OT or PT… Which One is Right for Your Career?

An outsider observing an occupational therapist (OT) and a physical therapist (PT) working side by side would likely be hard-pressed to understand the differences in these professionals. Both use similar methods for treating patients with similar disorders. They use similar tools, as well. In the first World War, these jobs were even classified under the title “reconstruction aides.” In the intervening years, the role has matured and be redefined into two distinct categories of healthcare rehabilitation.

If you’re considering following a path toward either of these careers, you will soon face a choice, which is right for you, OT or PT?

How OT and PT Are Similar

These healing professions are devoted to improving the physical function of a patient. They focus on helping patient’s function well despite illness, injury, or old age. The job requires a devotion to optimizing the quality of life and ability to live independently.

OT and PT workers devote themselves to patients of all ages. They may work with infants or toddlers to address play skills or with the elderly on improving range of motion. OT and PT clinicians can also develop exercise programs or mold custom orthopedic devices to help the patient improve.

The Differences Between OT and PT

PT professionals train heavily in body mechanics, range of motion, exercise, and strengthening the various systems of the body to improve them. They are experts in how the body moves, it’s limitations, and how to improve human physical function.

The key work in OT is “occupational.” Think of OT workers as being devoted to daily function, or the physical occupations humans engage in every day. For example, OT clinicians help patients with self-care and remaining independent. They can help the patient find new ways to stay mobile when doing normal daily activities. These workers are trained in physical exercise and mobility but also know an extensive amount about memory, problem-solving, social skills, keeping a routine, and more basic activities that we all need to exist independently in the world.

Which is Better for You?

Both PT and OT workers must receive a bachelor’s degree along with graduate education in the field. A PT must complete a Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT), which is a three-year program. An OT completes a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy or a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, both, which takes two to three years.

OT and PT providers can work in a variety of clinical settings, including:

  • Acute care hospitals
  • Inpatient or outpatient clinics
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools
  • Home health

Both types of workers will take classes in biology, physiology, and psychology, but also statistics. The PT role will require general chemistry and physics, but an OT career will require neuroscience classes, sociology, medical terminology, or even art.

Students in both types of programs will learn how to administer patient screenings, develop patient care plans, documentation, research, and the use of a variety of physical tools to conduct their work. After graduation, both of these talented healthcare workers must pass licensure and keep these credentials current during their careers.

Talk with MAS Medical to find out more about these roles and the kinds of job opportunities available to new OT and PT clinicians.


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