Occupational Therapy & Degree Programs
- How to Become an Occupational Therapist, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
- Job Outlook for Occupational Therapists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
- Online Occupational Therapy Master's Degree, U.S. News & World Report,
- Education & Careers, American Occupational Therapy Association
- Long-Term Projections for Occupational Therapists, Projections Central,
If you're disabled, injured or ill, you might need outside help to go about your daily life. This is where occupational therapists come in. They focus on teaching life skills, modifying daily tasks and helping their clients become more self-sufficient. If reading that excites you, you might want to consider a career in occupational therapy. If so, here's what you should know.
Why are occupational therapy programs well-suited for working professionals?
Plenty of accommodations exist for occupational therapy students. There are online programs in occupational therapy, which are great because students can complete the class work at their own convenience. U.S. News & World Report lists some of these programs. There are also occupational therapy programs that accommodate to working professionals by offering night and evening courses. The American Occupational Therapy Association has a list of accredited weekend programs.
Which postsecondary institutions offer occupational therapy degree/certificate programs?
If you want to take the online route, a couple of schools that offer online degrees in occupational therapy include San Jose State University and Texas Woman's University. Plenty of community colleges and universities around the country offer occupational therapy programs at the undergraduate on campus, so check with your local schools to see if they have a program you're interested in. U.S. News & World Report also offers its own rankings of some of the best graduate schools for occupational therapy. These include:
- University of Southern California
- Boston University
- Washington University in St. Louis
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- University of Kansas
- Colorado State University
- Thomas Jefferson University
- Tufts University
- University of Pittsburgh
- New York University
- University of Florida
- University of North Carolina
Are there financial aid resources available to students who enroll in occupational therapy programs?
Prospective students have a lot of options here. You can fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), to see which federal loans and grants these might be eligible for. Some of those may include:
- Direct Loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized
- Perkins Loans
- Federal Work-Study
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
You can also apply for private student loans or for scholarships through websites like Scholarships.com. Or there are numerous occupational therapy scholarships listed on the AOTA website.
Are there internships available to occupational therapy students?
Countless internship opportunities might be found for occupational therapy students, at medical offices, schools, hospitals and nursing care facilities. You can find information about occupational therapy internship opportunities on websites like Internships.com or Intern Queen. Some schools even partner with places to try to provide internship opportunities for its some of its students. Mayo School of Health Sciences is one of them.
In addition internships, once students complete their education, they must get licensed if they want to pursue a career in occupational therapy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All 50 states require therapists to pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapists exam and take continuing education courses. For practicing therapists who want to demonstrate their expertise in a certain area, the AOTA offers several certifications.
Which occupational therapy careers are projected to grow at the fastest rate?
According to the BLS, employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow by 29 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. Job opportunities for licensed occupational therapists are expected to be particularly good in hospital, rehabilitation and orthopedic settings because elderly people receive most of their treatment in these places, but those aren't the only options. Occupational therapists also work with autistic children in schools to develop their social skills and with patients who have birth defects or have lost limbs. The BLS also says that the better job prospects will belong to occupational therapists with specialized knowledge in a treatment area.
Expected Job Growth
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||38,170||$59,530||42.7%|
|Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides||181,000||$48,410||40%|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||7,210||$31,840||30.6%|
Some individual states also have particularly strong job growth for occupational therapists. According to state data aggregated by Projections Central, the states with the best projected growth through 2020 are:
- Alabama: 41.4%
- Utah: 38.5%
- Idaho: 37.2%
- Kentucky: 36.4%
- Indiana: 36.2%
- Texas: 34.4%
- Montana: 34%
- Kansas: 32.6%
- Tennessee: 32.5%
- Wyoming: 32.4%
How can I receive additional information about occupational therapy schools or programs?
A great place to start looking for occupational therapy schools and programs is online, where there are many Web pages dedicated purely to occupational therapy schools and programs. And as always, browsing the website of the school or program you're interested in is often helpful, as it's bound to have plenty of information on the school or program in question. Contacting the admissions offices of any programs that are particularly interesting can also help prospective students find the information they need to choose a course of study.