Occupational Therapy Programs: Find Top Occupational Therapy Schools

The most challenging part of an illness or injury is often rehabilitation. Of course, surgery is potentially dangerous and is painful, but it is over quickly. Rehabilitation, on the other hand, can last for months or even longer. Being bedridden for a long time can cause muscles to atrophy and bones to weaken. Some functions are even lost completely after a serious illness or injury. Occupational therapists are the medical professionals that help people in recovery relearn the skills that allow them to function in their daily lives. Whether that means remembering an address or getting dressed in the morning, occupational therapists give patients strategies to strengthen physical traits and mental processes. They do this by learning the proper skills at occupational therapy programs.

Not all occupational therapy programs are the same. What is true of all of them is that they must be accredited so that graduates can qualify to sit for national board exams. Occupational therapists may not legally practice their trade without passing the exam and being certified. Finding an accredited program is a necessary first step. There are mostly masterís degree programs that fit this criterion, but there are several bachelorsí programs and many doctoral programs for occupational therapists. Accreditation means that an institutionís curriculum, facilities, and faculty have been strenuously examined. It means that a school teaches the specific knowledge that peers in the occupational therapy community consider essential and current. Accreditation also means that a schoolís graduates go on to get hired by hospitals and achieve success in their careers. The requirements for occupational therapist assistants and aides are less stringent and the degree programs are shorter. In addition, occupational therapist aides and assistants do not need to pass a board exam.

Another factor to consider is the opportunity a school gives to individualize a program. Some occupational therapy programs offer the chance to specialize. Many occupational therapists work solely with pediatric patients. Many young patients need occupational therapy to learn skills that other children manage with ease. This may not be because of illness or trauma, but might be the result of a genetic or environmental reason. Children require different skills, knowledge, and techniques to treat effectively. Communicating with them is different and their physiologies are different. The ability to take courses in pediatric occupational therapy would be a determining factor for someone looking toward that career track. Other people specialize in geriatric care. The United States has an aging population, meaning that job growth in this area can be expected to grow as long as this demographic trend persists. The elderly often need occupational therapy on a regular basis for chronic conditions and diminishing physical and mental skills. This specialty requires unique knowledge and techniques. There are also opportunities in other specialties, such as ergonomics or vision therapy.

Another way to research top schools is through their rankings in business publications. To create these rankings, journalists compile statistics and interview stakeholder to compare schools. Statistics include facts like the number of alumni employed a year after graduation. They evaluate the academic accomplishments in incoming classes as well as salaries earned by graduates. Interviews cover alumni satisfaction, the histories of the faculty, and even interviews with competitors. The comprehensiveness of these studies means they are fairly reliable. Furthermore, rankings are read and respected by employers. The reputation of an occupational therapy program helps its graduates get hired, plain and simple. Graduating from a top-three schools is not going to hurt a candidateís chances of gaining employment.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014