Here at OT Unfiltered, we wanted to make a statement about the raw, real and honest topics that we felt were never discussed and never honestly addressed when we we're just entering the field. So today, we are going to do exactly that and really dive deep into why you want to be an OT.
We see a lot of posts asking if the profession of occupational therapy is really worth the monetary payout, or the immense amount of student debt. And the answer to that truly depends on what you want to get out of this profession.
I urge you to really assess why you want to be a therapist. Because honestly, if there is no passion behind this answer I encourage you to explore other options as well.
Why is OT so damn expensive? A question we have all thought at some point in time. In between tuition, school materials, work materials, therapy equipment, therapy attire, scrubs, CEUs, professional development, NBCOT fee, state license fee or just the recertification fee? Like seriously?! Help a sista or a mista out and give us a financial break. No doubt it is expensive. And sadly to say, tuition these days costs about 50-100k to complete a grad program unless you get into a state school and score big time with lower tuition fees. Unfortunately, our world is greedy and everything costs money. Because of that, small businesses and larger businesses are also just trying to make it. I have learned to shift my thought process on this, because it used to really rub me the wrong way that I felt like I was being robbed in a field where I just wanted to help people. Like anything, what you put in is what you get out. What you nourish, depends on what flourishes. Just like the food we put in our bodies, or the information we feed our brains. The time, the effort, the money is all an investment. Figuratively and literally speaking. I have changed my perspective to look at my hefty financial input as an investment to my career, my self satisfaction to be in a field where I feel that I have a purpose and I get to be the best therapist I know how to be. Is it worth it? I don't know, is it? Only you can answer that question for yourself. It depends on what you are looking for in a job, in a career. Are you looking to make a lot of money? Are you looking to be in a field that is rewarding? Are you looking to make a difference? That answer is subjective to YOU and your goals and your "why".
Will you be a millionaire as an OT? Most likely no. Will you be a thousandaire? Yes! Your salary can vary on many different aspects. What state you live in, the setting you are in, accessibility, population etc. Some settings pay more than others. Some settings are also much more physically demanding than others. Yet some are more mentally demanding than others. All things to consider. We've noticed in recent days that OTs are starting to get paid less and less in many outpatient settings. This is quite upsetting due to the fact we just went through a very expensive graduate program and deserve to be paid our worth. I think this is an important concept to be mindful of and know a solid base number that is worth your time, your education and your value. Stand firm on what you are worth, the more we cave as a profession just to settle for a job, the more we are lowering our standards as a profession. If money is your sole profession to enter this field, this most likely isn't the field for you. It costs a lot to get into the field and may take some time to repay all your debts. And to be honest, it may never seem like enough money.
One thing I love about occupational therapy that I think we do a really good job of emphasizing, are ABILITIES. Saying it one more time for the people in the back... A-B-I-L-I-T-I-E-S. We look at what our patients and clients are able to do and we work with that. We challenge that to increase abilities. Whether that means providing adaptive strategies, adaptive techniques, adaptive equipment, strengthening or educating. We start with a functional baseline of what they are able to do and we build off that. We don't focus on disabilities.
The other thing that I think is quite unique to occupational therapy is the versatility of areas of focus and settings you can work in. A rehab OT is totally different from a mental health OT. I think there is a niche for everyone, it's just a matter of finding which one suits you best. This can also be a con, from an educational standpoint. We get 2-3 years of didactic school work and fieldwork combined. Most programs do not provide real life experience in each setting. You typically get exposure to a couple. If you get them all, you are at and advantage since you get to dabble and see which might suit you best in real time experience. It's good to try and get volunteer experience in areas that you may have interest in and try to get fieldwork placements in a setting that you can see yourself working in.
As I ask you to reflect and assess what is your why, I'll share a raw reasoning behind mine.
My why: I was a Kinesiology major with an emphasis in Sports Psychology. I loved the medical profession and knew that I wanted to do something sports medicine related. I shortly realized that Kinesiology majors were difficult to get a job with on its own. So I started looking into other secondary degrees to continue my education. Call it fate, call it luck, I had met a girl in my summer school class who dreamt about going to USC for occupational therapy. I had never even heard of occupational therapy. I remember looking into it and being like sure, that sounds pretty good, sounds applicable. The more I started to research it, the stars seemed to align perfectly with pre-requisists and my major was the PERFECT major for an OT program. I had all the classes needed to apply except for one Human Development class. I had started to get all my volunteer hours shortly after, started creating my application portal, submitting applications and was a waiting game. In the mean time, I started to really second guess if this was what I really wanted to do as a career. I had always also wanted to be an event planner. CSULB had a great certificate program and that just sounded like so much more fun to me. I always loved to throw events, do decor and I knew I could make any vision come to life. I started to second guess OT more and more. Then Oct 1, 2017 happened. I attended a concert called Route 91 in Las Vegas. Little did I know, that night would change my life forever. Bullets rained from the sky that night, I saw things I can't unsee, my friend got shot, and I will never forget sitting on the floor of an small airport off the strip holding on of my friend as she hysterically cried because we were unable to locate her boyfriend. All in all, that night I was BLESSED. I get to live a life that 58 people that night didn't. I was given an opportunity to walk out of that arena, and that night I knew that I needed to work in a profession that brought my life meaning and purpose. And I get to do exactly that. I work in a field that allows people to engage in meaningful and purposeful activities.
And I think that same way as some of my patients. Ironically I have some of my deepest thinking opportunities in spin class. As I ride, I ride in the moment, I dedicate one hour a day for me, to give it my absolute best for all the people that don't get to or are unable to ride a bike right now. Im doing it for me, but I am also doing it for them. I am blessed for my ABILITIES and I get to assist others to enhance their abilities. OT can be a profession that is really really hard at times. There are days when I am so mentally defeated, so frustrated, my back hurts, my feet hurt but at the end of the day, I know that I am exactly where I am meant to be. Once you figure out your why, it will become full circle. It may not be the field for you, and I think that is why its so important to really think about what you want to get out of this profession.
Why Not OT?.