Occupational Therapy Specializing In Ergonomics


Occupational therapists play important role in the rehabilitation of patients suffering from disabilities, impairments and other health problems that affect their abilities to do things and function normally. Just like physical therapists, they are helping patients recover from injuries and disabilities. However, occupational therapists do not only help recover and improve mobility but more importantly, they help patients gain proper functioning and to find meaning and purpose in their life again despite suffering from disability or injury.

Just like in other healthcare professions, occupational therapy is also composed of various specialized fields allowing occupational therapists to specialize and focus on a specific field for training and career enhancement purposes. Earning a specialization in occupational therapy provides great advantage in terms of career opportunities, working conditions, salary level, and personal development. When it comes to occupational therapy specialization, one of the most in demand today is Ergonomics.

Occupational Therapy And Ergonomics

Occupational Therapy Ergonomics is very crucial especially in the workplace because it is the science, which studies and helps improve the work environment to achieve a safer, healthier, and efficient workplace for the workers. It is important to create a workplace that suits the workers’ capabilities and functions to minimize risks and accidents.

Aside from these benefits, ergonomics can also increase workers’ productivity and quality of work. With the ergonomic principles and recommendations from occupational therapists, employers and managers can implement a specific program and guidelines that workers should follow to promote better work efficiency, minimize risk of accidents and injuries, and to promote faster recovery in case a worker is already suffering from a work-related injury.

What Occupational Therapists Specializing In Ergonomics Do?

Occupational therapists focusing on ergonomics can work in various businesses and companies providing consultation or as an in-house OT working for the business’ risk management department. They have a lot of functions like:

  • Occupational therapists specializing in ergonomic identify accidents and injury risk factors present in the workplace.
  • After identifying the risk factors, they device a risk management plan to eliminate or reduce risk factors such as poor lighting, carrying of heavy loads, noise, risky machines and equipments used in the workplace, poor posture, extreme temperatures, and other types of occupational stresses.
  • Occupational therapists also analyze and determine job functions based on job tasks or roles.
  • They may also be involved during the hiring process helping the company in determining the applicants suitable for the specific job tasks.
  • Recommend modifications and improvements in the equipments and tools used in the workplace to prevent injuries and accidents.
  • Occupational therapists specializing in ergonomics also provide training and education programs for the workers or the whole company about risk management, injury prevention methods, safety regulations, workplace health, and proper management of job-related stress.
  • They can also be involved at the very beginning of the business so business owners will not have to do certain modifications and improvements if the workplace was built and designed in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act from the start.
  • OT with ergonomics specialty may recommend and propose changes in the workplace and the general working condition of employees to promote a healthier and more satisfying work for everyone.

Work Settings For Occupational Therapists With Ergonomics Specialization

Occupational therapists can work in a lot of settings and industries due to the wide application of their knowledge and expertise. However, occupational therapists with advanced training and specialization in a specific area like ergonomics can be more preferred by employers and companies and they can also receive higher income than the pay received by general occupational therapists.

Occupational therapists specializing in ergonomics can work in these common work settings:

  • Industrial workplaces
  • Corporate work settings
  • Construction sites
  • Private offices and clinics
  • Public institutions
  • Academic institutions
  • Hospitals and other health institutions

How To Become An Occupational Therapist Specializing In Ergonomics

The first step to become an occupational therapist is to finish a bachelor’s degree in health-related field then earn a graduate degree in occupational therapy. Traditional educational path would take about 4 years of bachelor’s degree schooling and another 2 to 3 years for the completion of the master’s degree in occupational therapy degree.

However, some schools nowadays offer a more customized degree program designed for the specific needs and preferences of students. Some schools offer dual programs wherein students can finish their bachelor’s degree in a shorter span of time then automatically proceed to the graduate program and complete the graduate program for a shorter time as well. These kinds of degree programs usually require 5 years of study compared to the conventional route, which will take 6 to 7 years for completion.

Best Schools And Occupational Therapy Programs In The US

According to the US News Rankings And Reviews, some of the top occupational therapy schools in 2012 are:

  1. University of Southern California in Los Angeles
  2. Boston University (Sargent)
  3. Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
  4. University of Illinois in Chicago
  5. University of Kansas Medical Center

Accredited Online Occupational Therapy Graduate Programs

According to the ACOTE or AOTA’s Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education’s Annual Data Report for 2010/2011, there are no accredited occupational therapy programs that are offered fully through online or distance learning. However, there are accredited occupational therapy programs that offer half or some part of their programs through online learning.

Based on the Annual Data Report, accredited occupational therapy graduate programs with some courses offered online are:

  1. University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City which offers an occupational therapy master’s degree program with 90% online courses
  2. University of Minnesota in Minneapolis offering occupational therapy master’s degree program with 70% to 80% online courses
  3. Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia with 60% to 70% of the courses offered online.
  4. Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin offering occupational therapy programs with 50% to 60% of the courses offered online.
  5. University of Tennessee in Memphis with 50% to 60% of the courses in occupational therapy degree programs offered online or through distance learning.

Pursuing a career in occupational therapy can be a great decision since employment growth is expected to increase about 33% for the next 10 years according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Aside from the great job opportunities, professions in occupational therapy are also stable and offer some of the highest salaries in the industry.

According to the US BLS, the median pay of occupational therapists employed in the country is around $72,300 per year with the highest 10% earning as much as $102,000 or higher every year.


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