How to Become an Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist (also known as an OT) works with clients to help them gain skills that allow them to live better lives.

If you are a good communicator, have good empathy, and would like a job where you work closely with people then you might like to become an occupational therapist.

An occupational therapists clients will often be suffering from a condition that stops them from living a normal life.

They could be suffering from a physical, mental, or emotional disturbance.

An OT works with a client to analyze their client’s needs and help them to gain new skills to help them live better lives, these could be anything from learning to cook, to using a computer, to meeting new people.

Education Requirements to Become an Occupational Therapist

To become an occupational therapist, you’ll need to first complete an undergraduate degree.

A four year bachelors degree in psychology, sociology, biology, anthropology, or the liberal arts is ideal.

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After this you will have to attend graduate school and complete an accredited program in occupational therapy.

A masters degree is the minimum requirement for licensure in all 50 states.

All programs consist of at least 24 weeks of supervised professional practice, as is the minimum for accreditation.

Upon graduation, you’ll need to take exams and apply for licensure within your state.

You can find out more about this process from the American Occupation Therapy Association.

Occupational Therapist Job Description

As stated above, an occupational therapist works with clients to help them lead better lives.

They help them to learn new skills, so as any illness or disability they may be suffering from will not hinder them.

An occupational therapist could help a client with something such as building strength or dexterity.

For instance, they might help them to do their job at work differently after an accident.

They could also help a client with life skills such as cooking, or money management.

For example, they could help a client with help making a weekly budget.

Some occupational therapists help injured workers return to the workforce.

Others help mentally ill patients deal with the problems of daily life, while some will help the elderly or work in schools.

When you become an occupational therapist, your job will start with an initial meeting with a client.

You will analyze their current situation, where areas could be improved, as well as what the client would like to achieve.

The next step is to create an action plan.

This could involve steps to help a client learn new skills or to try different things.

This will later be reviewed, and the outcome measured.

Here are some of the tasks of an occupational therapist:

  • Scheduling a meeting with a client
  • Holding an initial therapy sessions
  • Devising an action plan and explaining it to the client
  • Follow up sessions and outcome measurement
  • Communicating with case workers and family members

Occupational Therapist Salary and Career Path

Most occupational therapists work in hospitals, some work in clinics or consulting firms, others are employed by schools or social welfare agencies.

When you graduate and gain your licensure, you’ll be able to start work as an occupational therapist right away.

Some occupational therapists will work with specific populations.

They may specialize with the elderly, school children, or injured workers for example.

Later in their career, some may become supervisors, overseeing the work of other OT’s and aides.

Some go on to other jobs within health, while some become teachers.

The median wage for an occupational therapist is $66,000 a year.

The top 10% of earners make over $98,000 a year.

There is much growth in this sector currently, and strong employment opportunities for the future.

With an aging population, the best opportunities will go to those with an interest in working with the elderly.

Some similar jobs to that of occupational therapist include:

  • Physical therapist
  • Registered nurse
  • Social worker
  • Speech pathologist
  • Psychologist
  • Counselor
  • Recreational therapist

If you enjoy working closely with people and would enjoy making a difference to your client’s lives then you might like to become an occupational therapist.

A good salary and employment prospects makes this a good choice of career.

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