Why Occupational Therapy?
It's hard for me to believe that I have been an occupational therapist for nearly forty years. A chance meeting at a summer job with a wise older woman (she was probably in her thirties) was my first exposure to the field. I was headed to college that fall with an undeclared major. I was interested in teaching, psychology and arts and crafts, but did not want to become a teacher, psychologist or artisan. The woman put me on the path of occupational therapy, and though I found the medical courses to be challenging, to say the least, and was ready to change majors several times along the way to a pursuit less demanding, I stuck with occupational therapy and have had no regrets.
Now I am that "older woman" and I frequently find myself around college-bound high school students who want to do something meaningful with their lives after graduation. My sales pitch for a career in occupational therapy is generally well-received, as I find myself answering numerous questions about what OTs do and what the curriculum involves. I can provide these potential OT students with several very convincing reasons why occupational therapy is a career choice with many perks.
Improving the quality of life for your patients makes you feel good about yourself.
I share with potential occupational therapy students that helping your patients or clients live more satisfying lives is a win-win situation. Because OTs essentially treat the whole person in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being, we become connected to the recipients of our service. At the end of most every work day, we truly feel that we have made a difference whether grand or subtle.
There are ample jobs for occupational therapists and therefore reasonable job security.
The number of people who could benefit from occupational therapy services seems to be growing. Yes, baby boomers are aging and having hip replacements and being diagnosed with maladies such as arthritis, but it's more than that. As infant mortality rates drop, more babies ages zero to three are being diagnosed at a younger age with deficits that require the jump start of an OT. Additionally, school-aged children are being seen for occupational therapy as they start school, helping them to become more successful in their classroom activities.
Burn-out rate for OTs is low as there are so many very different settings where OTs work.
Many OTs begin their careers in hospitals, long term care facilities, or schools, being clinicians who provide direct care services. But there is room for clinicians to branch out into different arenas such as driver evaluation for persons with disabilities. Also, OTs can move into education or research.
Pay and working conditions for occupational therapists are higher than many jobs, including others in health care.
Occupational therapists can typically support themselves on the starting salary of a new graduate. Young therapists with the wanderlust and a sense of adventure may find that becoming a travelling OT is a terrific and lucrative way to see the country while building a career.