Is occupational therapy a good career?

There are several advantages of occupational therapy as a career. These reasons include: 

  • Employment opportunities 
  • Potential for growth 
  • Flexibility and choice 
  • Salary and pay structure
  • Choice of demographics 

In this brief article, we will learn what occupational therapy is, why it is important, reasons why it’s a good career choice and the disadvantages that is carries. 

What is occupational therapy? 

​Occupational therapy is the only profession on earth that helps people across ages regain function. Through this art and science, practitioners help clients with activities that matter to them. Whether it comes down to work, school, or life at home, occupational therapists can help their clients fully engage in meaningful occupations in order to promote health and prevent – or live better with – injury, illness or disability.

Helping children with impairments engage fully in school and social circumstances, assisting those recuperating from injuries in regaining skills, and giving assistance for older adults facing physical and cognitive changes are all common occupational therapy methods. Occupational therapy services usually involve the following:

  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan
  • a one-on-one assessment in which the client/family and occupational therapist work together to establish the person’s goals
  • individualized intervention to increase the person’s capacity to carry out everyday tasks and achieve their objectives

Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.

Being an occupational therapy assistant is a unique healthcare career that gives you the power to change people’s lives. It allows you to empower patients by improving their overall quality of life and helping them live normally. This can be a rewarding career choice for anyone who wishes to enter the healthcare industry and help people directly.

As an occupational therapist you’ll be working with individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The main individuals you’d be helping would be someone who recovering from major surgery or serious injury, individuals with mental illnesses, special education needs (SEN), physical disability or older people.

There are currently over 52,000 occupational therapists in the United Kingdom (UK). This highlights the need for this important role.

If you’re looking for a career in the health field that is generally low stress, can offer high job satisfaction and is fulfilling, then a career as an occupational therapy assistant might be right for you.

To help you determine if OT is the right career path for you, let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of Occupational therapy as a career.

Advantages of Occupational Therapy as a career 

Employment opportunities 

  • Healthcare occupations and the healthcare industry are projected to grow by 14% from 2018 to 2028, with the addition of nearly 1.9 million new jobs due to an aging population and a greater demand for healthcare services.
  • Because of the industry’s expanding need, the cost and duration of occupational therapy courses are becoming more reasonable, and students may have improved career opportunities after graduation.
  • Many occupational therapists also have the opportunity to work full or part-time, providing valuable flexibility to their work and home life balance.
  • The BLS projects the demand for labor in occupational therapy to grow by 18% through 2028. Given there were around 133,000 occupational therapy jobs in 2018, an 18% growth rate means nearly 24,000 more occupational therapy jobs will be added by 2028 – an increase of thousands of new jobs in occupational therapy will be available each year.

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Potential for growth

There are numerous career advancement opportunities in occupational therapy. Similar to other medical professions, occupational therapists can engage in continuing educational development opportunities and enhance their strengths with specialization.

  • Critical care
  • Pediatrics
  • Certified Autism Specialist
  • Cardio-Respiratory
  • Ergonomics
  • Certified Aging in Place Specialist
  • Driving and mobility rehabilitation
  • Hand therapy
  • Certified Diabetes Educator
  • Certified Low Vision Specialist
  • Certified Brain Injury Specialist
  • Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner

The expansive number of specialization and certification options makes occupational therapy one of the most versatile healthcare careers.

Flexibility and choice 

  • Occupational therapists can work in a variety of settings, including children outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, adult outpatient clinics, school systems, and rehabilitation centers, to mention a few. 
  • As an occupational therapist, you have the potential to radically alter your career at the drop of a hat by changing settings.
  • These variety of settings including:
  • Hospitals;
  • Physician offices;
  • Long-term or skilled nursing facilities;
  • Schools;
  • Home health settings;
  • Rehab centers;
  • Freestanding outpatient clinics;
  • Nursing homes;
  • Mental health facilities.

Salary and Pay structure

  • OT is also a career with a steady paycheck where you can live comfortably. Occupational Therapy Assistants made a median salary of $60,220 in 2018.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual earnings for an occupational therapist is just under $85K per year. By comparison, the median household income in the U.S. is around $62K per year.
  • The average annual income for occupational therapists exceeds that of radiologic technologists ($62K), dental hygienists ($76K), speech-language pathologists ($79K), and many other types of healthcare professionals.
  • Many occupational therapists make well above the median annual pay for the role. More experienced occupational therapists in certain locations can earn over $100K.

Choice of working with different demographics 

  • Mental health spaces: Many OTA’s work in psychiatric facilities, meeting people with different abilities and mindsets. Individuals with Down syndrome are taught how to develop independence via self-care tasks such as eating, dressing, and playing by occupational therapists (OTAs).
  • Old age homes: OTAs assist dementia patients and their family and caregivers by providing behavioral treatments (also known as treatment plans) that address personality changes.
  • Working with children: OTAs work with children who are at risk of developing impairments to help them improve their motor skills, cognitive skills, and sensory processing in order to avoid developmental delays.
  • Industry and organization settings: Through supervised therapy exercises, job reconditioning, and on-site treatments, OTAs assist employees with work-related lower back issues.

Disadvantages of occupational therapy as a career 

Emotionally challenging 

  • Despite your best efforts and their dedication, you may not always be able to treat a patient. This might be due to irreversible nerve injury, a lack of bone repair, or other health problems. 
  • The situation may deteriorate, resulting in the patient’s death. This can be upsetting, especially for novice OTs, and can lead to stress or despair.
  • Even though a career as an OTA can be very rewarding, the fact is that you’re human and your patients are human and that means sometimes things don’t go perfectly.

Extensive study required 

  • You need at least a master’s degree in OT and other requisites to become an OT. This means studying extensively for up to 6 years. To work as an occupational therapist, you’ll need a master’s degree and maybe some preparatory courses. 
  • You’ll need to pick your OT school carefully. To sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) test, which is necessary for state-level licencing, it must be approved by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

Having to work in messy situations 

  • Duties of occupational therapists may include working with bodily functions and fluids of patients. This may include vomiting, toileting, urinating, cleaning wounds, removing dying tissue, and dealing with blood.
  • Cleaning or supporting the patient with the cleaning of blood, vomit, urine, or discharge from infected wounds may be unpleasant. You may also need to retrain a patient on how to use the toilet or assist them in wiping themselves.

Conclusion 

Occupational therapists need to have a good amount of flexibility when dealing with the high and the low points of a patient’s recovery. Your day may change at the last minute, if there is a demand with a patient, having the flexibility to do so is essential.

If changing lives is what you were called to do, occupational therapy could be a good career path for you. While not every part of this job is ideal, the benefits far exceed the challenges. As with most other areas of healthcare, you need to be patient, empathetic and enthusiastic. 

What we recommend for Counselling

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression or any other mental disorders then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

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