What is Occupational Therapy and is it Right for Me?

Occupational Therapy has to do with everyday tasks we engage in that occupy our time. That could be anything from tying our shoes, to writing a letter, to taking a stroll with our loved ones. Occupational tasks are essential for independent-functioning, health, safety, well-being, and general happiness. Occupational Therapy is a rehabilitative field that helps people to acquire, rebuild and develop skills that lead to a life of greater independence and happiness. Those who are incapable of carrying out vital tasks throughout their day will need to see an Occupational Therapist (OT). Occupational Therapy is a rewarding career that varies from Speech and Language Pathology Career in that OT focuses more heavily on achieving phyical tasks such as dressing or hand writing over communication-oriented tasks, though both fields often work hand-in-hand. In additional to physical tasks Occupational therapists also address psychological, environmental, and social factors that affect the quality of life of individuals.

Schooling of an Occupational Therapist

One way to ascertain whether or not occupational therapy is a good fit is to examine the required schooling. For the purposes of this article, we are focusing primarily on individuals seeking careers as an occupational therapist (OT) not an occupational therapist assistant (OTA). As an OT, you must complete a Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT). Unlike a Master’s Degree in Special Education or a related field a MOT requires many more credit hours for completion. The common number of credit hours for a MOT are 90 whereas the online Master’s in Psychology requires approximately 30 credit hours for completion.

The occupational therapy course curriculum includes a wide-range of courses to complement the myriad responsibilities that accompany the job. It is common for student to study all of or most of the following programs:

  • Introduction to Concepts of Occupation
  • Human Anatomy
  • OT for Mental Health
  • Applied Kinesiology
  • Occupational Performance across the lifespan
  • Community-Based & Specialized Practice
  • Fieldwork

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it does give you an idea of what is required from you during your time in school.

All programs require some time out in the field. Your fieldwork experience will vary depending on your area of interest, and your region. Occupational therapy is relevant to trauma survivors, small children on the autism spectrum, burn victims, athletes with sports-related injuries, those with debilitating diseases, and those with developmental delays. Your fieldwork initially helps you establish an understanding of what it looks like to be in the shoes of an occupational therapist. During that time you will interact with a wide-range of professionals in a related fields such as teachers, psychologists, and social workers and learn through observation and select participation. As time in the field progresses expect to deliver occupational therapy services to individuals, engage in meaningful research, that promotes reasoning and reflects your practice. During this time in your studies you will have the freedom to explore who you are as an occupational therapist.

Traits of an Occupational Therapist

As an occupational therapist your role primarily is that of a helper. So naturally having a strong desire to come to the aid of others in need is a crucial characteristic of an individual who makes a successful occupational therapist. However, simply wanting to help is not enough. In addition to the hard skills you learn through your MOT, you’ll want to have a number of accompanying soft skills. Check out our list below:

  • Creativity
  • Compassion
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Positive attitude
  • Physical Strength
  • Strong observational Skills
  • Advocacy knowledge
  • Patience

Salary of an Occupational Therapist

Though occupational therapy requires some extra schooling when compared to a similar degree, that level of expertise is certainly reflected in the salary. According to Salary.com, the median salary for occupational therapists is $83,741. Factors like location and years of experience change this number, but in general the annual salary of an occupational therapist is excellent.

So is Occupational Therapy Right for Me?

If you are still unclear about whether or not you are a good fit as an occupational therapist, we highly recommend visiting occupational therapy centers, and touring Master’s in Occupational Therapy programs. Due to ethical concerns and privacy acts like HIPAA, it is important that you book an appointment with the occupational therapy center and asking permission to observe rather than just dropping in. If you care for the world, love seeing people progress, and have time to commit to a Masters in Occupational Therapy, pursuing OT as a career may be a great fit. Still unsure of where to head next? Check out some of our Most Popular Graduate Education Degrees.