Studies & Degrees in Occupational Therapy
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Occupational therapy is a versatile mode of physical therapy that uses everyday tasks and movements to help people regain their physical strength and comfort following an injury. Unlike general physical therapy, which targets large muscle groups and focuses on abilities such as walking, occupational therapy is generally geared toward the recovery of more fine motor skills. For example, an office worker who fell and broke her wrist might need to see an occupational therapist in order to heal the fracture so that she could type again. Occupational therapists help give people renewed independence and comfort, and can mitigate the negative effects of long-term disability.
- A desire to help others through bodily healing
- Patience, friendliness, and a calm demeanor
- Ability to complete several years of schooling beyond the college level
In the United States and most developed countries, a master's degree or higher is required in order to become a licensed occupational therapist. While bachelor's and associate's degrees in the field are available, these are usually seen as prerequisites for the master's degree, rather than standalone or terminal degrees. There are some jobs available for those who hold an associate's degree or bachelor's degree but not a master's degree–these are typically subordinate positions such as a therapist's aide. They tend to be considerably less lucrative than working as a licensed occupational therapist.
If you want to save time (and possibly tuition costs as well), look for a combined bachelors/masters program. These programs, which typically takes 5 years to complete, have become increasingly more common in recent years. They not only save time by streamlining the curriculum, typically shaving a year off of the full time to get both degrees, but they also save you the stress and hassle of applying for graduate school. Students who are accepted into five-year combined programs can go straight from college into graduate school without having to spend time on applications and entrance exams.
The field of occupational therapy is extremely career-specific. If your dream is to work as a licensed occupational therapist, then a degree in this area is essential. If, however, you are unsure what your ultimate career plans will be, is a better idea to get a more general and broadly applicable degree in, for example, biology or premedical studies.
Licensed occupational therapists have lucrative, high earning careers, and may work in a variety of settings. The majority work in clinics or hospitals, where patients are referred to then by the doctors and nurses. Others may opt for the freedom of working in private practice, which provides more autonomy but requires a greater investment of time.