Occupational and physical therapists have many similarities. Both are healthcare professionals that work with patients of various ages to help them recover from injury or manage pain from a permanent disability faster and more effectively.
OTs and PTs have different goals and approaches to helping patients. Occupational therapists work to help patients become more independent in doing daily tasks. These patients are normally diagnosed with long-term disabilities that prevent or make it difficult to complete things without assistance. On the other hand, physical therapists focus on helping to reduce pain and rehabilitate a patient with chronic conditions or after an injury. Let’s take a further look at how OTs and PTs differ.
Occupational Therapist (OT)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines an Occupational Therapist as someone who “treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.” Their main goal is to empower patients to have more independence in their daily lives.
Who are their patients?
Occupational Therapists work with a variety of patients. Most often these patients exhibit:
- Sensory processing disorders
- Traumatic injuries to the brain or spinal cord
- Permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy
- Autism and other developmental disorders
- Down Syndrome
- Birth injuries or defects
- Mental or behavioral health problems
- Any other issues that impact their ability to perform daily tasks
What do OTs do?
Remember that OTs have a holistic approach to helping patients become as independent as they are capable of. Therefore, their responsibilities reflect that goal. Their tasks may include:
- Reviewing and evaluating a patient’s condition and needs
- Helps clients perform daily tasks, practice self-care, and advises on adaptive equipment
- Teaches basic tasks such as eating, bathing, getting dressed, etc.
- Assist clients in developing fine motor skills
- Records and assesses progress
- And much more
Where do OTs work?
There are many settings that Occupational Therapists can work. The most common places include schools, hospitals, retirement homes, or in-home healthcare.
What’s the outlook and how much do OTs make?
The OT field is rapidly growing as they become an essential part of patient treatment. This is especially true for patients with Alzheimer’s, cerebral palsy, autism, or those who have lost limbs. From 2021 to 2031 job openings are projected to grow by 14%, which is much faster than other occupations. In 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an occupational therapist was $85,570.
How do you become an OT?
To become an OT, you need to earn a master’s degree at minimum, although some get a doctorate. While in undergraduate studies, many students will choose a major related to occupational therapy, such as rehabilitation science, biology, or other sciences. Concordia University Wisconsin is proud to offer both a master’s and a doctorate in OT program. Check out our blog to learn all about occupational therapy at CUW.
Physical Therapist (PT)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a Physical Therapist as someone who “helps injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain. They are often an important part of preventive care, rehabilitation, and treatment for patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.” PTs are experts in movement and specifically help to treat the patient’s impairment. Their main goal is to reduce pain, rehabilitate, and prevent disability.
Who are their patients?
Similar to OTs, physical therapists may see a wide variety of patients, but this can vary depending on their specialty. There are many types of PT specializations to choose from, such as:
- Orthopedic physical therapy: Treats injuries involving muscles, bones, ligaments, etc.
- Geriatric physical therapy: Works with older adults that have conditions that affect mobility such as arthritis.
- Neurological physical therapy: These PTs help patients with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation: Treatment in this specialization can improve cardiovascular endurance and stamina.
- Pelvic floor rehabilitation: Helps treat conditions that affect the pelvic floor, such as incontinence or pain.
What do PTs do?
The main goal of a PT is to regulate and manage the pain of patients. Although their duties may vary depending on their area of specialization. Responsibilities may include:
- Listening to patient concerns and needs
- Diagnosing patients to determine function level
- Designing an individual care plan based on observations and goals
- Use exercises and stretches to ease patient pain and prevent further injury
- Evaluate progress and make adjustments as needed
Where do PTs work?
Physical Therapists can work in many settings, which can differ based on specialty. Common places include sports and fitness facilities, workplaces, retirement homes, schools, hospitals, and outpatient clinics.
What’s the outlook and how much do PTs make?
The physical therapy field is rapidly growing and is a main source of pain management and relief for patients. From 2021 to 2031 job openings are projected to grow by 17%, which is much faster than other occupations. In 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a physical therapist was $95,620.
How do you become a PT?
To become a PT you need to receive a doctorate in physical therapy. While in undergraduate studies, many students will choose a major related to physical therapy, such as rehabilitation science, kinesiology, or other sciences. Concordia University Wisconsin is proud to offer a doctorate in PT program. Check out our blog to learn about the PT program at CUW.
Which should you choose?
Ultimately, whichever path you choose it should align with your values and goals. You should consider what type of goal you want to help patients work towards and who your patients are. No matter what you settle on Concordia is here to help. If you’re interested in OT or PT you can learn more below.