Pediatric Therapist: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about the work responsibilities of a pediatric therapist. Find out what skills are necessary as well as salary and employment outlook data to determine if this is the right career choice.

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Career Definition

Pediatric therapists work to provide services for special needs children in home, outpatient, and in-patient clinical settings. Pediatric therapists may specialize in occupational therapy, physical therapy, or another specialty. Typical duties of a pediatric therapist include organizing, creating, and implementing occupational and physical therapy plans to promote the highest possible level of function following an accident, illness, or surgery. In addition, pediatric therapists use equipment, exercises, and activities; coordinate with other medical professionals; and work with family members.

How to Become a Pediatric Therapist

Required Education

Depending on the state and place of employment, the exact credential required to become a pediatric therapist will vary. Generally, a master's degree in field like occupational or physical therapy with a specialty in pediatrics is necessary to become a pediatric therapist. Coursework in a two-year, master's program includes theories of occupational and physical therapies, techniques of occupational and physical therapies, the practice of pediatric therapy, and research methods; once you've completed your master's, you'll need to pass a national examination to be certified in pediatric occupational or physical therapy.

Skills Required

Patience, flexibility and empathy will serve you well as a pediatric therapist. Since you'll be working with children, their parents, and often as part of a medical team, good communication skills and the ability to be a team player are also important.

Economic and Employment Outlook

The employment outlook for the broader fields of occupational and physical therapy are excellent, with employment growing 29% and 36%, respectively, from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The median earnings in May 2012 for occupational therapists were $75,400, and the median earnings for physical therapists were $79,860.

Alternative Careers

Physical Therapist (PT) Assistant

For those desiring a career in physical therapy who aren't interested in pursuing an advanced degree, becoming a physical therapist assistant might be a better fit. Physical therapist assistants discuss treatment options with a physical therapist and then proceed to help patients with the plan that may include massage therapy, exercise protocols and stretching. They also report progress and observations back to the PT and show patients how to use walkers and other mobility aids. To work as a PT assistant, an associate degree in the field is required, in addition to qualifying for a state license, except in Hawaii. Job opportunities for these assistants are predicted to increase by 41% from 2012-2022. In May of 2012, the BLS reported that the median yearly salary of physical therapist assistants was $52,160.

Registered Nurse

If providing medical care to children and individuals of all ages sounds like an interesting job, consider becoming a registered nurse. Nurses refer to instructions from doctors, dispense medications, assist with tests, explain procedures and diagnosis info to patients, observe data on medical monitors and other equipment, update medical records and comfort patients when necessary. Entering this profession requires one to obtain a nursing diploma, certificate or associate degree, and all programs include clinical instruction. Every state requires licensure of all registered nurses, which involves passing the corresponding National Council Licensure Examination. According to BLS projections, 19% growth is expected between 2012 and 2022, resulting in the creation of almost 527,000 new registered nurse positions. These nurses should expect to earn a median wage of $65,470, based on BLS numbers from 2012.

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