An occupational therapist is a medical professional who uses specialized treatment techniques to care for individuals who may be suffering from physical, mental, or developmental issues. Occupational therapy is thus a goal oriented regimen of care which aims to help the patient develop or recover their ability to adapt to, and maintain focus on, the environment around them. The ultimate goal of occupational therapy is to help the individual function in, and interact with, their environment and peers in as normal a fashion as possible.
National Average Occupational Therapist Salary
Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Upper: $54.30 $112,950
Median: $37.89 $78,810
Lower: $25.32 $52,670
States With Highest Salary
State Avg. Hourly Wage Avg. Annual Wage
- Nevada $51.80 $107,750
- California $43.14 $89,740
- New Jersey $43.13 $89,710
- Texas $43.12 $89,690
- District of Columbia $41.40 $86,110
*All statistical data is from the U.S. Department of Labor and is updated quarterly
During the normal course of their working day, an occupational therapist will perform many different tasks, some of which can be described as follows:
- Observe patients in the course of performing routine tasks.
- Interview patients and gauge their responses for accuracy.
- Once the preliminary observation and interview are complete, make a comprehensive review of the patient’s medical history
- Complete a professional evaluation of the patient’s specific mental and physical condition and resultant needs.
- Develop a plan of treatment plan for the patients. Within this plan, an occupational therapist will specify which activities are needed to assist in the course of treatment.
- Specify precisely what the short and long range goals of this treatment will be.
- Assist patients who are dealing with various disabilities in the performance of daily tasks. For example, an occupational therapist might engage a severely autistic individual in play activity designed to help them function in a low stress environment.
- Assist in developing a regimen of exercise which can help people with chronic physical conditions regain their mobility and relieve chronic pain (such as arthritis).
- Perform an on site evaluation of the home or work place of a patient, with the goal of eliminating hazards and improving their efficiency. For example, an occupational therapist may assist an elderly person with senility issues by labeling all of their kitchen drawers and cabinets.
- Instruct the family, spouse, or employer of the patient on effective ways to care for and interact with them.
- Make professional recommendations with regard to any special equipment (specific types of hearing aids, wheelchairs, etc.) that the patient may need.
- Give easy to understand instructions to the family, spouse, or employer of the patient on how to use the equipment that is recommended.
- Record the activities and progress of the course of treatment assigned to the patient for purposes of billing, as well as for the edification of other medical health care authorities.
As a licensed medical health care professional, an occupational therapist will work in a variety of environments, ranging from hospitals (whether local, state, or privately funded) to private, outpatient facilities operated by professionals in related fields such as speech therapy. Others will find occupational therapy jobs in such environments as nursing homes, schools, and the private homes of some individuals.
Occupational therapists will work at least 40 hours per week, and will spend a great deal of that time on their feet. The tasks they perform can be mildly engaging or grueling, depending on the mental and physical state of the patient they are caring for. Because hospitals tend to operate on a 24 hour basis, the hours of employment may be odd, and may include holidays and weekends.
How To Become An Occupational Therapist:
Occupational Therapy Schools And Certification:
The individual who is interested in becoming a certified professional occupational therapist will need to complete a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. As of 2014, there are nearly 150 occupational therapy schools which are fully endorsed by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Enrolling in one of these schools will give one the necessary course work and training to complete the required degree.
Every state will require a prospective occupational therapist to pass an examination which is administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). To qualify for this exam, the individual must have earned their Master’s in Occupational Therapy, as well as completed all of the required field work assigned to them. After passing the NBCOT exam and achieving certification, they must also take occasional supplemental classes to stay abreast of new developments in the field.
Who Should Become An Occupational Therapist?
Individuals seeking occupational therapy jobs will need to be people with a great deal of patience and compassion for the suffering and disability which their patients exhibit. Occupational therapists are people who can handle working long and odd hours. The ability to communicate both orally and in writing to patients, family members, spouses, employers, and other health care professionals is also a must.
How Much Does An Occupational Therapist Make?
As of 2014, the annual median occupational therapist salary was estimated at $78,810. The lowest 10 percent of reported incomes was averaged at $52,670, while the top 10 percent of earners took home an estimated $112,950. The state with the highest average salary is Nevada with an annual mean salary of $107,750.
Factors That Can Influence Salary:
The precise amount of an occupational therapist salary will vary depending on the location and who they are employed by. A privately owned hospital will normally pay more than a state or local hospital. An occupational therapist who works directly for a single patient may come to a private arrangement with that individual as to the salary they will receive.
There are a number of other avenues which a licensed occupational therapist can pursue as an alternative or supplementary career. For example, they may work freelance on behalf of a sports team, providing a regimen of care and exercise for injured athletes. They may also work as speech language pathologists at a local child care center or adult recovery facility. The number of other career choices available to a trained medical health care professional is ever expanding, and always rewarding.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of occupational therapy is expected to grow around 27% between 2014 – 2024. This is almost three times the predicted growth of 7% for all other careers during this same time frame.
This represents a great opportunity for any one looking for a stable career where there will be plentiful jobs available for years to come. High demand to fill positions can lead to increasing salaries due to limited qualified individuals.
Occupational Therapist Schools
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