I often receive emails from occupational therapy students as well as from prospective occupational therapy students with questions about the field of occupational therapy, so I thought I'd compile the questions into a Frequently Asked Questions series. Today I'll focus on some of the general questions about occupational therapy as a career, and on Thursday I'll dive into some more specific questions.
Photo Credit: Lenz Art
Do you like being a pediatric occupational therapist?Of course! Otherwise I wouldn't be doing it! And blogging about it!
What do you like the most about being a pediatric occupational therapist?Being an occupational therapist is incredibly rewarding. While it can be a thankless job at times, it is full of moments that make it all worth it. I've had a parent text me after work hours to let me know that their child just crawled for the first time and they were so excited that they couldn't wait two days to let me know. I've run into the parent of a former client at the grocery store who stopped me to let me know that they are grateful for the sensory strategies that I taught them and that they still incorporate many of those into their son's day. I've had parents tear up during therapy sessions, because their child just did something for the first time. Possibly something they had been told that their child would never be able to do. Those are the moments that I love and that make it all worth it.
What do you like the least about being a pediatric occupational therapist?First, the paperwork, although it's really not unbearable. It's good to be aware going into this profession that there is actually a fair amount of writing involved (evaluation reports, progress notes, daily notes, IEPs, etc). As occupational therapists, it is our responsibility to accurately reflect our client's in the reports. Our reports can have huge repercussions. They can be the deciding factor between whether a service is paid for by insurance or not.
Also, in school-based therapy, there is a significant amount of time and energy spent on the legal side of things. This is something that is not taught in school (at least not when I was in school). I really don't mind having lawyers and educational rights advocates at IEP meetings. What I do mind, is that the system is so broken at times that parents must resort to these measures to get what their child needs. That is a very frustrating part of the job. I don't know all of the answers, but I do know that there needs to be some kind of education reform, so more educational money can be spent on students, rather than on legal fees.
What kind of training is required to become an occupational therapist?A Master's degree is required to practice as an occupational therapist.A two year Associate's degree is required to practice as an occupational therapy assistant. See the next question for how to locate a school near you. Also, both occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam upon graduating from an accredited school.
Where can I find more information about schools that offer occupational therapy degrees?Visit the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) website (www.aota.org). Here you will learn more about occupational therapy and find a list of schools that offer degree programs for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants. There is even a section just for prospective students where you will find information about the current job outlook for occupational therapists (hint-it's looking good!), a place to ask questions, and even live phone chats for prospective students to learn more about a career in OT and to call in and ask questions.
What are your thoughts on a 5 year BS/MS combined program, in comparison to getting a Bachelor's degree and then a Master's Degree?I received my OT degree through a combined BS/MS program, so I might be a little biased. For me, it worked great! I was in and out of school in 5 years and had a Master's degree in my hand at age 23! This is a good option for traditional college students who are already sure that they want to be an occupational therapist. (Question #6 on this FAQ from AOTA on entry level master's and doctoral degrees explains what a combined BS/MS program is.)
That wraps up Part I of the Student FAQs. Be sure to check back on Thursday for Part II!