Is an Occupational Therapy Degree Right for You?
Occupational therapy involves working closely with people to help them overcome obstacles so they can live full, independent lives. Occupational therapists and assistant occupational therapists use everyday activities and tasks in a therapeutic way to rehabilitate children, adults, and senior adults facing a wide range of challenges. The process often involves in-home sessions and intense client engagement. As a result, professionals in this field must be patient, compassionate, and comfortable working with people from all walks of life.
Occupational therapy is one of the fastest-growing fields at the moment, which also makes it one of the most popular new careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will grow 33% between 2010 and 2010. However, please keep in mind this is only a prediction and not a guarantee. Also, a career in occupational therapy can require a significant investment of time and money to complete the necessary education and training. Many jobs require a master’s degree in addition to a bachelor’s degree, as well as practicum hours. Take the necessary education and licensing requirements into account when considering a career.
Advice for Earning Your Occupational Therapy Degree Online
If you are considering an online bachelor’s degree, there are few things to keep in mind. First, bachelor’s degree occupational therapy schools are not as common as those for associate and master’s degrees. However, a bachelor’s degree in a related mental health, social sciences, or health science field will help prepare you for a master’s degree program in occupational therapy. For example, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, kinesiology, or social work can benefit your long-term career goal to be an occupational therapist (OT). However, some bachelor’s degree programs in pre-occupational therapy may still be available.
Second, you should consider online colleges and universities that are regionally accredited. This information should be readily available on a college’s website. But in addition to that, confirm that the program you want to pursue is accredited by a field-specific accreditation or professional organization, if applicable. Online degree programs in occupational therapy should be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), a division of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). If you want to pursue an online degree in occupational therapy, you will find the greatest selection at the associate degree and master’s degree levels. For a list of accredited degree programs, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) website.
Online programs usually include courses like psychology, health, kinesiology, physiology, anatomy, counseling methods, sociology, and more. A thorough understanding of health and physiology topics as well as psychology and sociology enable occupational therapy professionals at all levels to meet a broader spectrum of patient needs, whether they are looking for more quality social interaction at work or school or overcoming a physical injury or disability. Programs also include field work that allows you to gain real-world experience before moving on to a paid position.
Common Career Paths
Occupational therapy generally offers two career paths: occupational therapist and occupational therapy aide/assistant. While these positions require different levels of education, a bachelor’s degree can help you succeed in both areas. Read on for more options:
Occupational Therapy Aides and Assistants
As the job title implies, occupational therapy aides and assistants work alongside occupational therapists to support the therapeutic process. Assistants often work directly with patients to complete tasks and perform exercises or activities. They might also keep track of the patient’s progress. Occupational therapy aides often perform clerical tasks, set up spaces for therapy to take place, and help clients travel between their homes and therapy environments. Occupational therapy aides and assistants are in relatively high demand, according to the BLS. The field is expected to grow 41% from 2010 to 2020. Occupational therapy assistants can also anticipate favorable salary prospects based on salary ranges reported by the BLS, as the average salary for professionals in this field is approximately $41,950. However, please note that this figure is not a guarantee and that salaries can vary greatly based on your experience and the job market.
An online bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy or in any other field is not required to become an assistant or aide. Most professionals hold certificates or associate degrees in occupational therapy, which can be earned through online colleges, professional, or vocational schools. However, a bachelor’s degree in a related field can be valuable to your career as an occupational therapy assistant, particularly in a related field like kinesiology. Additionally, a bachelor’s degree is a necessary step toward applying for a master’s degree in occupational therapy, which is required to become an occupational therapist.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Occupational therapists work directly with children to overcome developmental or learning disabilities, as well as adults and seniors with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. They evaluate patients to determine the most effective treatments and activities. They often visit patient homes and work places to evaluate how they can be made more efficient or supportive to the patient’s needs. In most states, occupational therapists are required to have a master’s degree in occupational therapy. They may also need to be licensed or registered, along with other requirements that can vary by state or employer. If you would like to become an occupational therapist, you will need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution before you can pursue a master’s degree.
Occupational therapists are among the fastest-growing positions of the current decade, mostly because of an aging Baby Boomer generation that may benefit from occupational therapy. As a result, many occupational therapy programs emphasize gerontology studies as part of their curricula. According to the BLS, occupational therapists positions are expected to increase by 33% from 2010 to 2020. And, occupational therapist positions can expect favorable salary opportunities, with a mean average salary of $75,720 and the highest paid occupational therapists earning six-figure salaries, according to the BLS. Please keep in mind that all salary projections are merely estimates and your earning potential may be affected by changes in the job market, your location, and the employer.