Therapist Careers in Healthcare

How Therapists Can Improve the Well Being of Patients

Therapists are professionals who work directly with people. The work of therapists is aimed at helping patients recover from or cope with physical or mental ailments. If becoming a therapist sounds appealing to you, it is helpful to know about the wide variety of therapy careers.

Therapy careers require a degree from an accredited program at a university, and some require graduate-level studies as well. Licensing typically requires passing an exam and completing supervised clinical work.

Physical Therapist

Phyical therapist working with patient at clinic
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Physical therapy is based on assessing a patient's motor function and prescribing exercises to help improve strength, coordination, and motor control.

Those who are recovering from surgery or who have been involved in an accident or trauma often need physical therapy to regain strength and prevent problems such as muscle atrophy (degeneration). Physical therapists also work with people who are living with nerve and muscle diseases or other conditions that weaken their physical condition, such as a stroke.

Occupational Therapist

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Occupational therapy is focused on improving a person's ability to perform basic life tasks necessary for independent living, such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, and dialing a phone. Occupational therapists take care of people who are recovering from strokes or traumatic brain injuries, as well as people who may have other cognitive conditions that limit their abilities to function fully. Becoming an occupational therapist requires a master's degree and licensing. 

Speech Therapist

speech therapist helping child
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Speech therapists, also known as speech-language pathologists (SLPs), are trained to help children and adults who have trouble speaking. Speech therapists may also make recommendations regarding chewing and swallowing, as these actions use many of the same muscles as those used for speech.

Speech therapists often work in schools to help kids who may be developmentally delayed or who have lisps or other speech impediments. They also work with adults who need help re-learning speech after a stroke or a traumatic brain injury.

Employment for speech therapists, who must have a master's degree, is expected to grow 27% from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is much faster than average for all occupations. 

Respiratory Therapist

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Respiratory therapy involves helping patients who have trouble breathing, either due to surgery, lung disease, an infection, or muscle weakness. Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, as most of the patients who need respiratory therapy are fairly ill and have difficulty breathing. Respiratory therapists use special devices, machines, or physiotherapy to help alleviate these breathing difficulties.

Respiratory therapy is one of the therapy careers that does not require a graduate degree. While some respiratory therapists have only an associate's degree, the job outlook is better for those who have at least a bachelor's degree (a four-year college degree).

Radiation Therapist

Woman Receiving Radiation Therapy/ Radiotherapy Treatments for Thoracic Cancer


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Radiation therapists work primarily with cancer patients, administering the radiation prescribed by oncologists.

Radiation therapy is another therapy career that requires only an associate's degree or bachelor's degree. The median pay is around $82,000 a year, and the job outlook is strong, with more than 9% growth projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2018 to 2028.

Massage Therapist

massage therapist working on a patient
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Massage therapy entails the use of touch to treat stress, muscle aches, and a variety of other problems.

Massage therapy does not require an advanced degree, and this career is unique in that many massage therapists are self-employed and contract their work out by appointment, which requires good business skills.

Some of the services provided by massage therapists are medically indicated and covered by health insurance, while some are considered a comfort, and clients pay for it out-of-pocket.

Dance Movement Therapist

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Dance therapy requires a master's degree and can be a good career fit for people who love the art of dance and the science of medicine. The salary ranges tremendously, as some dance therapists can only find work for a few hours per week, while few are employed full time. If you can become in high demand as a dance therapist, you may also be able to reach a high level of compensation.

Music Therapist

A music therapist and her pupil drum together


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Music therapy employs the power of music to influence both physical and mental health. It's often used to help people who have disabilities or an illness, but the healing benefits of music can be enjoyed by anyone and at any age, and some music therapists run programs for groups who do not have any illness.

Music therapists, who must complete an approved music therapy program, work in a number of different settings, from schools and hospitals to nursing homes and private practices.

Psychotherapists and Behavioral Therapists

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Psychotherapy is a type of therapy often employed by mental health professionals to help treat a variety of mental conditions, including depression and anxiety. 

A psychotherapist can be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker and may work with individuals, children, couples, groups, or families. Some psychotherapists specialize in areas such as addiction medicine or learning disabilities.

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  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Radiation Therapists. Updated September 4, 2019.

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