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Occupational Therapy

The Breakdown

Occupational therapists are unsung (and perhaps sometimes sung) heroes.  Working with individuals who have sustained injuries, illnesses or disabilities, these professionals expedite the recovery process and teach patients (and their families) how to better cope.  If you’re looking for a course of study that involves the sciences, social sciences and an altruistic bent then perhaps occupational therapy is for you!  

As an occupational therapy student, you’ll be subject to a combination of classroom, laboratory and fieldwork requirements.  You can expect your first few years to be laden with science classes – namely in biology, physiology and human development.  You are also likely to take several courses in psychology, communication disorders, rehabilitation counseling and physical therapy.  And, more specifically, you’ll learn how to evaluate and treat certain ailments and develop clinical reasoning skills.

It’s imperative we note that while you can certainly earn a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, in order to become eligible for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) examination you must earn a master’s degree as well.  Therefore, while this major is great starting point, it is not a means to an end.  Fortunately, a handful of schools do offer combined bachelor and master’s degree programs.  In these, students typically earn a bachelor of science in health sciences and a master of occupational therapy (MOT).

Occupational therapy requires both a scientific mind and a gentle hand.  Indeed, to be successful you’ll need great analytical and strong communication and people skills.  After all, you’ll ultimately be working with a number of individuals and cases.  Additionally, you’ll find a dash of patience will go a long way.  And you should be someone who can revel in even the smallest of triumphs. 


Nuts and Bolts

As an occupational therapy major, you’ll learn how to facilitate gains in mental and physical health and independence with classes such as: Anatomy and Physiology, Abnormal Psychology, The Brain: Mind, Body and Self, Therapeutic Use of Self, Neuroscience of Behavior, Health Promotion and Wellness, Statistics for Social Science, Practice Immersion: Physical Rehabilitation and Geriatrics, Assistive Technology, Ergonomics, Hand Rehabilitation and Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation.

Decisions, Decisions

Occupational therapy majors are interested in the health and well being of the human body.  Therefore, they also tend to enjoy studying physical therapy, biology, chemistry, psychology, social work, neuroscience, art therapy, music therapy, pre-pharmacy, health administration, biochemistry, pharmacology, pre-medicine and nutrition.

What's Next

As we alluded to above, in order to become a licensed, practicing occupational therapist you’ll need both a graduate degree and to pass the NBCOT exam.  Of course, once you check those off, you’ll find a number of career options available to you.  Indeed, occupational therapists can work in a variety of settings, from hospitals and nursing homes to school systems, rehabilitation centers and doctors’ offices.  The profession will also put you in contact with a variety of clients, from toddlers to the elderly.  Moreover, your work could involve anything from helping a stroke victim learn to regain balance to teaching an Alzheimer’s patient how to fully/better engage in daily life activities.  Fortunately, no matter what your work day will bring, you can be assured it will be both challenging and extremely rewarding.



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Don Munce