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Careers in Occupational Therapy

Careers in Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a health profession that focuses on helping individuals with mental or physical illness/disabilities to achieve the highest level of functioning and wellness possible in their daily lives. In other words occupational therapy is skilled treatment that helps individuals with disabilities, achieve independence in all facets of their lives. This includes performance of all daily normal activities in work, play, leisure etc. Occupational therapists (OT’s) work with those who have physically, mentally, developmentally, or emotionally disabling conditions. They help patients identify imbalances they may have in their lives and design activities to deal with them. This type of therapy is patient specific, involving recreational, creative or educational activities. The patient’s specific interests, his background, his previous experiences also form an integral part of treatment. OT’s area of work includes giving customized treatment programs for specific disabilities, evaluating home and work environments and giving recommendations for necessary adaptation, recommending adaptive equipment for permanent/temporary loss of function, such as wheel chairs, splints, aids for eating and dressing needed for the patient and training them in its use, assessing and recording the patients progress periodically and also giving guidance to family members and care givers how to care for the patient. Occupational therapists use various methods in the treatment of their patients to assist them in maximizing their potential in the categories of occupational performance areas and occupational performance components. The term occupational performance area refers to all activities of daily living, such as grooming, dressing, food preparation and eating, communication, and mobility; work activities, including home management, care of others, educational activities, and vocational activities; and play or leisure activities. The term occupational performance component refers to the functional abilities required to perform the tasks of daily living. These abilities include sensory motor, cognitive, and psychological components. A wide variety of people can benefit from occupational therapy, including those with
  • work-related injuries including lower back problems or repetitive stress injuries
  • limitations following a stroke or heart attack
  • arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or other serious chronic conditions
  • birth injuries, learning problems, or developmental disabilities
  • mental health or behavioral problems including Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress
  • problems with substance use or eating disorders
  • burns, spinal cord injuries, or amputations
  • broken bones or other injuries from falls, sports injuries, or accidents
  • vision or cognitive problems that threaten their ability to drive


Educational: Entry to the occupational therapy course is after 10+2 with PCM (physics, chemistry and biology). Some institutions may opt for an entrance examination and may select candidates on the basis of performance in the entrance test. Occupational Therapists undergo several years of schooling in Medical subjects, Psychology, and Occupational Therapy. Besides ongoing practices in clinical/ paraclinical subjects such as Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Microbiology/ Biochemistry, Medicine and Surgery (mainly diagnostics and not actual practice of Medicine and Surgery) in addition to Occupational Therapy interventions, therapists are needed to undergo at least 6 months of compulsory internship in various clinical setting, e.g. Orthopedics/ Rheumatology/ Hand Surgery, Neurology, Paediatrics, Burns/ Plastic Surgery, Geriatrics, Psychiatry, etc. The occupational therapist enters the field with a bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree. Occupational Therapists in India and around the world, usually enter practice with a Bachelor’s degree of 4 years. In order to become licensed, he or she must earn this degree from an accredited program, and must pass a national certification exam. In the U.S., while most Occupational therapists are already entering the profession with a Master’s degree, from 2007 onwards all colleges/ universities will be mandated to offer only Master’s level degrees as the entry-level qualification to practice Occupational Therapy. There are also programs in the US that train Occupational Therapists at the doctoral level at the entry level for the profession. Those who complete an Associate Degree or Certificate program in Occupational Therapy can become an Occupational therapy assistant (OTA) or aide to the Occupational Therapists. They get most of their training on the job. Personal Attributes:
  • An eye for detail
  • Service mentality
  • A scientific bent of mind, liking for machines and equipments
  • He /she also needs to be empathic towards the pain of the patients
  • He /she needs to have good communication skills and be able to build rapport with the patients to elicit better results
  • Ability to work hard
  • A logical bent of mind and honesty toward the profession
  • Team Spirit
  • Alertness of mind
  • Willing to work even at odd hours

Job Prospects and Career Options

Therapists are in high demand in the conventional medical and fitness arenas. OT’s work with the patients of various disorders who have orthopedic, neurological and psychological/psychiatric conditions. Therapists may practice privately and own their own clinics or work in conjunction with other medical specialties in polyclinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, special schools, psychiatric institutions, community mental health centers, adult daycare programs, sports teams, residential care facilities etc. They may also be involved in ergonomic consultations in industries/work places and architectural arenas for greater accessibility by the disabled. Career Options Occupational therapists may work exclusively with individuals in a particular age group, or with particular disability/disorder. To treat these problems, therapists choose activities that help people learn to cope with daily life. Activities include time management skills, homemaking, budgeting, shopping and use of public transportation. Schools: In schools, for example, they evaluate children’s abilities, recommend and provide therapy, modify classroom equipment, and in general, help children participate as fully as possible in school programs and activities. Adult day care programs/ Residential Care: Occupational therapy is also beneficial to the elderly population. Therapists help senior citizens lead more productive, active and independent lives through a variety of methods, including the use of adaptive equipment. Mental Health Care: Occupational therapists in mental health settings treat individual s who are mentally ill, mentally retarded, or emotionally disturbed. Ergonomic consultations: They may also work with individuals who are dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, eating disorders, or stress related disorders.


Junior occupational therapists may initially draw salaries ranging between Rs 8,500 and Rs 11,500 per month. However, with rank and experience, remuneration increases. In the private sector, salaries are a lot higher.