How to Begin a Professional Career as a Occupational Therapist
|Occupational Therapists: A Quick Look|
|Median Salary||$75,400 per annum|
|Entry-level education||Master’s degree|
|Primary employers||Medical clinics|
|Number of positions (U.S.)||113,200|
|Job Growth (2012-2022)||29% (Faster than national average)|
|New positions (2012-2022)||+32,800|
Occupational therapists work with patients to help them through injuries, disabilities, or illnesses that are affecting their everyday activities. Read more.
The median occupational therapy salary was $75,400 per year according to a 2012 study by the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read more.
Occupational therapists must possess a Master’s degree in occupational therapy. Occupational therapists must also become licensed within the state where they’re practicing. Discover How to Begin a Professional Occupational Therapist here. Read more.
See our listing of the top occupational therapy schools in the U.S.
The job outlook for occupational therapists is very good, with a projected job growth of 29% from 2012-2022. Read more.
Occupational Therapist Salary
How much do occupational therapists make? The median annual occupational therapist salary was $75,400 according to numbers taken by the BLS in May 2012. The highest earning 10% of occupational therapists earned $107,070 or more, while the lowest earning 10% earned $50,500 or less.
How To Become An Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists need at least a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) in order to practice. All states also require licensing for occupational therapists, though licensing requirements may vary from state to state. How long does it take to become an occupational therapist? It takes approximately 5-6 years on average. Students do not need to complete an undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy in order to enter the profession, but doing an undergrad degree in OT can shorten the length of the Master’s program by 1 year at most schools.
Accreditation for occupational therapy degrees is overseen by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), as well as the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Aspiring occupational therapists must earn a Master’s Degree or higher in Occupational Therapy in order to enter the profession. There are specific pre-requisite undergraduate course requirements that must be completed in order to be considered for admission to an MSOT graduate program. The typical MSOT program takes around 2 years to complete, although students with a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy may be able to complete the Master’s program in 1 year. Some schools also offer the bachelor’s and master’s degree as a hybrid degree program, allowing students to complete the entire program in 5 years as well. The MSOT program typically includes around 6 months of supervised fieldwork so that students can gain hands-on, practical experience working with patients.
After having earned their Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from an accredited institution, the candidate must pass the national certifying exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After passing the NBCOT exam, the candidate officially becomes an “Occupational Therapist Registered”, or OTR.
Obtaining the OTR designation qualifies the candidate to apply for licensure and practice – provided they meet any other state specific requirements. Most states require that Occupational Therapists be licensed, but some states require registration or certification by a sate agency instead.Most states also have similar requirements for licensing, but they're not always identical, so check with your state licensing body for confirmation of licensing requirements. You can find the contact information for each state's OT regulary body here. Typically, these are the minimum requirements for licensing:
- Possess a Master's degree or higher in occupational therapy from an accredited program.
- Complete the fieldwork requirements.
- Pass the NBCOT certification exam.
- Apply for state licensing and pay the licensing fee.
Occupational Therapist Job Description
What does an occupational therapist do? Occupational therapists are a crucial part of the rehabilitation process for individuals suffering from injuries or illnesses that affect their independence and quality of life. Occupational therapists spend the majority of their day working directly with patients, helping them work with specialized therapeutic equipment and working with them through rehabilitation activities, both physical and mental. Occupational therapists are responsible for the planning, monitoring, and documentation of the patient’s treatment, recovery, and return to everyday life. While most occupational therapists work within medical clinics, hospitals, and care facilities, some occupational therapists may also work with patients within their own homes, which may require driving to and from a patient’s residence. Around 31% of occupational therapists work part-time.
The day to day duties of an occupational therapist may include some of all of the following:
- Monitor patients as they complete daily tasks and perform rehabilatative exercises
- Review patients’ medical history and conduct interviews
- Evaluate a patient’s needs and condition based their clinical observations, interviews, and medical history
- Formulate a treatment plan for patients
- Help patients with exercises
- Work with and educate a patient’s family members to help them care for and better accommodate the patient
- Assign specialized equipment for patients (e.g. wheelchairs), and show patients how to utilize the equipment
- Monitor a patient’s progress, making adjustments to their treatment plan when necessary
Occupational therapists must be capable of lifting at least 25 lbs in order to perform their duties, which may sometimes require assisting patients physically, or moving around equipment.
Job positions for occupational therapists are expected to grow 29% from 2012-2022, from 113,200 to 146,000. This figure far exceeds the national average of growth for all occupations which is projected at 11%. In the coming years, occupational therapists will continue to have an important role in hospitals, helping individuals through treatment and the extensive recovery process. In addition, growth in the occupational therapy profession will be fueled by an aging population that will need assistance in order to remain active in their later years. Occupational therapists will not only assist senior citizens in maintaining their independence , but they’re an important part of the treatment and recovery process for elderly individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, osteoarthritis, and a host of other issues associated with old age. Additionally, advances in medical technology will increase the number of individuals surviving with critical health issues and many of these individuals will likely need extensive therapy, further increasing demand for occupational therapists in the coming decade.
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