Occupational Therapist - How to Become an Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapist

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Occupational Therapist Job Description

 

The goal of an occupational therapist is to help people, regardless of age, to engage fully in their daily lives. Occupational therapists (OTs) work with people to help them function to the best of their ability, from work to recreational activities to the everyday tasks like getting dressed, cooking, eating and driving. It is a career that is in high demand with a bright outlook for employment. By 2022, employment opportunities for occupational therapists are projected to increase by 29 percent. This is above the average growth for all occupations.

There are multiple choices for specialization if you train as an occupational therapist. You can specialize to work with premature babies in a pediatric hospital setting, or focus on working with children with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. These practitioners focus on helping children succeed in the occupation of childhood, which includes learning, playing and growing. OTs work with students in schools who have behavioral problems or learning disabilities.

If working with children is not appealing to you, occupational therapists also work with elderly patients in their homes or in nursing home settings. OTs are an important component of a health care team focused on helping elderly patients recover from strokes or cope with Alzheimer’s disease. OTs also work with accident victims to help them regain lost skills, or an OT can choose to assist people with mental illness.

Occupational therapy is moving into new specialty areas, as well. OTs are helping to train workers to use the proper ergonomics in their jobs. They are also helping people with low vision maintain their independence. They work with clients to make their buildings and homes more accessible, and evaluate and train older drivers.

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Responsibilities

 

Occupational therapy practitioners may perform a comprehensive evaluation of the client’s home and other important environments, such as the workplace or school. OTs make recommendations for adaptive equipment and train the client in its use. They provide guidance and education for family members and caregivers. OTs approach their clients from a holistic perspective in which they focus on adapting the environment to fit the condition of the client. OTs make the client a valuable part of the therapy team.

Occupational therapy services may typically include:

  • Promoting general health and wellness

  • Providing an individualized evaluation, working with the client and family to determine the client’s goals

  • Designing customized interventions to increase the client’s ability to carry out the activities of daily living and reach the goals they set

  • Providing an outcomes evaluation to monitor progress and ensure that goals are being met. Changes will be made to the intervention plan as needed.

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Skills

 

Physical Endurance

Must be able to be physical for many hours to help their patients as needed. They must be able to bend, twist, lift, crouch, kneel, push/pull, and the agility to move quickly and ensure patient safety.

Record Keeping

Must be able to collect and integrate patient histories to solve problems and develop treatments.

Emotional Stability

Must be able to handle the emotional stress of working with impaired patients in need of compassionate health care.

Multitasking

The ability to prioritize and manage multiple tasks simultaneously. 

Interpersonal

Must be able to interact with patients and their families regardless of background.

Reasoning

Must be able to apply facts and principles to issues to determine conclusions and solve problems. They must use knowledge and logic to find patters in injuries and determine causes and provide solutions.

Communication

Must be able to clearly convey thoughts and ideas to gauge patient's issues and convey to them the best path to treatment.

Empathy

Must be compassionate and able to empathize with a patient's pain and other difficulties. They are able to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves and let people know they care.

Patience

They must understand it takes time to see results and be willing to put in that time. They also must help their clients have patience--especially if they are trying to overcome a difficult injury.

Problem Solving

Must be able to use knowledge to gauge issues and determine the best route to recovery.

Dexterity

Must work well with your hands and be nimble.

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Working Conditions

 

Occupational therapists usually work a 40-hour week. Many of those hours are spent on their feet while working with patients. OTs who work in schools may be required to stay after school at times for meetings or other activities. Part-time work is the choice for more than 30 percent of OTs.

Potential employment opportunities for occupational therapists can be found in the following areas:

  • Hospitals

  • Private occupational therapy practices

  • Public and private schools

  • Physicians’ offices

  • Nursing homes

  • Home health services

  • Assisted living facilities

  • Rehabilitation centers

 


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How to Become an Occupational Therapist:

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

In order to become an occupational therapist, you will first need to obtain a bachelor’s degree, then follow it with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Your undergraduate major can be anything that interests you as long as you make certain you take the required prerequisites for the occupational therapy programs to which you’ll be applying. Most require biology and physiology courses, and some programs will also expect to see work experience or volunteer hours in an occupational therapy setting. If you do a pre-med or heavy-science major, course work could look like the following:

 

Grade Level Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Biology & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • English 101
  • English 102
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab

Sophomore Year

  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics
  • Physiology 
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Electives

Junior Year

 

  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Physics
  • Electives

Senior Year

  • Upper Level Biology
  • Upper Level Chemistry
  • Upper Level Physics
  • Upper Level Psychology
  • Upper Level Kinesiology 
  • Electives

 

2. Earn a Master's Degree (2 Years)

 

A master’s program will usually take two to three years to complete. Some programs combine the bachelor’s and master’s degree that can be completed in five years. Obtaining a doctorate degree in occupational therapy can usually be completed with an additional three years of study in a doctoral program, but it is not mandatory. During the program, you will learn about functional anatomy, medical and social conditions, assistive technology, patient care concepts and research methods.

Fieldwork is an important aspect of the curriculum. Both master’s and doctoral programs usually require a 24-week supervised fieldwork assignment that gives prospective occupational therapists clinical work experience.

 

3. Earn the Required Certification

 

Occupational therapists are required to pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). This is a requirement in most states. To sit for the exam, a candidate must have earned a degree from an accredited educational program and successfully completed fieldwork requirements. You can check with your state to check any state requirements and if you need a state license to practice in your area. 

 

4. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education

 

Upon successfully passing the exam, an OT must complete continuing education classes to maintain current certification.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers a choice of certifications for therapists who want to apply their advanced level of knowledge in a specialty area, such as gerontology, pediatrics, low vision, driving and community mobility.

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
12.05.2016
The Occupational Therapist evaluates and treats all patients referred for Occupational Therapy.
12.05.2016
General Summary: The Occupational Therapist performs occupational therapy evaluations, treatments, and documentation requirements in accordance with professional standard. The Occupational Therapist also participates in other departmental...
12.05.2016
Bachelor of Science I. Job Summary: The Occupational Therapist performs occupational therapy evaluations, treatments, and documentation requirements in accordance with professional standard. The Occupational Therapist also...
12.05.2016
The Occupational Therapist organizes and conducts occupational therapy to restore, reinforce and enhance performance of patients Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor's degree in Occupational Therapy, current North Carolina Occupational Therapy...
12.05.2016
The Occupational Therapist is accountable and responsible for the provision of therapy services to patients of all ages at Eskenazi Health. The Occupational Therapist evaluates, plans and implements appropriate and timely treatment based on...
12.05.2016
Occupational Therapist Stafford Therapy Center Will hire at Clin I or Clin II level Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS) - Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Stafford Therapy Center is seeking a full time...
12.05.2016
The Occupational Therapist plans, organizes, and conducts occupational therapy programs involving a variety of sensorimotor, educational, recreational, and social activities designed to help patients regain physical and/or mental functioning; or...
12.05.2016
The Occupational Therapist serves as an integral member of the inpatient rehabiliation care team. This individual will provide direct OT services including but not limited to: assessment, individual therapy, and sensory treatment. Current OT...
12.05.2016
The Occupational Therapist will work as part of an established multidisciplinary team, including other therapists, physicians, nursing staff and case managers to provide short-term rehabilitation in an inpatient setting. Treatments will be...
12.05.2016
- Masters degree is preferred - Licensed (or eligible) as an Occupational Therapist in VA - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is preferred...
12.05.2016
- Masters degree is preferred - Licensed (or eligible) as an Occupational Therapist in VA - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is preferred...
12.05.2016
- Masters degree is preferred - Licensed (or eligible) as an Occupational Therapist in VA - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is required...
12.05.2016
PRN - OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST VCU Health System Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Brook Road Campus is seeking a PRN/Hourly Occupational Therapist to conduct evaluations on referred patients. To plan and implement a comprehensive...
12.05.2016
Position will be hired as either an Occupational Therapist or Senior Occupational Therapist based upon the qualifications of the selected candidate. The salary for Occupational Therapist is $58,625 to commensurate. The salary for Senior...
12.05.2016
Purpose and Scope: The Occupational Therapist functions within their profession's Standard of Practice. The Occupational Therapist performs a thorough evaluation of patients assigned to him/her, establishes goals and plans of treatment to return...
  1. Occupational Therapist Lake Charles, LA Lake Charles Memorial Hospital
    The Occupational Therapist evaluates and treats all patients referred for Occupational Therapy.
  2. OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST Tifton, GA Tift Regional Medical Center
    General Summary: The Occupational Therapist performs occupational therapy evaluations, treatments, and documentation requirements in accordance with professional standard. The Occupational Therapist also participates in other departmental...
  3. OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST Tifton, GA Tift Regional Medical Center
    Bachelor of Science I. Job Summary: The Occupational Therapist performs occupational therapy evaluations, treatments, and documentation requirements in accordance with professional standard. The Occupational Therapist also...
  4. Occupational Therapist Hendersonville, NC Pardee Hospital
    The Occupational Therapist organizes and conducts occupational therapy to restore, reinforce and enhance performance of patients Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor's degree in Occupational Therapy, current North Carolina Occupational Therapy...
  5. Occupational Therapist Indianapolis, IN Eskenazi Health
    The Occupational Therapist is accountable and responsible for the provision of therapy services to patients of all ages at Eskenazi Health. The Occupational Therapist evaluates, plans and implements appropriate and timely treatment based on...
  6. Occupational Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    Occupational Therapist Stafford Therapy Center Will hire at Clin I or Clin II level Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS) - Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Stafford Therapy Center is seeking a full time...
  7. Occupational Therapist St. Cloud, MN CentraCare Health
    The Occupational Therapist plans, organizes, and conducts occupational therapy programs involving a variety of sensorimotor, educational, recreational, and social activities designed to help patients regain physical and/or mental functioning; or...
  8. Occupational Therapist Melrose, MA Hallmark Health System
    The Occupational Therapist serves as an integral member of the inpatient rehabiliation care team. This individual will provide direct OT services including but not limited to: assessment, individual therapy, and sensory treatment. Current OT...
  9. Occupational Therapist Newark, OH Licking Memorial Health Systems
    The Occupational Therapist will work as part of an established multidisciplinary team, including other therapists, physicians, nursing staff and case managers to provide short-term rehabilitation in an inpatient setting. Treatments will be...
  10. Occupational Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    - Masters degree is preferred - Licensed (or eligible) as an Occupational Therapist in VA - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is preferred...
  11. Occupational Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    - Masters degree is preferred - Licensed (or eligible) as an Occupational Therapist in VA - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is preferred...
  12. Occupational Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    - Masters degree is preferred - Licensed (or eligible) as an Occupational Therapist in VA - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is required...
  13. Occupational Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    PRN - OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST VCU Health System Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Brook Road Campus is seeking a PRN/Hourly Occupational Therapist to conduct evaluations on referred patients. To plan and implement a comprehensive...
  14. OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    Position will be hired as either an Occupational Therapist or Senior Occupational Therapist based upon the qualifications of the selected candidate. The salary for Occupational Therapist is $58,625 to commensurate. The salary for Senior...
  15. Occupational Therapist Arlington, VA Virginia Hospital Center
    Purpose and Scope: The Occupational Therapist functions within their profession's Standard of Practice. The Occupational Therapist performs a thorough evaluation of patients assigned to him/her, establishes goals and plans of treatment to return...