Career Definition for an Occupational Therapy Technician
Occupational therapy technicians work under the guidance of occupational therapists to provide patients with rehabilitative therapy to an improve patients' physical, mental, emotional or developmental impairments. Occupational therapy technicians work in inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation clinics, hospitals and, sometimes, patients' homes. Their duties include helping to carry out an occupational therapist's treatment plan, teaching patients basic movement and mobility techniques, monitoring patients and providing instruction.
|Education||High school diploma, two-year program from community college or vocational school|
|Job Skills||Communication, good physical shape, attention to detail, multitasking|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$57,870 for occupational therapy assistants|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||43% for occupational therapy assistants|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
To become an occupational therapy technician, you'll need your high school diploma and to complete an accredited program from a community college or vocational school. Programs typically last two years and may also require a number of hours of supervised fieldwork; coursework to prepare for a career in occupational therapy includes medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, physical disabilities, pediatrics and gerontology. Some states also require occupational therapy technicians to pass a licensing exam or meet other licensing requirements.
Occupational therapy technicians should communicate well both with their supervisors and patients; doing so is critical to ensure therapy plans are correctly followed and explained to patients. Being in good physical shape, paying careful attention to detail and being able to multitask will also serve you well in an occupational therapy career.
Employment and Economic Outlook
Employment for occupational therapy assistants, which includes occupational therapy technicians, is expected to grow 43% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Median annual earnings for occupational therapy assistants, including occupational therapy technicians, were $57,870 in 2015.
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For those wanting to be in charge of creating therapy treatment plans instead of just assisting, becoming an occupational therapist may be a good option. After meeting with the patient, occupational therapists decide what daily tasks need to be relearned or modified. With the help of therapy assistants, they design exercises and teach skills like eating, playing, moving around, cooking and adjusting to a disability in the workplace. Earning a master's or doctoral degree in occupational therapy is necessary to work in the field, and licensure by examination is required in all states. The BLS projected a 27% increase in job opportunities for occupational therapists between 2014 and 2024, growth mostly attributed to an aging population. In May of 2015, the BLS estimated the median annual salary for these professionals to be $80,150.
Physical Therapist Assistant
Performing somewhat similar duties to that of an occupational therapy technician, a physical therapist assistant helps a physical therapist carry out treatments that include exercises, stretching, massage and mobility strengthening activities. They also enter notes of progress and observations into medical reports. To qualify for employment, physical therapist assistants usually need to complete a related associate degree program, and all states except Hawaii also require assistants to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam. Job growth is expected to be strong in this field from 2014-2024, as predicted by the BLS, with over 31,000 new jobs created during this time. Physical therapist assistants earned a median income of $55,170, according to BLS figures from 2015.