by Rachel Vilsack
Occupational therapists (OTs) help people who have mental, physical, or developmental disabilities. These disabilities are caused by birth defects, injuries, illnesses, or aging. Occupational therapists help people develop, recover, or maintain their living and work skills. The future job outlook for OTs is good in Minnesota and across the nation.
- Test and evaluate patients’ physical and mental abilities and analyze medical data to determine realistic rehabilitation goals for patients.
- Select activities that will help individuals learn work and life-management skills within limits of their mental and physical capabilities.
- Recommend changes in patients’ work or living environments, consistent with their needs and capabilities.
- Develop and participate in health promotion programs, group activities, or discussions to promote client health, facilitate social adjustment, alleviate stress, and prevent physical or mental disability.
- Consult with a rehabilitation team to select activity programs and coordinate occupational therapy with other therapeutic activities.
About half of all occupational therapists nationwide worked in offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologist or hospitals. Others worked in schools, nursing homes, and home health services. Because OTs work closely with people, they must have good communication, problem solving and time management skills.
Employment projections for OTs show a 26 percent growth, or 500 new jobs, between 2010 and 2020 in Minnesota. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of treatment for people with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy and autism. The need for occupational therapists will increase as the large baby-boom population ages and people remain active later in life.
Occupational therapists are required to have a master’s degree and must be licensed. Your undergraduate degree does not have to be in occupational therapy, but many OTs have a bachelor’s degree in biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, or anatomy. Several OT programs are available in Minnesota schools.