I believe from the bottom of my heart that school Occupational & Physical Therapists should NOT be Civil Service Employees. BUT, there are a LOT of very good things about taking a civil service position.
There are different ways to work as an OTP or PT in a school district. Work as a contract employee, directly for the district, or somewhere in between. Learn more about how to get directly hired here .
In the USA, many school OTs (including myself) are hired under the Civil Service System. Being hired from the Civil Service list DOES NOT mean that you’re automatically in the district’s Civil Service Union (although it did for me). Union placement is at the school district’s discretion.
As an occupational therapy advocate, I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that I
think know many school OTPs are not treated equally to other related service providers.
At my own district, I’ve advocated switching to the teacher’s union, because the pay scale for Civil Service employees is significantly less and not equal to other related service providers.
Unfortunately, once a “title” (Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist) is placed into a union, it is next to impossible to get that title out.
I’m working hard to advocate for change, but I’m still grateful for what I have. As I go through treatment, I’m really focused on staying positive.
So I thought I’d share 5 benefits of taking a Civil Service school position.
5 Benefits of Taking a Civil Service School Position
1. State pensions. Working as a “government employee” entitles you to a nice pension when you retire. This can make a huge difference in your quality of life when you are older.
2. Health insurance. I am the primary health insurance holder for my family, and our medical, dental, and vision benefits are GREAT.
3. Salary. As opposed to a contract or per diem therapist, we know what we will be getting paid for the year. The COVID-19 pandemic did not affect my salary. I also have sick days and school vacations included in my salary schedule. When I was a contractor, I would have to balance my money very carefully in the months that included a week off—because that meant I only got paid for three weeks, not four. And I had to find another job for the summer, because I couldn’t go two months with no income.
4. Union membership. Again, I firmly believe that OTs and PTs should be included with the rest of the teachers and related service providers in the teacher’s union. But that doesn’t stop me from being grateful to be in a union position. This guarantees me certain protections that I would never have as a contract therapist.
5. Work-life Balance Perks. I lump these into one category—because they are the icing on the cake! Working as a civil service employee offers stability/job security (so you are less likely to face being downsized). Flexibility and time off (holidays, leaves, and vacation time) is a huge perk for individuals and families.
I am a fierce advocate for OTs and PTs, but I’m not blind to the many benefits I receive from being a civil service/salaried position with wonderful state benefits that impact my salary, and will impact my retirement income.