Are you interested in an occupational therapy degree? What does an occupational therapist do? What does an occupational therapy aide do? Occupational therapy assistants work under the supervision of occupational therapists to help rehabilitate patients with physical and psychological ailments. The occupational therapy assistant degree is design to prepare students work to improve patient quality of life and their ability to function normally. Occupational therapy assistants work with their patients or clients in the rehabilitative activities that are outlined in the patients treatment plans. These plans are created by an occupational therapists, with a goal to improve the mental, physical, emotional, or developmental impairments that clients may have.
Occupational Therapy Education and Training
You would learn more about medical terminology, including anatomical positioning and therapeutic terms, Activities of Daily Living (ADL) therapy, adaptive equipment, and workplace health and safety. A master’s degree is the minimum requirement for becoming a practicing occupational therapist. To become an occupational therapy assistant one can enroll in an associate degree program.
As an occupational therapist, you would be trained on therapeutic modalities, pain management, sports and hand injuries, ethics for professionals, psychology in occupational therapy, and best practices. Students learn to assist clients and patients in relearning daily activities such as grooming and feeding and computer use. They use physical exercise to increase client strength, mobility, and dexterity.
Many programs of study are available at the master degree level. Programs are aimed at meeting the needs of practicing clinicians who wish to improve and advance their skills and knowledge. Some courses may include:
- Anatomical and Physiological Foundations for Human Occupation
- Applied Kinesiology and Biomechanics
- Occupational Adaptations
- Environmental Interventions
- Clinical Rotations (Practicum)
While certification requirements vary by state, occupational therapist may be required by their state to pass the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT) exam to become certified. However, all states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensure requires one to hold a degree from an accredited educational program and pass the NBCOT certification exam (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Occupational Therapy Careers
Responsibilities for occupational therapists include developing rehabilitation plans for patients and providing ongoing evaluations of their activities and progress and training those with permanent disabilities to use adaptive equipment.
As an occupational therapy assistant you can work in clinics, public and private educational services, nursing care facilities, home health agencies, outpatient care and community care centers, government agencies, and private practice. You may also work closely with physical therapists and other physical rehabilitation staff. Tasks include:
- Helping patients do therapeutic activities
- Recording patients’ progress
- Teaching patients how to use special equipment
As an occupational therapist you would:
- Establish treatment plans for patients
- Evaluate patient home and workplace environments according to the treatment plan
- Recommend special equipment
Estimated Income and Projected Career Outlook
According to recent statistics, the middle 50% of occupational therapists earn about $56,770 and $68,000 per year and the top 10% earn $75,688 or more a year. For 2010, the median annual wage of occupational therapy assistants was $51,010 while the median annual wage of occupational therapy aides was $27,430.
The employment of occupational therapy assistants is expected to increase 43% from 2010 to 2020 while that of occupational therapy aides is expected to increase 33%. These rates are much faster than the average for all occupations. This is reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reports that median annual wage of occupational therapists was $72,320 in 2010 with employment expected to increase 33% from 2010 to 2020.
One of the largest areas of job growth for occupational therapists is in working in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and private health agencies. With an online occupational therapy degree, you can specialize in providing specific kinds of care, for example to children or adult patients, or with specific kinds of therapies or working with specific conditions such as multiple sclerosis.