History of occupational therapy in the United States
In the history of occupational therapy in the United States, occupational therapy began as a profession in the US in 1917 with the founding of the Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy (now, The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.). The creation of the society was impelled by a belief in the curative properties of human occupation (or everyday purposeful activity). It had previously been employed as part of the moral treatment movement in the large state-supported institutions for mental illness that were widespread in the US. Occupational therapy has played a prominent role in epidemics, providing treatment for patients with tuberculosis, polio, and HIV/AIDS. In 1975, following the enactment of legislation known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142), thousands of occupational therapists were employed by public schools to provide therapeutic services (known as related services) to enable children with disabilities to participate in regular school settings. Originally, therapists from approved training programs were certified, or registered by the American Occupational Therapy Association. A baccalaureate degree was required for certification beginning in the 1940s. Fifty years later, accredited programs were required to be at the Master's degree level. The 1990s saw the evolution of doctoral programs in occupational therapy. Educational programs in occupational therapy are now accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, and national certification is granted under the auspices of the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. More recently, a new discipline within occupational therapy has opened up known as occupational science. Many students in 5-year masters program now receive their undergraduate degree in this discipline and go on to receive a Master's degree in occupational therapy during their 5th year.
Occupational therapy practitioners are skilled professionals whose education includes the study of human growth and development with specific emphasis on the physical, emotional, psychological, sociocultural, cognitive and environmental components of illness and injury.
Education in the USA
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Until 2007, registered occupational therapists (OTRs) practicing in the field needed only a bachelor of science degree in occupational therapy. However, since 2007, all occupational therapists have been required to enter the field with a master's (M.A., M.S., or MOT) or professional doctoral degree (OTD). A certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) generally earns an associate degree.
A master’s degree or higher in occupational therapy is the minimum requirement for entry into the field. In 2012, the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) had accredited approximately 300 occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs in the US and its territories. Most schools have full-time programs, although a growing number are offering weekend or part-time programs as well. Coursework in occupational therapy programs include the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences as well as the application of occupational therapy theory and skills. Programs also require the completion of 6 months of supervised fieldwork.
People considering this profession should take high school courses in biology, chemistry, physics, health, art, and the social sciences. College admissions offices also look favorably on paid or volunteer experience in the health care field. Relevant undergraduate majors include biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, liberal arts, and anatomy.
Upon successful completion of at least two supervised clinical internships (fieldwork), graduates must pass a national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Occupational therapy is regulated in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Regulation varies from licensure (the strongest form of regulation) to title protection or trademark law (the weakest form of regulation).
2013 US Salary
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics the best 10 percent in this profession made $109, 380, the bottom 10 percent made $51, 310, and the median salary was around $76,940. Occupational therapists that work for home health care services are generally compensated very well, as are the OTs that work in the metropolitan areas of Las Vegas; Laredo, Texas; and Spartanburg, South Carolina.