Assess, plan, organize, and participate in rehabilitative programs that help restore vocational, homemaking, and daily living skills, as well as general independence, to disabled persons.
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Employment is expected to grow much faster than average. Job opportunities should be good, especially for occupational therapists treating the elderly.
Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase by 26 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing elderly population will drive growth in the demand for occupational therapy services. The demand for occupational therapists should continue to rise as a result of the increasing number of individuals with disabilities or limited function who require therapy services. Older persons have an increased incidence of heart attack and stroke, which will spur demand for therapeutic services. Growth in the population 75 years and older—an age group that suffers from high incidences of disabling conditions—also will increase demand for therapeutic services. In addition, medical advances now enable more patients with critical problems to survive—patients who ultimately may need extensive therapy. However, growth may be dampened by the impact of Federal legislation imposing limits on reimbursement for therapy services.
Hospitals will continue to employ a large number of occupational therapists to provide therapy services to acutely ill inpatients. Hospitals also will need occupational therapists to staff their outpatient rehabilitation programs.
Employment growth in schools will result from the expansion of the school-age population and the federally funded extension of services for disabled students. Therapists will be needed to help children with disabilities prepare to enter special education programs.
Job opportunities should be good for licensed occupational therapists in all settings, particularly in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings because the elderly receive most of their treatment in these settings. Occupational therapists with specialized knowledge in a treatment area also will have increased job prospects. Driver rehabilitation, training for the elderly, and ergonomic consulting are emerging practice areas for occupational therapy.
Occupational therapists held about 104,500 jobs in 2008. The largest number of occupational therapist jobs was in ambulatory healthcare services, which employed about 29 percent of occupational therapists. Other major employers were hospitals, offices of other health practitioners (including offices of occupational therapists), public and private educational services, and nursing care facilities. Some occupational therapists were employed by home healthcare services, outpatient care centers, offices of physicians, individual and family services, community care facilities for the elderly, and government agencies.
A small number of occupational therapists were self-employed in private practice. These practitioners treated clients referred by other health professionals. They also provided contract or consulting services to nursing care facilities, schools, adult day care programs, and home healthcare agencies.
Job Zone 5 - Extensive preparation
Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of medical school and up to an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to do their job.
At a minimum, a bachelor's degree is required for these occupations. However, many also require a graduate school degree such as a Master's, Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).
Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations require that you already have the necessary skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.
Lawyers, instrumental musicians, physicists, counseling psychologists, and surgeons.
These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising or managing the activities of others. Very advanced communication and organization skills are required.
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For more information on occupational therapy as a career, contact:
- American Occupational Therapy Association, 4720 Montgomery Lane, PO Box 31220, Bethesda, MD 20824-1220. Internet: http://www.aota.org
For information regarding the requirements to practice as an occupational therapist in schools, contact the appropriate occupational therapy regulatory agency for your State.
Sources: O*Net data version 12.0
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Department of Labor
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