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What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is the area of study and practice that educates individuals in the methods, theories and techniques required to successfully aid individuals of all ages in developing or relearning motor and cognitive functions. Individuals in this field will work within hospitals, clinics, private offices, or through other medical facilities in order to assist individuals in their rehabilitation. Occupational therapy is a valued area of practice, though it requires extensive study and experience prior to regular employment.
Individuals wishing to become practicing occupational therapists must pursue at least a master's degree in occupational therapy and complete a prerequisite number of clinical hours and a licensing examination as determined by a given state. A program in occupational therapy will expose students to a variety of sciences relating to the human body, particularly those regarding function and movement. Students will obtain an in depth knowledge of the human structure, how various joints, limbs, muscles, nerves, and vascular systems work together to allow the body movement, how such elements and systems may be damaged, and what steps may be taken to rehabilitate and restore function to damaged portions of the body. Students will also partake in clinical courses supervised by professionals in order to see and experience first hand the various methods treatments, and practices employed to correct the various ailments covered by occupational therapy.
Courses in occupational therapy may include:
- Functional Anatomy
Occupational therapists often work with patients who are suffering from a mental or physical disability or recovering from an accident. Individuals in this field will work with patients to perform various activities, relearn certain functions, and develop motor skills that have been degenerated or lost due to outlying factors. Additionally, occupational therapists are responsible for educating families of patients in order to assist them with how to deal with issues and complications that may arise, and they may provide aid in the recovery and development of the patient. Over the course of treatment therapists will revise plans and therapies to facilitate the rate of recovery as the process will be different for each individual patient.
Occupational therapists can work at:
- Health Care Facilities
- Private Practices
Job Growth, Salary and Related Fields
Job growth is expected to increase rapidly over the next decade as the services provided by occupational therapists becomes more widespread and accepted and access to healthcare becomes more commonplace, The average salary of an occupational therapist is $66,800 per year, with the lowest 10% earning less than $43,000. Salaries for occupational therapists will be higher in higher populated areas, with experience and education also playing a part in overall salary.
The American Occupational Therapy Organization (AOTA) is an organization established in 1917 to promote the interests and develop the services provided by occupational therapy. The organization has over 43,000 members, which includes occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants and students studying the field. The organization also provides accreditation of programs and examinations for the purposes certification and licensure.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook for Occupational Therapy is an excellent resource for individuals interested in becoming occupational therapists. The handbook includes a variety of useful information regarding career development, including education, work environment and job outlook.