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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Wanted: A Few Good Men in OT

Published June 23, 2014 10:58 AM by Debra Karplus
If you look through any of the old occupational therapy textbooks or photos you seldom (never) see any male OTs.  When I was in occupational therapy school in the early 1970s, I remember that there was one male in our class of approximately twenty students, about five percent. In the 1990s, I taught at the community college in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program, I only remember one male student in a class of about fifteen (about six percent)  in any of the graduation classes.

Curious, I wondered if this had changed in more recent years. So I did what many people do, an online search using the keywords "men in occupational therapy," and discovered some interesting things. There was a blog for male OTs. I found an article about a 2010 National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition stating that only about ten percent of occupational therapists were male. Another article stated that OTRs were about six percent male and OT assistants about eight percent. Other articles I uncovered stated that most people viewed occupational therapy as a "female profession". A 2013 article in ADVANCE stated that less than ten percent of OTs is male.

Even YouTubehas a couple short videos such as "OT Man Loves his Job" that are quite entertaining and a bit informative.

Just as the term "male nurse" often gets a chuckle from the general public, men who choose a career in occupational therapy are sometimes not taken seriously either. Physical therapy, however, does not seem to carry that stigma. I find that to be rather noteworthy; but it seems there is a much higher percentage of males in physical therapy, somewhere around thirty percent, depending on what source you site.

A US News and World Report article in January 2014 stated in a list of best healthcare jobs that occupational therapist ranks ninth and occupational therapy assistant ranks thirteenth.

We need more guys in our profession!!!  At 110 pounds, I am simply not as physically strong as any male over about fifteen years old. Some of the work occupational therapists do involve heavy lifting, such as a very large patient, or even a child who is not cooperating with his OT treatment. And when it comes to doing morning or evening training in activities of daily living, there are some patients who simply prefer working on bathing and dressing skills with a male rather than a female therapist.

The same reasons that attract women to our profession should, in theory, interest men. The pay is respectable, the jobs are ample, there is much flexibility in settings and hours, there is great room for advancement and best of all, and you get to help patients enjoy an optimal quality of life.

I do hope that some male OTs will read this blog and comment on why they chose this career, and their experience working in a female dominated profession. Also, I'd love to hear comments from men who considered OT but chose a different career path.

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Hi, I'm currently and undergrad student doing research on the lack of men in OT. As you are a male in OT, I would love to get your feedback on the survey I've created. Also, if you have any male blog suggestions id be happy to check them out! The link below is to my anonymous survey. Thanks!

katelynn hotchkiss, student January 27, 2016 2:57 PM
staten island NY

Hello! First thing's first, I want you to know that this article distracted me from studying for my Surface Anatomy exam that takes place in 3 hours, so good job!

Before I started school at the Medical University of South Carolina (to be an OT), I was a preschool teacher working in a very diverse - ethnically and socioeconomically - part of town. Many of the children I worked with had very little engagement with their fathers, if at all. So to that extent, I'm well aware of the role a positive male figure can have on a child. Not necessarily for that reason, but it was during that job that I gained the interest in OT.

Everyday, there were certain children that required extra attention, or different interventions, so that they could have an enjoyable, stress-free day at school. However, as a teacher, it's my responsibility to tend to all of the children equally. But it was these children with whom I wanted to spend all my time! For whatever reason, they had some distinct disadvantage when it came to learning, be it sensory integration issues, or emotional unrest; for them, the playing field was far from even.

I found OT, and threw myself in 110%!

I'd love to keep sharing my story, but I need to get focused on the extensors of the lower limb...

Daniel Shelton July 10, 2014 7:16 AM
Charleston SC

Thanks for taking the time to read my article and write such an in-depth assessment of males in OT from the perspective from an other country (Oslo, Norway).

You bring up many interesting points to ponder.


Debra Karplus, author June 24, 2014 7:14 AM


Naturally as a male OT this article interested me, because it also occured to me that we're not many. I think this is improving though and there is also a variation between the countries. I'm from Norway and when I graduated we were about 15 out of 60 which is 25%. I think maybe my class was a turning point because those who graduated after me had about 25% or even higher percentage as I saw since we had classes in the same buildings and vicinity. Those who graduated before me had fewer men. I have to admit that I didn't know what OT was when I chose to start my bachelor's degree. Although the description of the carreer didn't strike me as a solely women's job. It was a carreer which gave me the opurtunity to participating in the changing and improvement of other's life and using my skills as a fellow human being and my sense of logic and problem solving. I quickly found out this suited me perfectly. When that is said, the field is mostly inhabited by women and also elderly women who appreciates their jobs and stick with it til retirement. This limits the newly educated OTs to get a job and we will have to look for jobs in different positions in healthcare or even outside the field of healthcare. When there finally is an open position in OT there is a struggle with the older and more experienced practitioners. During my four years in clinical work I haven't encountered many OT men in rehabilitation, community work. When I have met OT men it's usually as a consultant in firms dealing with specialized technical aids and sale positions. I think it's a part of then male nature wanting to deal with technical innanimate objects than with living people. And there is too little information about the possibilities as an OT in my country as there is very limited jobs. I chose to work with elderly due to my interest in problem solving and an interest in cognitive functions and psychology. Not wanting to just talk and treat patients through conversation and wanting to work more practical makes this the perfect profession for me.

Tom Robert, Rehabilitation - Occupational Therapist June 24, 2014 3:38 AM

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