Choosing Your Area of Practice
Many students come into the program expecting to practice in a specific area. And if you’re like 90% of most prospective occupational therapy students, it’d be a safe guess that you want to work in pediatrics. That was definitely me when I was applying to occupational therapy schools. I was so gung-ho about working with children; I did all my volunteer hours in a pediatric clinic and also worked with children with special needs. I was all-in on working with pediatrics…that is until I went to USC.
A misconception that some students have is that the program will train you to be an occupational therapists in a specific area of interest. However, that is not the case. USC, and all other occupational therapy programs, train you as a generalist. Thus, when you graduate, you are qualified to work in any area of occupational therapy. Here at USC, we have 3 practice immersions to assist students in developing mastery over the various domains of OT. Those immersions are adult rehabilitation, mental health, and pediatrics. It’s awesome because you get exposed to other areas of occupational therapy that you would have never thought you’d be interested in. In fact, the majority of students actually come into the program wanting to practice in one area, and end up loving something else by graduation!
While I thought I wanted to work in pediatrics when I started the program, today, I’m torn between adult rehabilitation and working in adolescent mental health. I enjoy the pace and the work that is done in physical rehabilitation, but I also enjoy the connections I made with clients during my fieldwork in adolescent mental health. It’s funny because I was so intimidated of both areas before entering the program, but now I can’t see myself doing anything else! Occupational therapy is such a wonderful and diverse profession that sometimes it’s hard to choose one area to work in. But on the flip-side, if you ever feel tired of working in one area, you can always mix it up and enter another area of practice!