Table of Contents
- How Does One Become an Occupational Therapist?
- Bottom Line
With the healthcare system growing exponentially and needing more and more professionals, becoming an occupational therapist is a wise career choice for young people who want to leave a positive mark in the world. Besides the incommensurable satisfaction one can gain from such a profession, this particular job comes with a handful of benefits we will discuss in the next moments.
How Does One Become an Occupational Therapist?
Your path to occupational therapy (OT) begins with the admission to an accredited OT graduate program. However, to start as a full-time, real-life practitioner in occupational therapy, you need to obtain a graduate degree in a Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT) program or a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) program. While a doctorate is not mandatory for you to begin your career in a particular OT setting, a Master’s degree is crucial. You can get one by getting into a College of Rehabilitative Sciences, as this what occupational therapy is all about: teaching people to do or to re-learn how to do things so they can live an independent, fulfilling life.
Where Can You Work as an Occupational Therapist?
After you graduate your OT master’s program, you could find a job in the following working environments: schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, orthopedic settings, home healthcare settings, and more. Being a holistic and client-centered approach to healthcare and the improvement of self-care skills, occupational therapy is one of those career trends that will grow in the future.
The drivers of this job growth as envisioned by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are as follows:
- An aging population who needs assistance;
- A growing number of people with disabilities;
- The expansion of special education services needed in schools and specialized care centers;
- A fresh focus on the medical field and growing interest in education in health;
- Upgrades and advancements in the medical and rehabilitation fields that now need trained professionals to cover more patients and new branches (the advanced prosthetics department, etc.)
- The rise of the “aging in place” concept, with occupational therapy being an integral part of this movement and school of thought regarding the elderly’s independent living.
As you can see, becoming an occupational therapist means becoming a member of a select circle of highly esteemed professionals, needed in almost all imaginable environments, from acute hospitals to private care clinics. The job, however, also comes with plenty of disadvantages, one of them being the burnout syndrome most practitioners in health care have to confront eventually.
Other than that, let’s see together the advantages of choosing this noble profession!
Advantages of Becoming an Occupational Therapist
Besides the considerable demand on the market for such professionals and the job growth perspectives, practicing as an OT comes with other rewards one cannot ignore.
1. The Variety of Work Settings
As we mentioned above, occupational therapists have a wide diversity of work settings at their disposal. You can teach or re-teach people basic life, motor, or cognitive skills (among others) in schools and hospitals, healthcare centers, rehab centers, and private home environments. You can practice in nursing homes or community centers, retirement homes, adult/disability daycare facilities, workplaces, and even in your future private OT office.
2. Indefinite Learning Opportunities
Working with patients of any age, personal background, or culture offers an occupational therapist the unique opportunity to learn something new every day and expand their horizons. It is one of the best jobs to improve your communication skills, wits, career-centric transferable skills, and mindfulness.
You will learn to understand emotion, become assertive, control your negative feelings, and develop strong attachment bonds with your patients. Occupational therapy, through its goals and job description, can help you become a better person and professional.
3. Bonuses and Vacation Time
As much as you want to be the change you wish to see in the world, you also need rewards and time off – if not as compensation for your hard work, at least as protective mechanisms against stress and burnout. Occupational therapists do gain attractive salaries, but also make excellent candidates to bonuses, especially in the private healthcare and rehabilitation sectors.
Annual paid vacation time as a job benefit is nothing new in many work fields. However, if you work as an OT in a school setting, it is likely you also get school vacations, which are a plus, especially since this is one of the highest demanding jobs in existence. If you work independently or in association with other health care professionals, you can set your vacation time more flexibly.
Since you are a healthcare professional, you also get health insurance as a job benefit. It can include medical care, vision care, disability coverage, accident coverage (especially in settings with turbulent patients), and more.
5. You Can Climb the Professional Ladder Easily
Occupational therapy is – as we saw – a highly demanding yet highly rewarding job. It also gives you the flexibility and the opportunity to grow. Most occupational therapists have one or two specializations, such as women’s health, geriatric care, assistive care, orthopedic care, and more. You can choose a specialty that appeals to your vocation the most. You can even work in full-time or part-time settings for more OT branches at the same time.
Moreover, you can combine OT with your passion for traveling and volunteering as well. Getting an occupational therapy travel job is easy and comes with a separate set of benefits and rewards that appeal to those who do not fare well in rigid settings and mind-numbing routines.
Occupational therapy takes a toll on the practitioner. You need to study hard, endure years of rigid supervision, and complete endless tasks that may have nothing to do with your job. However, it is one of the fastest-growing job opportunities to date, with attractive salaries, never-ending demand for exceptionally trained professionals, and plenty of flexibility. Beyond the monetary rewards, nevertheless, you can experience the psychological recompense of changing some peoples’ lives for the better.