Occupational therapists are health professionals who treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.
Occupational therapists work in hospitals, with audiologists, in offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and in schools, nursing homes, and home health services. They also work in mental health settings to help patients with mental illness, emotional problems, or developmental disabilities. Therapists may be required to lift and move patients or heavy equipment. To accommodate their patients' schedules, they may need to work nights or weekends. Many work in multiple facilities and must travel from one job to another.
The University of Iowa does not offer degree programs in occupational therapy, but does offer course work to help students prepare to enroll in occupational therapy programs elsewhere.
Occupational therapy is a graduate-level professional program that requires an undergraduate bachelor's degree and specific course work, including biology and physiology. Acceptance into these programs is usually competitive. Many programs require applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational setting. Admission requirements may change from year to year so research the requirements for the specific school(s) you are considering, to make sure you have the most current information.
Occupational therapists must have a master's degree in occupational therapy. About one-third of occupational therapy programs offer a combined bachelor's and master's degree option, and a few programs offer doctoral degrees. Both master's and doctoral programs require several months of supervised fieldwork, in which prospective occupational therapists gain real-world experience.
You'll be assigned an adviser from the Academic Advising Center who specializes in occupational therapy. Your adviser will help you plan your academic program and select courses each semester and will assist you as you complete pre-occupational therapy requirements and choose a major.
Visit the Academic Advising Center website for more information.
All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensure requires a degree from an accredited educational program and a passing score on the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT) certification exam.
Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase 33 percent by 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Occupational therapy will be an important part of treatment for our aging population as well as for people with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer's disease, cerebral palsy, autism, or the loss of a limb. Occupational therapists with specialized knowledge in a treatment area will have excellent job prospects.
To learn more about occupational therapy, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association website.