Are you interesting in pursuing a career as an occupational therapist? If this field holds your interest, you’ll enjoy this article explain the occupational therapist job description, duties, qualifications and training, essential skills, working hours, and job prospects.
Occupational therapists provide treatment for patients who cannot perform everyday tasks by themselves. These patients may be injured, ill, or disabled. With the help of an occupational therapist, these patients are able to develop the skills they need in order to improve their daily activities and employment.
Job Overview: What does an Occupational Therapist Do?
Occupational therapists work with people across a variety of lifespans in order to help them accomplish daily tasks without being held back by illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. Since they cover so many different types of clients, their work environment varies.
An occupational therapist might work in hospitals, private practices, schools, and nursing homes. Their place of employment determines whether they’ll have a typical 9 to 5 work day, and which days of the week they will work. Regardless of where they work, occupational therapist positions require at least a master’s degree, and the salaries range from $70,000 to $90,000 annually.
Occupational Therapist Job Duties
- Examine and diagnose patients’ physical condition.
- Maintain privacy and confidentiality of their clients.
- Perform patient assessments each time they meet the client.
- Evaluate whether a client needs specialized seating, wheelchairs, crutches, or additional therapy.
- Work in conjunction with a variety of other team members, including physical therapists, teachers, doctors, and social workers.
- Perform customized evaluations on each client, based on their particular needs and strengths.
- Initiate an intervention designed to improve their clients’ ability to reach desired daily goals and tasks.
- Design an outcomes evaluation to evaluate whether a clients’ goals are being achieved.
- Make necessary changes to their intervention plans when clients do not respond to them.
Occupational Therapist Job Essential Skills
Communication Skills. Occupational therapists work with a wide range of clients and other professionals. They must be able to listen well, speak confidentially, and document effectively.
Interpersonal skills. Working as an occupational therapist means having to deal with a variety of backgrounds and temperaments. Clients will not always be in a cheerful mood, and occupational therapists must be willing and able to deal with a variety of moods.
Problem Solving Skills. Occupational therapists must have the ability to solve their clients’ problems, and they must recognize problems within their own intervention plans.
Becoming an Occupational Therapist
In order to become an occupational therapist, you need at least a master’s degree. Many occupational therapists hold a doctorate’s degree, which demonstrates an advanced knowledge of their area of specialization. In addition to a graduate level degree, all occupational therapists must be licensed by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
Qualifications and Training
Typically, most occupational therapist begin their education with a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy. However, some begin with degrees in special education, biology, or even liberal arts degrees. What is important in the pursuit of an occupational therapist career is a background in both physiology and psychology.
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in occupational therapy is the next step in entering the field. This may take up to three years. Some educational institutions allow students to enter a dual degree program where they are able to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degree at the same time. At least 24 weeks of fieldwork are required for the master’s degree, during which students complete their clinical work under the supervision of licensed occupational therapists. Doctorate degree programs require an additional 24 weeks.
After getting their degree, prospective occupational therapists must sit for the “Occupational Therapist, Registered” (OTR) exam given by the NBCOT. The NBCOT also offers additional board certifications for anyone interested in getting certified in their area of specialization, which may include pediatrics and mental health.
The occupational therapist job description mentions that this is not a field that can be entered without work experience. Before anyone can be granted a license, they are required to have at least 24 hours of clinical experience. In order to be competitive with their peers, many other prospective occupational therapists attempt to gain additional work experience for their resume.
Although they cannot work as a therapist without a license, prospective therapists can gain work experience in other areas. These include becoming an advocate for disability awareness, working in camps for people with disabilities, and volunteering for programs such as the Special Olympics.
Since occupational therapists work in so many different settings, their actual work hours can vary. Occupational therapists who work with schools must be willing to work within school hours, while therapists who work within nursing homes may be required to work multiple shifts.
Occupational therapists who have a private practice can largely set their own hours, while those working for a private clinic may enjoy 9 to 5 hours. Occupational therapists can also work on weekends, especially those who help the elderly within their own homes.
Additionally, because occupational therapists are paid well (average annual salary of $64,616), many therapists work on a part time basis or on an “as needed” basis. Essentially, therapists are able to choose their own working hours based on where and when they would like to work.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow 27 percent by 2024. The reason for the high demand of occupational therapist is that it is an important part of the overall treatment of people with autism, Alzheimer’s, and loss of movement. As the population grows older, there will be an increased need for occupational therapists who develop plans to help the elderly deal with their daily tasks.
Advancement opportunities for an occupational therapist depend upon the therapists’ individual areas of interest. Some therapists develop an area of concentration and become board certified. Others may take supervisor positions within hospitals or nursing homes. Some may go on to earn a doctorate degree. Advanced positions may offer additional wages, depending upon where the therapist works. Those working in hospitals or nursing homes typically earn more than those working in the school system.
Occupational therapy can be an extremely gratifying career. Working in this field allows individuals to make a positive impact upon the daily happiness of another’s life. The salary can be excellent, and therapists have the ability to choose from a variety of work environments.
As long as the prospective occupational therapist is able to communicate, work well as part of a team, and solve problems, the occupational therapist job description promises a rewarding career choice.