Do you dream about a career where you can truly help someone? A job where what you do will allow someone to return to an occupation they love, or regain their quality of life? If you can see yourself being happy in a patient-centered medical field, then Occupational Therapy (OT) may be a perfect career for you.
OT is an allied health profession, meaning they are a highly-trained health professional with specialized training and expertise that compliments a physician. A successful OT will treat each patient with an individual approach. There are no shortcuts for patients and their therapists in this field. Having that level of energy, knowledge, focus and creativity will allow someone to thrive as an OT.
What sets an OT apart from other members of a patient’s healthcare team is how they work with patients. OTs focus on both physical rehabilitation as well as cognitive connections to help their patients regain function and quality of life. An OT sees a patient as a whole person and provides a holistic approach.
Being part of your patient’s rehabilitation journey can be one of the most rewarding careers, so let’s dive into what your future could look like and what it takes to get there.
Life as an Occupational Therapist
First, let’s talk about the demand for, and stability of a career as an OT. This is a growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this field to grow 18 percent between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average job growth rate. You can be an OT in practically any community throughout the country as well.
If flexibility is a career priority for you, being an OT may be a good fit. Work schedules can vary based on full-time or part-time options, or the type of setting where you work. Hospitals may offer flex schedules, or on-call/as-needed options, whereas schools or nursing facilities may have more traditional hours.
Next, let’s address the cost of becoming an OT. This field requires at least a master’s degree, and education comes with a cost. As much as possible, try to plan accordingly. That may mean you will need student loans or to apply for scholarships and grants. Realize upfront that this is a financial investment in your future.
However, the good news is that in 2019 the median income for OTs was $84,950. The best-paid 25 percent made $101,590 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $69,710. Weighing factors like location, experience, specialization, etc., being an OT can provide a stable income in a high-demand field.
Finally, let’s consider personal and professional fulfillment and job satisfaction. As an OT, you can spend months or years working with patients allowing you to build relationships and become an important part of patient’s lives. Many OTs feel a great sense of fulfillment and accomplishment in this field.
Skills of an OT
Being an OT means you will likely excel in a cross-section of skills. Focusing on people and being relationship-centered with patients is a critical part of this work. OTs also must be able to recall extensive medical training and experience with a rational approach. This blend of social-emotional and analytical skills can help you do well in school and in your future career.
Let’s talk school and studying
This is why you’re really here, isn’t it? You want to know all about the degree programs, classes, fieldwork, studying during OT school and how to make the most of your skills. Relax, you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of students have turned to Picmonic to help them through their postgraduate program.
Let’s cut to the chase. You will need a bachelor’s degree followed by a Master’s of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (DOT). Starting in 2027, however, the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) will mandate that the entry-level degree requirement will move to DOT.
During your graduate program, whether a MOT or DOT, you are likely looking at two phases of fieldwork. Level I fieldwork is typically of short duration, whereas Level II fieldwork can be several months. The hands-on experience and exposure you will receive during fieldworks in a variety of settings, including pediatric outpatient or rehab hospital, is one of the most exciting parts of the program.
Not every MOT or DOT program will have the same requirements when it comes to undergrad GPA, GRE scores (if required), volunteer hours, shadowing and undergrad courses. Earning your bachelor’s degree in a related field isn’t always necessary, but it may help. Most MOT or DOT programs will require some or all of the following courses:
- Human Development
- Developmental Psychology
Once accepted into a postgraduate OT program, you will need to dedicate your time to it. A lot of the work in any advanced degree program takes place outside the classroom, so be prepared personally, financially and academically.
- Make a plan! Be prepared for the workload and work your plan. You will spend time in the classroom, but even more time studying independently. Do you work well with calendars? Planners? Digital planners? Reminders? Do what works for you and stay accountable.
- Don’t do it alone. For the next few years, you and your peers are working toward the same goal, so work together. You will be each other’s best resources and support system.
- Be a master note-taker. Studies show that handwriting notes helps your brain retain information! Other people love recording lectures so you can always refer back to exactly what and how information was presented. Use what works for you.
In addition to classmates in your study group, Picmonic is here for the late-nights and on-demand studying. Let’s look at how we get you from “Yes! I got accepted to grad school!” to “Yes! I passed the NBCOT licensing exam!” with Picmonic by your side.
Accept that textbooks, flashcards and notes are not the only way to study. Picmonic for OT has 400 study aids that are proven to help improve retention by 331 percent. Did you know Picmonic helps you establish better learning foundations? For example, using Picmonic to prepare for lectures can create memory anchors that will help your brain store the valuable information as you learn it in class, helping you to recall the information more effectively later.
In everything from the musculoskeletal system and cardiovascular courses, to the psychiatric and cognitive systems courses, Picmonic has customizable study aids that help you remember and recall information better. Because it’s great to pass the test, but wouldn’t it be even better to remember it for the final exam and be able to recall it later when you’re working one-on-one with the patient? Picmonic will help you to recall information after lectures, before exams and while working with your patients.
Just thinking about your graduation gets us excited! But you aren’t quite finished yet. The next step is passing the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy. This four-hour exam is administered at test centers worldwide. After you receive your national license, you will need to apply for your state licensure. Picmonic is still here for you, though! Working with Picmonic means you’ve retained information from OT courses and will be able to review and study for the NBCOT more efficiently. We’ve got your back from your first day in OT school, through your certification, and recertification.
Are you ready to get started?
There are countless ways to positively impact lives as an OT; whether it’s helping someone recover from an accident, working with a patient to overcome a stroke, or being part of a pediatric patient’s progress reaching developmental milestones. OTs are in demand around the country and are an important part of an increasingly integrated and holistic healthcare system. Try Picmonic for free today and see for yourself!