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Is occupational therapy the right career for me?
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18th Sep, 2009 | Source : American Occupational Therapy Association

If you are searching for a career that is meaningful, health related, and gives you a range of study and practice fields to choose from, occupational therapy could be your perfect fit. It is an exciting and growing profession that will give you the chance to help people dealing with disabilities retain their independence and live their lives to the fullest.

Occupational therapy is set apart from other professions in health care because of its holistic nature. It treats the whole person and addresses the importance of people’s psychological and emotional well-being as well as their physical needs. It enables people of all ages and abilities to engage in the activities—the occupations—that are meaningful to their lives.

Occupational therapy is an excellent career choice for those who want to contribute to society and find fulfillment in the work they do.

Find your niche

You know who you are. Compassionate. Resourceful. Creative. Motivated. You want meaning in life, you enjoy science and the arts, and you have an interest in health care.

You are a good communicator and listener. You do well in school and have a knack for problem solving. You have a lot to offer.

Consider a career in occupational therapy! It will allow you to put your interests, skills, and talents to the best use while making a profound difference in the lives of others. You can choose to prepare for clinical practice, or choose a career as an occupational scientist, educator, entrepreneur, or leader in policy development.

As an occupational therapy practitioner, you will help children and adults gain skills needed to participate in life and engage in daily tasks such as dressing and feeding themselves. You will help them improve their strength and coordination and enable them to pursue work, school, leisure, and community activities. You will confront problems and help solve them by suggesting innovative tools and techniques to help your clients gain more independence in their lives. You will be part of a team that helps make a person’s home, school, work, or other community setting safer and more productive.

Explore your possibilities

One great advantage of a career as an occupational therapist (OT) or occupational therapy assistant (OTA) is the wide variety of opportunities available. You can look forward to a dynamic and satisfying career working in your choice of practice areas, work settings, and with people of all ages. You can specialize in a particular clinical area or be a generalist—the options are unlimited.

Some of the most popular and emerging practice areas are:

  • School practitioners work with children with learning disabilities or behavioral problems to help them thrive in pre-school, school, and the transition to adulthood.
  • Pediatric practitioners work with premature newborns or children who have autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other disabilities.
  • Gerontology practitioners help an aging population in many areas such as low-vision rehabilitation, treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, older driver safety and rehabilitation, assisted living, and home safety and home modification to enable “aging in place.”
  • Physical rehabilitation practitioners work in homes, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation hospitals, and community centers with individuals who have experienced traumatic injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, mental health problems, and other disabilities.
  • Faculty teach in occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs located in colleges and universities.
  • Researchers conduct studies, analyze data, and report their findings to support evidence-based practice in occupational therapy.

Pursue a degree

Now that you’ve decided on occupational therapy as your career path, it’s time to get the education you need. You can choose to become an OT or an OTA by completing a professional or associate’s degree.

Occupational therapists earn an entry-level master’s or entry-level doctoral degree from a university or college program. Many OTs work as members of rehabilitation teams, while others choose careers in private practice, consulting, management, teaching, or research.

Occupational therapy assistants earn a 2-year associate’s degree from an OTA program. Under the supervision of OTs, OTAs provide hands-on services to children and adults who are learning new ways to succeed in the occupations of life.

In addition to earning a degree, OTs and OTAs must complete supervised fieldwork, pass a national certification exam, and become licensed (if applicable) in the state(s) where they plan to work.

To learn which colleges and universities offer occupational therapy education programs, go to www.aota.org/Students and click “Schools” to find more than 300 OT and OTA education programs.



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