A career in occupational therapy as an occupational therapist (OT) can be very rewarding. Occupational therapy is a health profession offering direct treatment to people with various mental, physical, emotional, and social problems. Occupational therapists treat a wide range of patients ranging from infants to elderly people, and unlike other health professions, they can work in a variety of settings—patients’ homes, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, rehabilitation centers, patient’s workplaces, or their own physician offices. Most occupational therapists employ occupational therapy assistants and aides, and they may work days, nights, or weekends, part or full-time, or around their patients’ schedules.
Occupational Therapist Job Description
- Helping a patient who has been recently injured learn to get in and out of their wheelchair and vehicle
- Helping a patient who has suffered a brain injury learn coordination skills and comprehension skills
- Helping a patient learn to pay bills and balance a checkbook
- Helping a patient learn how to groom themselves, make meals, and clean their house
- Helping a patient learn social skills in various environments
- Helping a patient perform exercises to improve their overall health
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy services may include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers. Occupational therapy differs from other professions in the health industry in how therapists are taught to adapt to their patients. For example, physical therapists rarely make house calls, nor do they help patients learn how to survive in everyday life, whereas occupational therapists do.
Occupational Therapy Education and Licensure
In order to become an occupational therapist, one must attend an AOTA-accredited college or university. The AOTA, or American Occupational Therapy Association, regulates educational curricula and licensure for OTAs and OTs in all fifty States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Students who choose to go to an unaccredited school to earn their degree will not be eligible to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. Passing this exam is a requirement to continue your education in order to become an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists may go for their master’s or doctoral degree to become OTRs or OTDs.
All states require occupational therapists to be licensed in their state. All states require prospective licensed OTs to graduate from an AOTA-accredited school and pass the NBCOT exam. Each state has unique rules and regulations for licensing, so be sure to check your state’s requirements through your state’s licensing board or association.
Occupational Therapy Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job outlook for occupational therapists is excellent—it is one of the fastest growing industries in the healthcare field. The BLS estimates that employment opportunities and salaries will be increase by 33 percent over the next decade. The BLS report from May 2014 states that most occupational therapists worked full-time and made an average of $78,810. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,670, and the top 10 percent more than $112,950. The amount of money you make may depend on the state in which you work. To see a complete list of average salaries by state, visit our occupational therapy salary page.