National Avg. Salary

$81,690 More Salary Data →

Job Growth Rate

26.6% More Growth Data →

Recommended Degree

Bachelor's Programs & Degrees →

Attributes

  • Good Entry Level Salary
  • Growing Industry
  • Problem Solving
  • Working With People

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Occupational therapists are specialized physicians that work with patients who’ve suffered from motor or cognitive disabilities as the result of illness or injury. They help patients recover lost motor function, teach them to use assistance equipment, and help them perform day-to-day tasks with ease.

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Job Description

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in occupational therapist roles:

  • Review patient medical information in order to develop a plan for treatment
  • Encourage patients to perform movements and exercises that may help them recover from lost motor function
  • Teach patients how to use equipment that’s designed to help them fulfill day-to-day tasks
  • Teach caregivers how to set up patient homes in a way that enables them to function normally
  • Document patient progress and discuss outcomes and results with a patient’s other providers

A Day in the Life

When individuals suffer from cognitive or motor loss due to an accident, injury, illness, disease, or stroke, they are often sent to an occupational therapist. The occupational therapist—depending on the patient’s condition—performs a variety of tasks designed to help the patient overcome the loss of function. The occupational therapist reviews the patient’s medical history and discusses concerns with the patient in order to develop a treatment plan or other means of returning to a normal life.

In some cases, the loss of motor function may be able to be resolved. When this happens, the occupational therapist works with the patient several times a week to exercise the injured area in a way that may promote healing. They also teach patients how to perform exercises on their own time to expedite recovery. Often, the exercises are very difficult for the patient to perform, and they may be depressed because of the injury. The occupational therapist encourages the patient and provides him/her with advice and guidance to overcome feelings of depression and inadequacy.

When loss of function is not able to be healed, the occupational therapist may recommend equipment and devices designed to assist with tasks. For example, he/she may teach a patient who has lost the ability to speak to use a speaking device, may teach a stroke victim how to dress, or may teach disabled patients to operate a wheelchair, use the restroom, and transfer themselves from a wheelchair to bed. These devices all help the patient live a life as close to normal as possible after loss of normal function.

Typical Work Schedule

Most occupational therapist roles are full-time, though a few also work part-time. While some may work during normal office hours, many are required to work evenings and weekends to be available at times when patients can come in for visits.

Projected Job Growth

Demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow significantly in coming years as a result of the large, aging Baby Boomer population. Because seniors are more prone to issues like stroke and Alzheimer’s disease that impact living a normal life, occupational therapists will be in demand to help these individuals recover.

Typical Employers

Most occupational therapists work for hospitals. However, some operate and manage their own occupational therapy offices, some work in nursing homes, some work for home healthcare providers, and some work with disabled children in elementary, middle, and high schools.

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Occupational Therapist Salary Data

We've provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Annual Salary

Low Range

$66,040

Average

$81,690

High Range

$116,030

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$32/hr

Average

$39/hr

High Range

$56/hr

How do Occupational Therapist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Occupational Therapist's can make an average annual salary of $81,690, or $39 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $66,040 or $32 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #133 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

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How To Become

The first step in becoming an occupational therapist is earning a bachelor’s degree. Typically, aspiring occupational therapists pursue degrees in occupational therapy, though related degrees in nursing, biology, or physiology may be sufficient as well. Because the bulk of the education needed to work as an occupational therapist is learned in a graduate degree program, the bachelor’s degree you pursue is somewhat flexible. However, an occupational therapy bachelor’s degree is preferred when available.

After completing a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to then earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy. To gain admittance to a master’s degree program, you’ll first need to have a bachelor’s degree, and you may also need professional experience in the field. Professional experience can be earned as part of your bachelor’s degree program if you study occupational therapy, but individuals who pursue other majors can earn professional experience as well in an internship or aide position.

Master’s degree programs typically require 2-3 years of study. Once you’ve completed the program, you can pursue licensing in your state. All states required occupational therapists to be licensed in order to practice in the state. Licensing is provided through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and requires meeting certain prerequisites and passing an exam. Additionally, occupational therapists also commonly need to complete continuing education requirements to maintain licensure.


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Quick Summary

  • Recommended Min. Degree

    Bachelor's

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Occupational Therapist. a Bachelor's is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Occupational Therapist

  • 4.6%   Doctorate
  • 41.7%   Masters
  • 43.5%   Bachelors
  • 8%   Associates
  • 1.4%   College
  • 0.4%   High School
  • 0.3%   Less than High School

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Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

114,600

2024 Est. Jobs

145,100

Job Growth Rate

26.6%

Est. New Jobs

30,500

How does Occupational Therapist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 30,500 jobs for a total of 145,100 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 26.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #21 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

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What Companies Employ The Most Occupational Therapists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 27,600 13,800 14%
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 21,500 1,500 2%
Elementary and secondary schools; local 12,300 2,000 2%

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