Thursday, February 5, 2015

OT Student Corner | Preparing for a career in OT

I received this question from a prospective OT student quite a while ago, and honestly, it kind of stumped me. She wanted to know what made me feel prepared for a career in occupational therapy. I'm going to be completely honest here: I think the reason I wasn't sure how to answer this question is because as a new practitioner, you feel completely unprepared to be an OT. Yes, it's true. And it's completely normal! For any newly minted OTs reading this, you can all heave a collective sigh of relief. It gets better. I promise. You just can't walk out of OT school expecting to know everything and feel completely prepared for everything that comes your way. With that said, here are a few tips to help you feel more prepared for a career in occupational therapy.

How to prepare for a career in occupational therapy:

  • Do your research. Learn everything you can about the field of occupational therapy. The American Occupational Therapy Association website is a good place to start. They even have an entire section devoted to those considering a career in occupational therapy.
  • Get to know an OT. Job shadow. Volunteer in a clinic where OTs work. Interview an OT about their career. To really know what it's like day to day as an OT, the best way is to get the information first hand from an OT.
  • Choose an OT school. The single thing that most prepared me to be an OT was getting a degree in occupational therapy! That shouldn't come as any surprise, so once you've decided on OT as a career, it's time to find a school that is a good match for you. AOTA has a ton of helpful resources on locating an OT school.
  • Make the most of your time in OT school. Keep an open mind about career possibilities. Many people enter OT school thinking they know exactly what population they would like to work with. Others have no idea at all. Both are perfectly fine, but be sure to keep an open mind and learn as much as you can about a variety of populations while you are in school. The career possibilities are endless in occupational therapy! The experience you gain in school and on your Fieldwork rotations will help you feel more confident and prepared to be an occupational therapist.
  • Get involved. Getting involved in professional organizations is a great way to stay current on trends in OT, meet experienced occupational therapists, and learn about a variety of practice areas. I recommend getting involved as early as possible, but it's never too late to get involved. Most schools have a Student OT Association (SOTA) and the groups and forums on OT Connections are a great way to connect with practitioners all over the country. State OT associations often look for volunteers at their annual conferences, as does AOTA, which can also be a cost-effective way to attend a conference.
Those are my tips for preparing for a career in occupational therapy. I'd love to hear yours! OTs, how did you prepare for your career in occupational therapy?

P.S. How to Become an OT and Tips for Applying to Graduate School

OT Student Corner is where I answer questions about the field of occupational therapy that I’ve received from students and prospective students. Have a question you’d like to see answered? Leave a comment below or send me an email at [AbbyPediatricOT {at} gmail {dot} com] and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming post!
For more OT Student Corner posts, click here.

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