Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
Occupational therapy is one of those rare fields wherein the rewards are both plainly visible and personally profound for those benefiting from the skills of the practitioner. In this sense, then, it is one of the single most rewarding fields of work one can enter. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy is the "skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives. Occupational therapy assists people in developing the 'skills for the job of living' necessary for independent and satisfying lives. Services typically include customized treatment programs to improve one's ability to perform daily activities, comprehensive home and job site evaluations with adaptation recommendations, performance skills assessments and treatment, adaptive equipment recommendations and usage training, [and] guidance to family members and caregivers." Thus, while it is often exhausting, both mentally and emotionally, the enrichment of patients' lives is too great to measure, as is the job-satisfaction it provides.
Studying in the field
A Masters degree is generally required for the professional practice of occupational therapy. The work demands of a great deal of knowledge on the part of the practitioner because it is the kind of work that has consequences for people other than the practitioner; it has has a very real effect on the patients. In this sense, it is not unlike the philosophy behind the training required of a doctor. Coursework is intensive and includes a wide range of subject areas. Typical classes include patient assessment, neuroanatomy, health-care management, sociology, and anatomy and physiology.
While strong interests in both science and the well-being of others are vital to the successful practice of occupational therapy, there are several directions in which a graduate may go. If patient care is your passion, then you will likely find very satisfying and rewarding work either in a hospital, care center, or private practice. If, however, the science behind the profession is more your speed, then your options include "analyzing job tasks and equipment to prevent future injuries for an injured worker" and "adapting home environments for people dealing with the effects of stroke, reduced vision, or other conditions," among others (AOTA). Indeed, there are as many avenues for graduates to go down as there are personal interests of the graduates themselves.
Job opportunities in the field
"The profession of occupational therapist was ranked 32 out of 50 on MONEY Magazine's list of Best Jobs in America. The high ranking comes from variety of job factors including an average salary of $51,973 and a 10-year forecast for 34% job growth rate" (AOTA). With statistics like these, and a high level of job-satisfaction among its practitioners, occupational therapy is a wonderful profession to pursue. Whether you decide to focus on patient care or other aspects of the field, you will be making a difference in the lives of people in some sort of need. And there's nothing more important, or rewarding.