That said, it’s crucial to develop adequate skills and experience before you step into the real world. One way to do this is through an occupational therapy internship, which gives you a glimpse into how real professionals work and care for their patients.
If you’re interested in becoming an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant, consider taking an internship before you start working. Not familiar with how it works? Here’s a guide with all the information you need to find the perfect internship opportunity.
What is an Occupational Therapy Internship?
Occupational therapy (OT) internships are short-term opportunities that give you hands-on experience and expose you to a real clinical setting to prepare you for your career. These usually involve working in a clinic, hospital, or rehabilitation center alongside other professionals to deepen your knowledge and build valuable skills.
One of the biggest benefits of taking an OT internship is the opportunity to shadow qualified practitioners who have plenty of experience in the field. As a shadower, you’re essentially an observer who gets a “behind-the-scenes” look at what it’s like to be an OT or OT assistant. In addition, you get to see how they work daily and interact with other people in the facility.
OT internships generally cover specific practice areas, such as gerontology, pediatrics, physical rehabilitation, mental health, etc. So, naturally, it’ll be best to find an internship that aligns with the field of occupational therapy you plan The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment for occupational therapists to grow by 17% from 2020 to 2030. This number is much higher than the outlook of most other occupations, which hints at a promising career for anyone planning to enter the field to specialize in. This way, you get relevant experience that will come in handy when you enter the workforce.
Your exact tasks as an OT intern will depend on the facility you work in and the practice areas covered in your learning plan. However, here are some general responsibilities you can expect to have in your internship:
- Shadow an OT in their patient consultations and meetings
- Observe professional OTs in providing specialized treatments
- Help assess patients’ conditions using proper procedures and tools
- Assist in developing treatment plans
- Participate in educational sessions (lectures, workshops, and others)
- Perform clerical duties
The length of your internship may vary per program, but those in medical or rehabilitation facilities usually run around 10 to 12 weeks. Of course, you also might find some that are much shorter, especially for internships held abroad. As for working hours, most OT internships are full-time commitments of eight hours a day.
Most OT internships need you to be enrolled in an accredited OT or OT assistant program, but some opportunities may allow you to apply even as an undergraduate in a relevant major. Generally, this is the only main requirement needed to be eligible. But to give you a better idea of what you need, here are common qualities OT interns should have:
- Knowledge of OT treatments and interventions
- Good communication skills
- Ability to make sound evaluations
- Desire to help patients
When is the best time to get an OT internship?
It’s best to get an OT internship while you’re still finishing your program. Once you start your search, you’ll notice that most internships are really designed for students since some may be required to get fieldwork experience to graduate.
That said, there’s no exact time when you should get an internship, but generally, it’s best to do this if you already have foundational knowledge in OT. This way, you can use the internship as an avenue to apply what you’ve learned to help actual patients.
How do I get experience in occupational therapy?
OT internships are one of the best ways to gain experience in the field, especially if you’re still finishing up your education. Even before you get your license, it’s important to start immersing yourself in the work environment to prepare for your career. Learning all the procedures and treatments in the classroom is one thing, but applying them in a real-life setting is another.
Aside from an internship, here are other ways to get hands-on experience in OT:
- Volunteer in health clinics or organizations
- Participate in OT-related workshops
- Join international programs to learn OT in a cross-cultural setting
- Look for service projects geared toward health concerns
Where to Find Occupational Therapy Internships
There are many places to find occupational therapy internships. In fact, you don’t need to limit yourself to your area as you can also find opportunities for placements abroad. To give you a head start in your search, here are some options you can explore and consider.
Mayo Clinic: Occupational Therapy Internship
One of the first places you can check for internships would be medical centers and healthcare facilities. For example, Mayo Clinic offers a 12-week OT internship in various states like Minnesota and Arizona to help you fulfill your program requirements. If you’re interested, you can reach out to your education coordinator to help you arrange your application. Note that this internship is only open to students who are currently enrolled in an accredited OT program.
Since this internship is done in partnership with accredited colleges, it’s highly convenient and easy to access. You can easily coordinate with your school on the specifics. Another advantage is the internship doesn’t come with any fees. Your enrollment in your program already counts as your tuition.
Unfortunately, Mayo Clinic doesn’t have financial aid options for this internship. This means you’ll need to shoulder costs like accommodations and transportation yourself. Some areas like Arizona also only accommodate small class sizes of about 10, making it harder to get accepted.
In terms of how the internship works, the setup may vary based on your area. Some may design it as a one-on-one model, where you work independently under a supervisor. But others may also create a more collaborative model, where you work alongside other interns. Regardless, you’ll have patient care responsibilities and gain clinical experience treating various OT needs like:
- Acute care
- General orthopedic needs
- Outpatient care
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Inpatient rehabilitation
Aside from hands-on work, you’ll also get different learning experiences. These could be through lectures, workshops, patient care rounds, case studies, and similar discussions. Schedule-wise, the program runs eight hours a day and five days a week.
HSS Rehabilitation: Internship Program
Aside from hospitals and clinics, rehabilitation centers are another great place to look at when searching for OT internships. The HSS Rehabilitation Internship program is one such example, which caters to students with minimal clinical experience. It’s a full-time unpaid internship that runs for around 10 weeks and is held in any of HSS Rehabilitation’s locations in New York and New Jersey.
As an intern for HSS Rehabilitation, you’ll get exposed to various aspects of OT, including clinical care, research, education, and administrative work. You’ll also participate in different projects and present results to your supervisor for feedback.
Therapy Abroad: Pre-Physical Therapy (PT) & Occupational Therapy (OT) Program in Thailand
To get a unique internship experience, consider taking yours abroad. Therapy Abroad’s two-week Bulgaria Pre-Occupational Therapy Program is designed for undergraduates and graduate students seeking to learn from professionals with different cultures. If you want to apply for the 2022 program, the available sessions are May 14 to 29 or June 11 to 26.
Naturally, having the opportunity to study abroad is one of the best parts of this internship. However, other than this, another huge advantage is its inclusivity. The program has no prerequisites. You’re eligible to apply as long as you’re enrolled in a relevant major.
On the flip side, however, the program only accepts 12 students per session. Thus, it’ll be best to apply early and refine your requirements to increase your chances of getting in. You’ll also need to consider the cost of tuition, which is $3,850 excluding international airfare.
Therapy Abroad’s PT and OT program involves partnerships with government organizations, NGOs, universities, clinics, and charities to provide therapy services for children. This cross-disciplinary approach allows you to be exposed to different working environments and a wide range of treatment methodologies.
It’s worth noting that the program is heavily focused on working with children, so it’s suitable for students interested in specializing in pediatrics-related OT fields. To help you set expectations, here are some key activities you will do in the program:
- Group reflections
- One-on-one time with PTs and OTs
- Observe professionals in different settings
- Design and facilitate a health camp using skill-based learning centers
On top of this, you get to explore the beautiful sights of Thailand during the evenings and weekends. You’ll be assisted every step of the way—from initial flight to accommodations to community visits—so you don’t need to worry about anything after finalizing your participation.
FAQs about Occupational Therapy as a Profession
Where can I shadow an OT?
Shadowing is an important requirement that most OT students have in their program. If you’re currently enrolled, you can ask your school for help in case they have partnerships with OT facilities. Otherwise, you can take initiative by reaching out to hospitals or nursing facilities and asking if you can volunteer to shadow an OT.
Is there a demand for OT?
Yes. In fact, the demand for OTs has been growing consistently, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting the employment growth to be higher than average in this profession. Aside from this, OTs ranked #11 in the 2022 Best Health Care Jobs list, indicating a high demand for these professionals.
Do occupational therapists make a lot of money?
Generally, OTs are known to make a very good income, with annual salaries ranging from $70,000 to $100,000 back in 2020. However, it’s important to note that your salary amount will depend on many factors, such as your location, specialty, and the type of facility you work in.
Do occupational therapists help with bathing?
OTs don’t directly bathe patients as a caregiver or home health aide would. Instead, OTs assist patients to do this on their own, so they can take better care of themselves.
Is occupational therapy harder than nursing?
Nursing and occupational therapy are equally challenging professions. Both involve providing patient care but in different ways, so the difficulty ultimately boils down to your capabilities and passion. Where nurses offer direct care for medical concerns, OTs work with patients to help them manage their pain and improve self-care.
Is it hard to get a job as an OT?
It can be hard to find a job as an OT if you’re a fresh graduate because employers want candidates with relevant experience. Given this, it’s important to be proactive and start building experience even before you graduate. One such way will be through internships.
Is becoming an OT worth it?
It’s definitely worth it. The high pay is undoubtedly attractive, but more than that is the sense of fulfillment that comes with the job. The thing about OT is that you’re not focused on healing a particular injury but instead treating a patient holistically so that they can perform their everyday tasks effectively. In doing this, you dramatically improve their quality of life.
How Therapy Abroad’s Internship Program Can Equip You to Become a Successful OT
If you’re seeking an occupational therapy internship abroad, Therapy Abroad’s OT program will be a perfect choice. Therapy Abroad offers award-winning programs to help students gain real-life experience in their chosen field. In today’s competitive job market, experience can be the determining factor that lands you a job—especially in healthcare professions like OT. Thus, an occupational therapy internship can do wonders for your career prospects.
For more information on Therapy Abroad, feel free to contact us at 949-423-6165.