At Georgia College, we have two well-trained preprofessional advisors available to assist students in schedule planning and in course selection. As the state of Georgia has only one public, accredited program in Occupational Therapy (at the Medical College of Georgia), and the admissions process is highly competitive, we urge our students to consult with a preprofessional advisor as early as possible in their training. A private university in Gainesville, GA, Brenau University, has an occupational therapy program as well.
Planning a Career in Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy is a health profession concerned with helping people whose lives have been disrupted by illness, physical injury, birth defects, aging, psychological, emotional, or developmental problems. It involves the therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase independent functions, enhance development and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of a task or of a client's environment to achieve maximum independence and enhance quality of life.
An occupational therapist may help a handicapped homemaker adapt to her home and learn to do routine housework and cooking from a wheelchair. On other occasion, the therapist might work with a stroke patient to help him learn to feed and bathe himself with one hand. The occupational therapist provides health care to clients of all ages, and the learning activity may be as basic as eating or drinking or as complex as operating a computer with modified control switches.
The first step toward becoming an occupational therapist is two years of preprofessional training at an accredited college or university. During these two years students take the basic Core Curriculum courses required of all students. Additionally, they take courses in psychology, sociology, physics, and art. Electives in public speaking, anatomy, and statistics are also recommended. Specific requirements are set by individual professional schools and may vary. However, all occupational therapy educational programs require a strong knowledge base in the biological and behavioral sciences.
While completing preprofessional requirements, students must spend some time as a volunteer or paid employee working with a professional occupational therapist.
Applying to Graduate School
Students must also apply to a professional program for two years of professional training; the preprofessional adviser can assist students with applications and provide information about application deadlines. Admission to occupational therapy programs is based on cumulative grade point average in the preprofessional courses, references, personal interviews, and general knowledge of the field. The degree granted is a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy.
Work Location and Salary
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, occupational therapy is among the fastest growing health care professions. There is employment for occupational therapists in hospitals, public and private schools, mental health treatment centers, physicians' offices, nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospices. Occupational therapists also work as consultants in schools and industry and a growing number are engaged in private practice.
Earning potential for occupational therapists is excellent. Salaries vary somewhat with setting and geographic location. The strong liberal arts curriculum at Georgia College provides students with critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills that ensure success in professional school.