North Central College is adding a Master of Occupational Therapy degree to its academic programming beginning fall 2018. The profession of occupational therapy ranks sixth for most in-demand jobs in Chicago.
“The standards for occupational therapy education align with the mission and values of North Central College,” said Heidi Matthews, dean of North Central’s School of Education and Health Sciences. “The program will be grounded in the liberal arts, infused with leadership and ethics, emphasize effective communication, and require interprofessional education, while gaining real-world practical experience and therapeutic practices of occupational therapy.”
Matthews said students will learn from an experienced faculty who have practiced in a variety of settings. “We hope to develop dynamic, critical-thinking problem solvers and lifelong learners ready to engage in their communities as evidence-based, engaged occupational therapists,” she said.
The program will take 24 continuous months to complete and begins in the fall of each academic term with students finishing in August of the second year. Seventy percent of the classes in the Master of Occupational Therapy program will be taught in North Central College’s new 125,000-square-foot Science Center, and 30 percent of the courses in the program will be held online.
The profession of occupational therapy turned 100 years old this year. According to The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., more than 213,000 occupational therapy practitioners nationwide help people participate in “the things they want and need to do” through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, such as helping stroke survivors relearn how to dress and cook for themselves and working with people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, autism and other diseases and disabilities.
“Being an occupational therapist means working in a variety of settings and with all age groups,” said Michelle Sheperd, North Central’s program director for Occupational Therapy.
It also means that “no two days are exactly the same, activities vary daily, and you’re able to work with people with the goal of regaining their independence and returning home. A 96 year old woman came into a nursing home with the goal of returning home,” said Sheperd. “Many thought that goal was unattainable. As occupational therapists, we worked with her for six months. She did recover her strength and independence and was able to achieve her goal of going home.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 27 percent between 2014 and 2024. The profession ranks 23rd in the 100 Best Jobs and 17th in the Best Health Care Jobs, according to U.S. News & World Report.
For more information about the College’s Master of Occupational Therapy, visit https://www.northcentralcollege.edu/master-occupational-therapy.