What Do Occupational Therapists Do?
When someone suffers from a disability, tasks such as working or simply maintaining their home can be a huge challenge. Occupational therapists help these individuals gain their independence by planning and overseeing rehabilitative programs that are designed to build vocational and homemaking skills. These therapists may focus on those with visual, mobility, mental, or orientation disabilities, or more general disabilities.
Occupational Therapists Skills and Abilities
The skills that occupational therapists need to have mastery over can be separated into three categories. These are training, communication, and psychology. First, because they will be helping people gain abilities and independence, it is important that therapists understand the principles of training design, instruction, and teaching. This includes experience in personal service. Secondly, it is vital that they are skilled in the art of relating information, especially because some of the disabilities that their clients may suffer from may prevent their ability to receive information. Finally, knowledge of psychology, personality, and human behavior will allow therapists to do their job more effectively.
Occupational Therapists Duties
The duties of occupational therapists depend on their focus. For this reason, responsibilities could include anything from teaching cane skills or the use of tactile, auditory, and kinesthetic information to teaching independent travel. Therapists will be analyzing data, overseeing development, and provide support, as well as collaborate with specialists to ensure the highest level of therapy is provided for their clients. Occupational therapists are responsible for planning and implementing programs.
Occupational Therapists Tools and Technology
The tools that occupational therapists use on a daily basis also depend heavily on how they focus their attention. The tools can include:
- Adaptive communication switches
- Braille devices and printers
- Cutlery or utensils for the physically challenged
- Wheelchairs, both electric and otherwise
- Eye charts or vision cards
- Writing aids
Analytical, scientific, and training software is also commonly employed by occupational therapists.
Education and Training for Occupational Therapists
The education level required by occupational therapists is quite high. The overwhelming majority of therapists that are currently working have a high level college degree. This includes 36% with a Master’s degree, 50% with a Bachelor’s degree, and 9% with an Associate’s degree. This means that 94% of occupational therapists have a college degree. Virtually no occupational therapists are working with only a high school diploma. However, compared to other medical professions, the level of therapists in this field that have a Doctoral degree is incredibly low.
Occupational Therapists Salary
Like most medical professionals, the salary of occupational therapists is pretty high. On average across the nation, annual salary peaks at $110,000. The average salary is closer to $80,000, however. The bottom 10% of occupational therapists earns $50,000, so you should expect to earn at least this much. The geographic location of employment also plays a significant role in determining salary, so be sure to look at the numbers for your state specifically.
Occupational Therapists Jobs by Geography
In addition to salary, the location also affects how easy it is to find a job. Employment rates are best in states such as Utah, Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, and Florida. These are the states that are anticipated to increase employment rates by more than 30% in the coming years. While no states are predicting a decrease in occupational therapists employment rates, Maryland and Wisconsin are the only states that are expecting an increase less than 10%. For reference, the national average is anticipating a 29% increase, with nearly 5,000 new jobs each year. This is an incredibly high percentage to increase. All things considered, the coming years are going to be an excellent time for working as an occupational therapist.