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The occupational therapist (OT) helps patients improve their ability to perform everyday tasks in their lives and in the workplace. OTs work with a variety of individuals, including those with mental, physical, developmental or emotional disabilities. They help clients with basic motor functions to improve their skills and also help them compensate for permanent loss of function.
The OT’s goal is to assist and educate their clients so that they can have independent, productive and satisfying lives. OTs must have patience and strong interpersonal skills to inspire trust and respect as patient improvement is not always immediate. Ingenuity and imagination in adapting activities to individual needs is crucial.
OT is a dynamic and progressive profession with continued advances in innovative practice, education, lifelong learning and public advocacy. Currently, individuals can practice as an occupational therapist with either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. As of 2016 there are 164 masters degree programs and 7 doctoral degree-granting programs in the U.S. In Ohio there are currently 5 Masters of Occupational Therapy (MOT) degree granting accredited programs and 1 Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) granting program. These programs are 2-3 years in length. OTs work in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, nursing care facilities and private practice offices. Advancement is possible if the OT specializes in a clinical area and gains expertise in treating a certain type of patient or ailment. Occupational therapists can find employment in various types of settings. OTs can work in hospitals, offices of health practitioners, public and private schools, nursing care facilities, home health care services, outpatient care centers, community care centers and government agencies. A small number of OTs are self-employed in private practice.
In 2014, the median annual wage for OTs was $78,810 with the highest 10% earning over $112,950.
Employment of OTs is expected to increase by 27% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than average. The demand for OTs will increase in both elderly populations and individuals with disabilities. Over 70% of the programs reported that all graduates seeking employment were employed within 3 months of graduation. The remaining 30% of programs reported that graduates were employed within 6 months. In some regions the majority of programs reported that graduates were employed at the time of graduation.
As of April 2010, there were 371 entry-level, educational programs:
- 4 accredited doctoral entry-level occupational therapy (OT) programs
- 144 accredited master’s entry-level occupational therapy (OT) programs
- 151 accredited associate occupational therapy assistant (OTA) programs
- 71 developing or applicant programs (7 doctorate, 9 master’s & 55 associate)
In 2011 there were 97 doctoral graduates, 4,789 master's graduates and 3, 678 OTA graduates.
The total number of Master's applicants in 2011 was 23,044; 317 Doctoral applicants.
OT Versus PT
OT and PT are closely related but distinctly different careers. A PT works on the injury and preventing future injuries. An OT works on helping the patient to understand their abilities and ways to manage health. A PT focuses on movement & mobility and an OT focuses on restoring function. Often the two will work together to support the mutual goals of the patient.
Perks of the Profession
- Excellent Income: In 2014, the median annual wage for OTs was $78,810 with the highest 10% earning over $112,950.
- Great Career Outlook: Employment of OTs is expected to increase by 27% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than average. The demand for OTs will increase in both elderly populations and individuals with disabilities.
- Diverse Job Setting: Occupational therapists can find employment in various types of settings. OTs can work in hospitals, offices of health practitioners, public and private schools, nursing care facilities, home health care services, outpatient care centers, community care centers and government agencies. A small number of OTs are self-employed in private practice.
- Fewer Years of Education: A two-year master’s degree is the current typical level of education to be able to work as an OT.
- Satisfying Health Care Career: OTs provide holistic care to help patients improve their lives and achieve independence. It is a great career if you want to help people and make a difference in their lives. Part-time employment is also possible as nearly 30% of OTs choose to work part-time.
Wright State University offers the courses necessary to meet the requirements for entry to OT programs. In addition, most courses are offered two or three times per year. A pre-professional advisor is also available to assist students with program variations, information on the application process, and current trends within the profession.
There are many undergraduate fields of study that will prepare students for the PT graduate programs. The most common at WSU are Athletic Training, Rehabilitation Science, Sociology, Sports Science, and Psychology.
Ohio has a variety of OT programs throughout the state. Requirements needed for admission into these programs vary and students should meet with the professional advisor to review prerequisites for each school. Most of these programs have specific requirements in addition to the core set of admission requirements listed on the front of this fact-sheet. These courses include psychology of aging, bioethics, kinesiology, neuroanatomy and courses in the physical sciences. In addition to the pre-requisites, students will likely need to complete a standardized test assessing communication and reasoning skills (GRE); gain exposure to a variety of OT experiences; have their personal and interpersonal attributes evaluated (interview, references); maintain GPAs (cumulative, science and nonscience) above a 3.0. Applicants offered admission typically average a GPA over a 3.0.
- Human A&P*: ANT 2100, 2120
- Biology: BIO 1010, 1070 or 1120
- Statistics: STT 1600 or 2640
- Psychology: PSY 1010
- Lifespan Development: PSY 3410
- Abnormal Psychology: PSY 3110
- Medical Terminology: BIO 1010
- Sociology: SOC 2000
*substitutions may apply
Requirements for entry into an OT graduate program vary; it’s important to work with the advisor to make sure things are satisfied
Science courses typically must include lab
Most occupational therapy programs require that students complete a minimum of 3 years of undergraduate education that includes the following:
- One semester of General Biology with lab (BIO 1070 or 1120)
- One semester of Statistics (STT 1600 or 2640)
- One year of Anatomy & Physiology (ANT 2100, 2120)
- One year of Psychology (PSY 3410, PSY 3110)
- One semester of Medical Terminology (BIO 1010)
- One semester of Sociology (SOC 2000)
It’s important to research individual occupational therapy programs for specific requirements. Contact the pre-health advisor for assistance.
In addition to course work, many programs require experience or observational hours. MOT programs can require letters of recommendation (including one from an OT) and can possibly require the GRE.
- The Ohio State University
- Xavier University
- University of Findlay
- Cleveland State University
- Shawnee State University
- University of Toledo
- Kettering College
The GRE is an exam made up of 3 areas verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. Each area is divided up into 2 sections or tasks.
They are broken up as follows:
|Verbal Reasoning||30 minutes per section||analyze & evaluate written material, analyze relationships in parts of sentences, word association||130-170 in 1-point increments|
|Quantitative Reasoning||35 minutes per section||arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis||130-170 in 1-point increments|
|Analytical Writing||30 minutes per section||analyze an issue, analyze an argument||0-6 in .5-point increments|
What does an occupational therapist do?
Occupational therapists (OTs) work with patients in performing activities of “daily living”. OT services typically include customized treatment programs, comprehensive home and job site evaluations, performance skills assessments and treatment, adaptive equipment recommendations, and guidance to family members and caregivers. OTs often work in hospitals and other health care and community settings (e.g., nursing homes, schools). More than one-third of OTs work part-time.
What is the difference between an occupational therapists and an occupational therapist assistant?
The biggest difference between these two careers is the level of education. An occupational therapist requires post-graduate work (either at the masters or doctoral level) for entry-level practice whereas an occupational therapist requires an associates degree.
What should I major in at the undergraduate level if I want to apply to a graduate level Occupational Therapy program?
Examples of what other students have majored in at the undergraduate level include psychology, liberal arts, biology, sociology and anthropology. It’s important to remember that no matter what discipline you decide to pursue, you must make sure you have taken the necessary prerequisites for admission into the graduate programs you’re most interested in applying.
How do I get observation or volunteer experience?
The best way to gain experience is by contacting local facilities (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, schools) that employ occupational therapists. Try looking in the yellow pages of your phone book under “Occupational Therapy” or “Rehabilitation”. Calling facilities rather than emailing is encouraged. Always be prepared to discuss your interest in the career and be as flexible with your time as possible.
I am currently working in another profession. I am considering occupational therapy as a second careers. Is this feasible?
A number of students go back to school to pursue a “change in career” and occupational therapy is a career that many pursue. If you already have an undergraduate degree, it might not necessary to pursue a second undergraduate degree. It’s important to contact the individual programs to which you are interested in applying in order to determine what prerequisites you would need to take.
How much will I make as an occupational therapist?
Average salary is near $55,000 per year. For the most recent salary information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics website.