There are many benefits to becoming an occupational therapist. One of the most rewarding aspects of the job is helping people regain their independence and ability to participate in the activities they enjoy. As an occupational therapist, your role is to help people of all ages with a wide range of issues, from recovering from an injury to managing a chronic illness.
OTs are also experts in helping people adapt to changes in their lives, such as a disability. They use a variety of methods, such as therapy, counseling and education, to help people achieve their goals.
Another rewarding aspect of working as an occupational therapist is the opportunity to pursue a specialty. After a few years of general work, occupational therapists can choose to master a skill they’re passionate about and make it the sole focus of their work. Having an OT specialty is an excellent way to advance your career and stand out among the competition.
Most importantly, having an occupational therapy specialty allows your patients to receive the expert care they need and deserve.
Examples of Occupational Therapy Specialties for Maximum Career Growth
Pediatric occupational therapists help children with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges improve their skills so they can participate more fully in everyday activities. Pediatric OTs help children improve their strength, coordination and mobility while developing their thinking and problem-solving skills. A pediatric OT may also help children learn how to improve their interpersonal and social skills.
Gerontology occupational therapists help older adults maintain their independence and quality of life. OTs working in this field may help seniors with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing, or with more complex tasks, such as managing medications or using a wheelchair. They may also provide emotional support and guidance to caregivers.
Hand therapy occupational therapists work with patients who have experienced an injury or illness that has affected the use of their hands. They help patients regain strength, dexterity and range of motion in their hands. In addition to providing treatment, hand therapists also educate patients on how to protect their hands and prevent future injuries.
Driving and Community Mobility
Driving and community mobility occupational therapists help people with disabilities learn or improve their ability to drive a car or use other forms of community transportation. They may work with people who have physical disabilities, such as difficulty using their hands or legs, or people who have cognitive or intellectual disabilities.
Driving and community mobility occupational therapists may also work with people who have vision or hearing impairments. They may help people learn how to use public transportation, or to drive a car safely and independently.
Feeding, Eating and Swallowing
Feeding, eating and swallowing occupational therapists help people with disabilities or illnesses eat and drink. They may work with people who have difficulty swallowing, or those who need help to eat and drink independently. They may also work with people who have difficulty using their hands and patients who need help maintaining a healthy weight.
How to Become a Specialized Occupational Therapist
Before you can become certified in the specialty of your choice and support a particular patient population, you’ll need to work as a general occupational therapist. This is actually a good thing, as it allows you to get plenty of exposure to different patients and specialties so you can discover what truly sparks your interest.
Keep in mind, pursuing a specialty is optional. There are many occupational therapists without specialties who enjoy working with a diverse array of patients and engaging in various duties.
To specialize in the field of your choice, you’ll need to obtain proper certification, which usually requires a fixed number of hours of work experience and passing a certification exam.
Are You Interested in a Career in Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists typically enjoy good job security and earn a high salary. They can work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools and private clinics. If you’re thinking about becoming an occupational therapist, but you’re not sure if this career choice is right for you, consider becoming an occupational therapy assistant.
As an OT assistant, you’ll help patients improve their quality of life while working under the supervision of an experienced occupational therapist. Becoming an OT assistant doesn’t require years of extensive schooling and can be an excellent starting point in your healthcare career.
To learn more about the fully-accredited Occupational Therapy Assistant program as well as other healthcare programs from the St. Louis College of Health Careers, call 866-529-2070 or contact us online.