Careers in Physical and Occupational Therapy

Many people require treatment for physical disabilities resulting from illness, diseases, disorders and amputations. These problems can lead to a loss of gross motor skills and other movements and physical functions. In such cases physical and occupational therapy is required to help patients with rehabilitation and restoration of skills.

What is Physical and Occupational Therapy?

Physical therapy is the treatment by which physical functions are restored and maintained through activities and techniques. Methods such as exercise and massage may be used during the course of treatment. Such therapy can improve movement, reduce pain and restore previously lost gross motor skills. Occupational therapy is the treatment for helping those with physical or mental impairments that hinder their daily self-care activities such as dressing, eating, drinking, bathing and more.

Those with a degree in physical or occupational therapy can find jobs as occupational therapist aides, occupational therapist assistants, occupational therapists, physical therapist assistants and physical therapists. Other roles include chiropractors and recreational therapists.

Physical and occupational therapists work in a variety of settings which include:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Mental health facilities

Depending on the level of education and experience, physical and occupational therapists can earn between 50,000 to 80,000 US dollars on average.

Physical and Occupational Therapy Degrees and Programs

Physical and occupational therapy degrees are focused on either of the two areas. While there is some area of overlap between the two, programs offered generally concentrate on either physical therapy or occupational therapy. The purpose of occupational therapy is to help individuals who may have lost certain abilities due to a physical impairment to re-acquire life skills and independence. Physical therapy on the other hand focuses mainly on the treatment and prevention of injuries. There are various programs on offer at all levels of education in both physical therapy and occupational therapy. You can find degrees at the certificate, Bachelor, Master and PhD levels in these subjects. Some related programs include:

  • Occupational Therapy Aide certificate
  • Master of Physical Therapy
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • Master of Science in Advanced Occupational Therapy

An Associate degree in the field of either physical therapy or occupational therapy can result in a career as an aide or an assistant to a licensed therapist. In order to practice physical or occupational therapy, you are required to have a graduate degree in the area and be licensed. Finding a degree at the Bachelor level in physical or occupational therapy may be difficult. More popular choices are degrees that offer a 5 to 6 year combined Bachelor and Master program in physical therapy or occupational therapy.

Specializations in Physical and Occupational Therapy

During the course of a physical or occupational therapy program, students learn about a number of subjects including anatomy, physiology, biology and sociology. Medical terminology is taught. Students also learn of intervention techniques and methods, as well as how to develop individualized programs. Physical therapy programs teach of biomechanics and physical therapy diagnostics. Human growth and development is also taught among other subjects.   

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:As I read about the physical and occupational therapy career, there was mention of the course on College Mathematics. What are the contents of this course?

A:It is common to get to read about the course on College Mathematics while reading on Physical and Occupational Therapy Career options. This course usually is worth 2 credits in total. It is designed to provide students with ample understanding of the major concepts of mathematics that are taught at college level. Students are also provided with ample hands on experience.

Q:Can you tell me how to become a physical therapist?

A:To become a physical therapist one needs at least a graduate degree but mostly physical therapists have doctorate degree in physical therapy. The course work is a combination of theoretical concepts and clinical rotations. The work involves helping patients with injuries or abnormalities to deal with their physical challenges through exercise and therapies, that can improve movement and mobility. To be in the practical field, one needs to clear the license exam.

Q:How to be a physical therapist?

A:To become a physical therapist, you need a specialized degree in the two primary areas of study in this field: physical therapy and occupational therapy. While physical therapy deals with treating and preventing physical ailments, occupational therapy helps rehabilitate physically impaired individuals. To enter this field, you need to pursue degree courses in this field. The various programs offered at all levels of education in both physical therapy and occupational therapy are: Occupational Therapy Aide certificate, Master of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Master of Science in Advanced Occupational Therapy.

Q:Can you give information regarding physical therapist job outlook?

A:Physical therapists are trained professionals who help people facing physical movement problems with therapies that can improve their condition or movement. There is a demand for such experts in hospitals, clinics and health care industry. It can be said that the physical therapist job outlook seems promising and this profession is expected to see growth.

Q:Can you give me an idea about physical therapy job outlook?

A:Physical therapists can look forward towards having impressive job prospects in the health care industry. They play an important part in the rehabilitation of those who are physically challenged due to an illness, injury or developmental problem. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is predicted to grow increasing job opportunities.

Q:What degree should I have at least for careers in physical and occupational therapy?

A:To qualify for the job of a physical therapist or an occupational therapist, you must have at least a masters or doctorate degree. A bachelor degree will qualify you for an assistant-level or entry-level job in the field. You will also have to acquire a license and complete the minimum training requirements in your state. Take a look at our page for more detail.

Q:Where can occupational therapists work?

A:Occupational therapists help patients in the restoration and rehabilitation of their physical or mental impairments. As such, they are required to work in a variety of settings which include hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, clinics, schools and universities, mental health facilities, workplaces, community centers and clinics. Many occupational therapists also have private practice clinics where they may provide services or treat patients in their homes.

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