Careercast.com recently came out with its top jobs of 2014. (See the article here.) This year “occupational therapist” is ranked #9. So, we’re awesome, right? Hey, it’s hard not to pat yourself on the back for your career choice when you see how cool you are. However, when you look at their criteria for ranking jobs, how does OT truly measure up? Let’s take a gander into some of the factors they looked at.
Before we dive in, I should establish that yes, I do love my field. Have I ever had a second thought about my career choice? Ooooh yeah baby. And dare I say, who hasn’t? They didn’t get that phrase “the grass is always greener…” from people that were always content with what was in front of them. Regardless, there are a few things I get to say from my position that others might not. So here I go.
From my research, there appear to be 4 “key factors” in Careercast.com’s rating of jobs. I’ll break them down for you.
I suppose this means work environment. Now, I’m only taking pediatric occupational therapy into consideration here, so don’t jump on me in regards to other settings.
For the most part, if you are working in an adorable little private therapy gym as an outpatient or inpatient therapist, you’ve got it great! Aside from sweating your face off when you are in an A/C battle with the speech therapists in your office, it’s a pretty comfortable environment. I can even get over the fact that I lift a few heavy kids and a bunch of 25 pound swings over my head about 50 times a day. So yeah, it’s pretty cushy.
What about therapists that work in the homes of children? I have been in some pretty scary environments doing this job.
I had moments when I had to accept the fact that my car may or may not still be outside the house when I was done with the session. I had people attempt to siphon gas from my car. I got to the point where I really tried to stop freaking out when giant bugs or spiders crawled across the room, or even when I would stand up to find actual grease stains on my scrubs from kneeling on the carpet. Or what about the poop on the floor? I’ll say that again. Poop. On the floor. Maybe those Career Cast rankers want to ride along on some of those adventures.
Also, don’t forget to fill any of these previously mentioned environments with children that might have severe behavioral issues (including but not limited to: spitting, kicking, pinching, scratching, and punching) I might spend an hour session with someone literally screaming in my ear for 60 minutes. Not to mention siblings that might not be properly supervised tearing apart the room.
But on the flip side, sometimes I have little kids cracking me up with their adorable-ness, or just saying sweet things like, “I love playing here!” Now thats pretty darn amazing. Maybe that tips the scales a little… or a lot.
This has to be a pretty big factor here, and I can’t blame anyone for looking at this aspect of a career closely. We all gotta pay our bills (and those nasty student loans). But the average salary they posted for an occupational therapist was $75,400. Where can I sign up for that job in my field?
Ok, since they are including all practice settings of occupational therapy, there are some people here that are weighing down the average. Typically, a pediatric OT makes about 30% or so less than in other settings. (I just guestimated that number, don’t hold me to it.) However, yes, you can make some pretty good money as a therapist. I even turned down (TURNED DOWN!) a job as a new grad in a nursing home for $80,000. I almost salivated at the offer. But why turn it down? For the most part, those jobs that pay really well come with their own price. Either the setting isn’t the greatest (This was a nursing home that was not well taken care of, and it showed), or the location itself isn’t the greatest. Anyone up for a pit stop in rural South Dakota? (No offense to SD, of course.)
So yes, even as a pediatric therapist I do feel like I make a decent salary. However, when I’m getting kicked or scratched on a sometimes daily basis, it might not quite feel like enough.
The job outlook for our profession is great. I usually get a call or email at least once a day from a recruiter looking to fill open positions. However, these jobs are pretty much never near where I actually want to work. If you have no commitments and want to travel around, you could very easily do that. Plus if it came down the the worst possible scenario, I know I could move somewhere and easily find a job.
Compare that outlook to my husband who spent 7 months unsuccessfully looking for a job in his field. Now that’s scary. But remember what I mentioned before, those jobs with the nicest paychecks usually have some sort of catch to them.
You also have to consider that with all the “great outlook” and “top job” postings that OT has received in the media, there has been a huge outpouring of new graduates. They are freaking everywhere! While the need continues to rise for OT services, I can’t help but feel that the tables will eventually turn. I’ve already had my look at a few very heavily saturated markets that were extremely difficult to get a job in. So yes there is availability, but it depends on your flexibility.
Oh goodness. Who was it that said occupational therapy was low stress? Let me at ‘em. Now I know stress has a lot of different meanings, and for this article, they mentioned different types including high risk situations and tough deadlines. I don’t know about my fellow OTs, but this job can be incredibly stressful at times.
I’ve got kids that are screaming, parents with various demands and requests that I need to juggle, a high productivity expectation from my boss that just never seems to happen, as well as deadlines for paperwork that influence insurance coverage and essentially if treatment will be continued. I am scheduled with back to back sessions without a break to even go to the bathroom, and yet I need to write several 4 page narrative evaluations so that parents can understand what in the world OT actually is, and hopefully so insurance might actually pay for it.
There is emotional stress for challenging patient and family situations, as well as physical stress of lifting, assisting, or transferring children all day. If you don’t leave completely exhausted at the end of the day, you probably did something wrong.
Am I saying that my job is as stressful as say, some wall street trader? No. All I’m saying is that there are a lot of hidden stressors that people take for granted or overlook.
And yes it is fair to say that among all of this stress, there is a lot of fun to be had. We play, we are creative, and we try to help people change their lives. It can be incredible, but you can’t avoid the whole package.
So what can I say? This job does have its incredible satisfactions of goals achieved. My colleague and I were talking one day, and we decided that there seems to be just enough of those little “wins” throughout the week to get you through. Even when someone just isn’t making progress, or if a parent doesn’t really care about services, there might be that one child that does something amazing that you taught them, and you just can’t beat that.
All venting aside, OT is absolutely a great career. Our world isn’t always rainbows and roses though. It’s sweat, occasional tears, and a whole lot of heart. I’d say we deserve to hang out on that top job list.