Career Information for HPAG Students: Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is the use of various educational, vocational, and rehabilitational activities to help individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives. Occupational therapy works to improve the general health and mental and physical abilities of individuals suffering from physical injuries or illnesses, psychological or social disabilities, developmental deficits, and limitations on ability to perform the tasks of living due to aging, poverty, or cultural differences.

The Work: Occupational therapists are health care professionals who work within a health care team to develop individualized treatment programs for patients. They work with patients and their families to test and evaluate patients' general health and physical and mental abilities, teach patients ways that enable them to adjust to the home and work settings and their social environment, design special equipment to assist patients with disabilities, and monitor patients' attitude, behavior, and progress in reaching goals. They may assist patients in using a computer; taking care of basic needs such as dressing, cooking, and eating; doing physical exercise; using a wheelchair; and in a variety of other tasks. 

The Work Setting: The most common work site for OTs is the hospital, but many work for other health care providers, in public or private education, in nursing care facilities, in outpatient care centers, and in family services offices.

Entry Into Field: A license to practice occupational therapy is required in all 50 states.  A license requires a degree or certificate from an accredited OT program and passing a national examination. 

Education: Beginning in 2007, a master's degree or higher will be the minimum education requirement for occupational therapists. There are 122 masters programs currently being offered. Virginia currently has 3 accredited master's programs (James Madison University, Shenandoah University, and Virginia Commonwealth University).

Occupational therapy coursework includes physical, biological, and behavioral sciences and the application of occupational theory and skills. Courses cover anatomy, neuroanatomy, physiology, pathology, neurophysiology, kinesiology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, gerontology, physical education and recreation, vocational rehabilitation, public health, and communication.

The Career: The median annual salary for occupational therapists in 2004 was $55,000.  The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,000, and the highest 10 percent made more than $82,000. Occupational therapy is described as a high-growth field for the future.

Job Outlook: Excellent. Employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014.

Occupational therapy is the use of various educational, vocational, and rehabilitational activities to help individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives. Occupational therapy works to improve the general health and mental and physical abilities of individuals suffering from physical injuries or illnesses, psychological or social disabilities, developmental deficits and limitations on ability to perform the tasks of living due to aging, poverty or cultural differences.

Web Sites of Interest:
American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
Occupational Schools in the U.S.
OT Career Path
U.S. Department of Labor

OT Schools in the Region:
Virginia:
James Madison University
Shenandoah University
Virginia Commonwealth University

District of Columbia:
Howard University

Maryland:
Towson University

North Carolina:
East Carolina University
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Winston-Salem State University

Pennsylvania:
Alvernia College
Duquesne University
Elizabethtown College
Gannon University
Philadelphia University
St. Francis University
Temple University
Thomas Jefferson University
University of Pittsburgh
Scranton University
University of the Sciences

South Carolina:
Medical University of South Carolina

Tennessee:
Belmont University
Milligan College
Tennessee State University
University of Tennessee Health Science Center

West Virginia:
West Virginia University