Occupational therapy is not the world’s most glamorous profession. Practitioners in the field, OTs as they’re known, help disabled or injured clients manage the basic activities of life, which can include anything from bathing and dressing to office work. But there’s more to OT than the daily grind.
OT vs. PT
Occupational therapy is different than physical therapy. Occupational therapists work with clients who have been disabled or otherwise limited by illness to recover or develop the living and work-related skills that are necessary to get through the day. To help clients achieve their goals, OTs use a range of techniques. They teach new skills, involve friends and family members, and even modify clients’ homes, cars and offices. The scope of physical therapy (PT) is more limited. PT focuses on pain management and helping the injured regain mobility, flexibility, strength, and balance.
Excellent Job Outlook
With an aging population and soldiers returning from war, the demand for qualified occupational therapists is strong. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranks occupational therapy as one of today’s fastest growing careers. The BLS expects demand for occupational therapists to increase 29% between 2012 and 2022.
OT Pays Very Well
As a result of the growing demand for occupational therapists, salaries are quite high . According to CNN’s 2012 Best Jobs in America report, median annual pay for OTs hoovers around $75,000 with top professionals earning north of $100,000.
The American Occupational Therapy Association was founded in 1917, but the profession can trace its origins through the eons, all the way to Classical Greece. Asclepiades of Bithynia, a physician who practiced in the first century B.C., dosed mental patients with fresh air, music and wine. Later, in the 18th century, Pinel and Reil revived the ancient Greek techniques in their toil to transform the European hospital system. They treated stressed-out patients with literature, music and exercise.
Surprising Practice Areas
It should not surprise that many occupational therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. But some members of the profession are quite entrepreneurial and have charted territory in new areas of practice. For example, consider the OTs who’ve moved into design and accessibility. These professionals spend their days assisting architects, businesses and community planners with design of universal spaces, so all can be accommodated, regardless of physical or mental impairment.
The job pays well, the discipline dates back centuries, and the boundaries of the practice continue to evolve. That’s a lot to know. More than you might have thought.