Beginning a Career in Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a profession that is both challenging and rewarding. If this is your dream job, you may be ready to be there for people who need help in finding their purpose in life. Occupational therapists deal with people who are emotionally or physically impaired. Patients who may be mentally ill are also patients of an occupational therapist. As an occupational therapist, you will get to work with a wide variety of patients, from all walks of life.

Training and Education

Before you jump with both feet and enrol for an occupational therapy course, you need to understand what’s involved. Some think that not everyone can enter an institution that offers occupational therapy because of the expense. However, there are many schools now offering this course because of the rise in demand.

You do need to be academically proficient in other subject areas to succeed as an occupational therapist. The courses you will have to take include psychology, medical terminology and basic human anatomy. These courses will prepare you for the job of an occupational therapist. Also, good grades on these subject areas will help your job search later on. Even if you excel in your occupational therapy courses, it’s your overall performance that will be under the microscope in a job interview.

You may also need to volunteer in a clinic for a time, as training for understanding your clients better. In a sense, this kind of training will also develop your compassion. Volunteer work will make you understand the responsibilities of an occupational therapist, and can make you a better one in the future.

Most candidates for licensure must be prepared for further training after they pass the licensure exam. A degree in occupational therapy could open doors for a great career and a great earning opportunity. You will be asked to undergo written examination for the licensure, but exam procedures may vary from state to state. Regulations for training and practice may also vary.

Your Career Options

Unlike some other medical professions, you can go freelance as a licensed occupational therapist. But it is better to get your training from a good hospital if you want more credibility. A hospital practice may be less lucrative, but you will not run out of patients and you will have a regular job. Check with the hospital if they allow home care, or part-time work, just in case a discharged patient still wants your services. Your target market will have to be housebound patients, who regularly need therapy. You may also opt to do counseling first so that you can meet with potential clients. Many occupational therapists attend community medical missions to get a bird’s eye view of the needs of a community before starting a private practice.

Working in a mental institution can open your eyes to a lot of cases that need immediate attention. Although regular hospitals have some of these cases, your main market remains to be those who find it difficult to function because of psychological blocks. The annual pay for an occupational therapist is $50,000 per year, which is higher than other jobs out there.