(Frequently Asked Questions)
- What does an Occupational Therapist do?
- What are the differences between a Physical Therapist and an Occupational Therapist?
- Where do Occupational Therapist's typically work?
- What are the pre-requisites for an Occupational Therapy program?
- What is the common application site for most Occupational Therapy programs?
- Where can I go to seek out volunteer or shadowing opportunities in Occupational Therapy?
- Where can I search the various accredited Occupational Therapy programs?
- How long is a typical graduate program in Occupational Therapy and what is the average median salary?
1. What does an Occupational Therapist do?
Occupational Therapists (OT) assist clients in performing activities of all types, ranging from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as dressing, cooking, eating, and driving. Services typically include: customized treatment programs to improve one's ability to preform daily activities; comprehensive home and job site evaluations with adaptation recommendations;adaptive equipment recommendations and usage training; and guidance to family members and caregivers.
2. What are the differences between a Physical Therapist and an Occupational Therapist?
Occupational Therapists (OT) help individuals achieve independence and improve one's ability to perform activities of daily life (ADLs) and self-care. For example, OT's may help patients learn to dress themselves, brush their teeth, or comb their hair after a stroke or illness that has severely weakened their arms. Physical therapists (PT), on the other hand, focus on the large motor groups that contribute to walking, reaching, standing, and physical activities. They work on strength, balance, range of motion, and swelling as well as pain to encourage independence. It is important to note that many times the two will collaborate very closely with one another in order to provide the best care for the patient.
3. Where do Occupational Therapist's typically work?
Occupational Therapists are found in hospitals and other health care and community settings such as schools or nursing homes. Interestingly, more than one-third of occupational therapists work part-time.
4. What are the pre-requisites for an Occupational Therapist program?
The most commonly required course pre-requisites include:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Medical Terminology
- General Biology
- Advanced Biology (i.e. Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Genetics)
- Oral Communications
- Sociology or Anthropology
- Psychology (i.e. Abnormal, Behavioral, Developmental, or Cognitive)
- English Composition
For a complete and more specific list of pre-requisites, check with the Occupational Therapy program that you wish to apply to.
5. What is the common application site for most Occupational Therapy programs?
The Centralized Application Service for Occupational Therapy (OTCAS): https://portal.otcas.org
6. Where can I go to seek out volunteer or shadowing opportunities in Occupational Therapy?
One option is to start from scratch:
- Research your area for clinics, rehab facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes.
- Get into contact with the human resources department. These requests are made frequently and you will find most facilities accommodating. Often times, you will have to fill out an application or career exploration request form in order to be considered for a position.
Another option is to network with people that you know have had previous experience in shadowing or observation. Often times, these individuals are your best resources because they know first hand the programs that have worked, and would be of interest to you.
Although it may be difficult and time consuming to find and set up a shadowing or observation opportunity in a health care career, it is absolutely critical, as many post-undergraduate programs now spcifically look for this on applications.
7. Where can I search the various accredited Occupational Therapy Programs?
Search for accredited Master's level Occupational Therapy programs for your desired study location via this website: http://www.aota.org/en/Education-Careers/Find-School/AccreditEntryLevel/OTMasters.aspx
Search for accredited doctorate level Occupational Therapy programs for your desired study location via this website:
8. How long is a typical graduate program in Occupational Therapy and what is the average median salary?
At this time, there are two degree levels that are currently routes of entry to the profession and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). One is a Master's in Occupational Therapy (MOT) and typically has a duration of 28 months, while the other is a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) and runs 40 months. Both degree levels prepare graduates to be entry-level practicitioners; however, students must hold a Baccalaureate degree for admission into the Doctoral program. The Doctoral degree offers additional semesters of study focusing on clinical practice skills, research skills, administration, leadership, program and policy development, advocacy, education, and theory development. In addition, Doctoral stduents must also complete an experiential component (16 weeks) and culminating project. Your salary as an Occupational Therapist largely depends on the area in which you practice and the degee level you hold, however, the average median salary is estimated at $72,320 with an excellent job outlook.
Updated 9/26/2013 JMV