Occupational Therapist

These days, it seems as though many occupations are experiencing a vast decrease in job opportunities for high school and college graduates alike. Fortunately, this is not the case for those seeking a degree in occupational therapy. Occupational therapists treat a variety of patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the use and practice of everyday activities. Some of these activities may include teaching an adult with disabilities how to dress themselves or a stroke victim how to use a computer program. Essentially, they will help these patients improve the skills needed for daily living and working. In addition to teaching patients these skills, occupational therapists will first establish a treatment plan to determine goals and how each goal will be accomplished for that patient. They may also work with the patient’s family or employer on how to accommodate the patient so that a progressive environment can be formed. The majority of occupational therapists work in offices with other therapy professionals and hospitals while the fewest work in nursing homes, home health care, schools, and their own private practices.

In order to become a licensed Occupational Therapist, prospective students must complete an accredited master’s or doctorate program in Occupational Therapy. Master’s degree programs typically take around two years to complete while doctoral programs may take three to four. Some universities may even offer a dual degree program where a combined bachelor and master’s degree may be earned in as little as five years. Supervised fieldwork is often required and will allow the occupational therapy student to gain hands-on experience in a professional setting. Upon graduation, licensure is required by every state in order to practice as an occupational therapist.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of occupational therapists in 2010 was $72,320. Home health care services were found to pay the highest salary to occupational therapist employees at an average of $79,570 per year. Nursing home facilities paid the second highest salary at $78,410, while individual and family service operations paid the least on average at $64,520 per year. Hospitals, employing the largest number of occupational therapists, paid an average of $72,450; which is comparable to the median salary in all settings for this occupation.

Occupational therapists will remain in high demand for those graduates who complete an accredited program. Employment of occupational therapists could grow as much as 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is considered to be much faster than the average for all occupations in the United States. This profession will continue to play an important role in the treatment for patients with various illnesses, injuries, and disabilities of all ages but particularly the older generation that will vastly expand in the years to come. As many as 36,000 occupational therapist jobs could be added between the time period of 2010 and 2020. Job opportunities should be good for these licensed professionals in all settings but particularly in acute hospital and rehabilitation operations where the majority of the elderly population is served.