Occupational Therapy Education Programs, Best Schools, And Career Opportunities

Occupational therapy is a health care profession aimed at helping people of all ages recover from various health conditions that affect their abilities to function normally and do daily routines necessary for survival like eating, bathing, and washing. Physical therapists are the professionals who help people who suffer from injuries, disabilities, and illnesses by using and improving the patients’ basic body functions. They focus on improving and developing the skills that are essential for work and daily living.

Just like other health care professions like physical therapy and nursing, occupational therapy is also significantly becoming a highly in demand profession. This is because of the growing population of elderly people suffering from disabilities and illnesses, and the advancements in various medical and health technologies.

Choosing The Right Occupational Therapy School And Program

Deciding to pursue a career in occupational therapy is a great option especially if you want a stable and highly paid job. Since this field is very broad, a lot of a jobs and career opportunities are also available depending on the kind and level of education and training you achieved. To know the right education to take, here are some of the education programs offered for aspiring occupational therapists.

  • Career OpportunitiesCertificate in Occupational Therapy Assisting – This only a certificate program and not a degree program, which usually require 1 year of study. Certification from this program qualifies a person to become a certified occupational therapy aide.
  • Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy Assisting – This degree program usually takes 2 years for completion. Students whom graduated from an accredited associate degree in occupational therapy assisting are qualified for the national licensure exam for aspiring occupational therapy assistants. After passing the national exam, they can then earn the title as a licensed OT assistant.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy – Considered as pre-occupational therapy education since to qualify for the national licensure exam, at least a master’s degree is required. Bachelor’s degree is the direct or common path to get admission in occupational therapy graduate programs.
  • Bachelors/Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy – These types of occupational therapy programs are also called as 4+1 or 4+2 education programs. This is an accelerated program since students enrolled in this occupational therapy education can earn both bachelor’s and master’s degree in a shorter span of time compared to the conventional path of earning a bachelor’s degree then proceeding to master’s later on.
  • Transitional MOT Degree – Transitional Master’s of Occupational Degree programs are the programs established for students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and want to enhance their education by earning the master’s degree. Transitional MOT degree programs usually take 1 year to complete. Some schools offer online transitional MOT programs so those who are already working as an OT can enhance their education while continuing their jobs.
  • MOT Degree programs – Common Master’s of Occupational Therapy programs are the direct entry programs for students who want to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy and have already earned a bachelor’s degree from other fields. These programs credit some of the units you earned from your previous degree and add some undergraduate coursework before proceeding to the graduate coursework.
  • OTD or Doctor of Occupational Therapy – This is probably the highest occupational therapy education a person can achieve and requires additional 3 years of study after completing a bachelor’s degree in other fields.
  • Transitional OTD program – This program is specifically designed for occupational therapists that hold an undergraduate degree and want to earn their doctorate degree in occupational therapy. Compared to the traditional 3-year OTD program for non occupational therapy graduates, transitional OTD just takes 2 years of study for completion.

Best Occupational Therapy Schools

Best Occupational TherapyFinding the right school that offers the best occupational therapy program is definitely crucial since aside from gaining better employment opportunities, graduating from an accredited and reputable school ensures you that you gained quality and best education and training necessary for your job as a health care practitioner. According to the US News’ Rankings and Reviews report for 2012, the top 10 occupational therapy schools in the US are:

  1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles Campus
  2. Boston University
  3. Washington University, St. Louis
  4. University of Illinois
  5. University of Kansas Medical Center
  6. Colorado State University
  7. Thomas Jefferson University
  8. Tufts University -  Boston School of Occupational Therapy
  9. University of Pittsburgh
  10. New York University

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

University of Florida

Why Opt For Higher Education And Licensure

Earning an associate degree in occupational therapy can qualify you for various entry-level occupational therapy jobs. Although these careers are also well paid, you can obtain higher income opportunities and career options if you achieve a master’s degree or a doctorate degree in occupational therapy. Achieving your license as an OT can greatly affect employment options and earnings that is why most occupational therapy aim to achieve their master’s degree and pass the national licensure exam to become fully licensed.

Before enrolling in a specific occupational therapy graduate program, make sure that the school and the program you are planning to take is accredited by the ACOTE or the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. According to ACOTE, there are about 150 master’s degree programs in occupational therapy that have already been accredited by the organization and only 4 doctorate degree programs. There are accredited full time programs, while there are also part time occupational therapy education programs, and evening and weekend education programs.

Career Opportunities And Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of licensed OTs employed in the country ranges from $70,000 to $75,000. This salary level is relatively higher compared to other professions in various industries today. Aside from the good pay, future occupational therapists can also expect higher demand for their services experts projected that employment opportunities for OTs to grow 33% from year 2010 to 2020. This growth is definitely faster compared to other professions in the health care industry-making career in occupational therapy very fulfilling and worth pursuing.

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