How to Become an Occupational Therapist

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There are many people suffering from short-term or long-term disabilities that hinder their ability to perform activities required for daily living and working. Occupational therapy is an essential field that helps patients improve their skills. Occupational therapists work with people to help improve their physical health and well-being.

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What does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapists help patients increase their skills and abilities to carry out tasks in their living and working settings. They work with a variety of patients who have physical, mental, emotional, or developmental disabilities. They use many different treatments and activities to help patients develop, recuperate, or sustain their skills. They help patients improve their basic motor skills and reasoning capabilities and adjust to permanent function loss. The overall goal is to assist patients with having productive, satisfying, and independent lives.

Occupational therapists help patients with a variety of tasks from cooking and eating to using a computer. They use physical exercises to help improve dexterity and strength and other activities to expand visual acuity and hand-eye coordination. Occupational therapists also use computer programs to help patients improve skills such as problem solving, memory, decision-making, perceptual skills, and abstract reasoning. Occupational therapists adapt activities and use specialize equipment to meet the individual needs of patients. They also assess and record the activities and progress of patients.

What kind of training does an occupational therapist need?

Occupational therapists must have at least a master degree in occupational therapy. Some have doctoral degrees. Occupational therapy programs provide coursework in the biological, physical, and behavior sciences, and occupational therapy and skills. Completion of 6 months of supervised fieldwork is also required.

All 50 states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements include graduating from an accredited occupational therapy program and receiving a passing score on the national certification examination. There may be additional requirements among different states. Licensed occupational therapists are called Occupational Therapist Registered.

What are the prospects for a career as an occupational therapist?

Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1). An aging population and the increased need for occupational therapy services will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for occupational therapists with knowledge in a specialty area and for those working with elderly patients.

How much do occupational therapists make?

As of September 2009, the middle 50% of occupational therapists earned annual salaries between $61,565 and $75,050. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $81,860 (2).

A career as an occupational therapist is a great choice for individuals interested in helping patients with improving their skills needed for daily living. Occupational therapists must be patient, respectful, trustworthy, and have strong interpersonal and communication skills. They must be able to adjust to many different settings and have ingenuity and imagination to adapt activities to the specific needs of the patient.

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