were offices of other health practitioners
(including offices of occupational therapists), public and private educational
services, and nursing care facilities. Some occupational therapists were
employed by home health care services, outpatient care centers, offices of
physicians, individual and family services, community care facilities for the
elderly, and government agencies.
A small number of occupational therapists were self-employed in private
practice. These practitioners saw clients referred by physicians or other health
professionals or provided contract or consulting services to nursing care
facilities, schools, adult day care programs, and home health care agencies.
Currently, a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy is the minimum
requirement for entry into the field. Beginning in 2007, however, a master’s
degree or higher will be the minimum educational requirement. As a result,
students in bachelor’s-level programs must complete their coursework and
fieldwork before 2007. All states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the District of
Columbia regulate the practice of occupational therapy. To obtain a license,
applicants must graduate from an accredited educational program and pass a
national certification examination. Those who pass the exam are awarded the
title “Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR).” Some states have additional
requirements for therapists who work in schools or early intervention programs.
These requirements may include classes, an education practice certificate, or
early intervention certification requirements.
In 2005, 122 master’s degree programs offered entry-level education, 65
programs offered a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree, and 5 offered an
entry-level doctoral degree. Most schools have full-time programs, although a
growing number are offering weekend or part-time programs as well. Bachelor’s
degree programs in occupational therapy are no longer offered because of the
requirement for a master’s degree or higher beginning in 2007. In addition, post
baccalaureate certificate programs for students with a degree other than
occupational therapy are no longer offered.
Occupational therapy coursework includes the physical, biological, and
behavioral sciences and the application of occupational therapy theory and
skills. The completion of 6 months of supervised fieldwork also is required.
Persons considering this profession should take high school courses in biology,
chemistry, physics, health, art, and the social sciences. College admissions
offices also look favorably at paid or volunteer experience in the health care
field. Relevant undergraduate majors include biology, psychology, sociology,
anthropology, liberal arts, and anatomy.
Occupational therapists need patience and strong interpersonal skills to inspire
trust and respect in their clients. Patience is necessary because many clients
may not show rapid improvement. Ingenuity and imagination in adapting activities
to individual needs are assets. Those working in home health care services must
be able to adapt to a variety of settings.
Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase much faster
than the average for all occupations through 2014. The impact of proposed
federal legislation imposing limits on reimbursement for therapy services may
adversely affect the job market for occupational therapists in the short run.
However, over the long run, the demand for occupational therapists should
continue to rise as a result of growth in the number of individuals with
disabilities or limited function who require therapy services. The baby-boom
generation’s movement into middle age, a period when the incidence of heart
attack and stroke increases, will spur demand for therapeutic services. Growth
in the population 75 years and older—an age group that suffers from high
incidences of disabling conditions—also will increase demand for therapeutic
services. Driver rehabilitation and fall-prevention training for the elderly are
emerging practice areas for occupational therapy. In addition, medical advances
now enable more patients with critical problems to survive—patients who
ultimately may need extensive therapy.
Hospitals will continue to employ a large number of occupational therapists to
provide therapy services to acutely ill inpatients. Hospitals also will need
occupational therapists to staff their outpatient re-habilitation programs.
Employment growth in schools will result from the expansion of the school-age
population, the extension of services for disabled stu-dents, and an increasing
prevalence of sensory disorders in children. Therapists will be needed to help
children with disabilities prepare to enter special education programs.
Median annual earnings of occupational therapists were $54,660 in May 2004.
The middle 50 percent earned between $45,690 and $67,010. The lowest 10 percent
earned less than $37,430, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,600.
Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of
occupational therapists in May 2004 were: Home health care services, $58,720;
Offices of other health practitioners, $56,620; Nursing care facilities,
$56,570; General medical and surgical hospitals, $55,710; Elementary and
secondary schools, $48,580.
Additional Dispensing Optician job resources are presented in the paperback
Health Care Job Explosion! 4th edition by Dennis V. Damp for this
occupational group. Resources include Job Ads, Job Hotlines, Job Fairs,
Placement services, Associations, Books, Directories and Internet (Web) Sites.
Your local library may have this book in their reference section or you can
purchase a copy for $19.95 plus shipping with all major credit cards from our
toll free service at 1-800-782-7424 (Orders Only). Also available at all major
bookstores. Also explore jobs at VA hospitals and other
federal government employment options.
American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) - 4720 Montgomery Lane, P.O.
Box 31220, Bethesda, MD 20824; 800/377-8555, 301/652-2682. (http://www.aota.org)
Students section has listings of schools and certification information. OT Job
Link has jobs available searchable by state and city. Members can put résumés on
web, and get emails on new jobs available that meet their criteria.
Opportunities in Occupational Therapy Careers by Zona R. Weeks ISBN:
B000063Y61 and Opportunities in Physical Therapy Careers by Bernice R. Krumhansl
ISBN: B000062UHL are published by McGraw Hill. Both include training and
education requirements, salary statistics, and professional and Internet
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Health Care Jobs, Occupational Therapist Jobs, Medical Jobs, Nursing Jobs