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Occupational Therapy Salary and Info

Working with patients to see them recover, heal, and maintain meaningful activities is very satisfying and rewarding. The patients appreciate your efforts as they get back to doing what they do best. You can even develop a bond with them. The best career path that lets you achieve all this is that of an occupational therapist. Before pursuing this career, one thing you may be interested in is the occupational therapist's salary. So, how much do occupational therapists earn? This content highlights who occupational therapists are, the required education and certification, the occupational therapy salary and career path.

What Is an Occupational Therapist?


Occupational therapists (OT) are involved with the treatment of injured, disabled, or ill patients via the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help to get patients back to themselves by ensuring that they develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills they need for daily living and working. It’s an allied health profession. Occupational therapists typically work with people with disabilities, mental health issues, impairments, and injuries. They help the patients restore, sustain, and improve the highest level of independence after an injury, or any other condition, that may lead to an inability to perform daily tasks they once did.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, an OT is an individual who "helps people across the lifespan take part in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, injury rehabilitation, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes."

Occupational therapy services include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments, such as schools and the workplace, and making viable recommendations for adaptive equipment and training, and guiding and/or educating caregivers and the patient’s family on how to help their loved ones. OTs should have a holistic perspective by focusing on adapting to the environment that perfectly fits the person. OTs are an integral part of the therapy team.  

OTs are universally educated and trained professionals and for them to practice, they must be certified. To get a license, an OT typically must pass a licensing examination. OTs usually work closely with other medical practitioners, including those in social work, physical therapy, clinical psychology, audiology, medicine, and speech therapy.

Duties of Occupational Therapists

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Occupational therapist career entails performing the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Evaluating patients’ needs and condition
  • Reviewing patients' medical history, asking the patient questions, and making observations of how they do tasks
  • Identification of patient-specific goals and types of activities to be used to help achieve them
  • Developing a treatment plan for patients
  • Helping people with various disabilities perform diverse tasks, for example teaching a stroke victim how to dress
  • Assessing and recording the client’s activities and progress for making accurate assessments and evaluations, for billing, and for reporting to other members of the therapy team
  • Helping patients with chronic conditions do exercises that can help relieve pain
  • Demonstrating exercises that will help restore the patient’s optimal functioning, for example, stretching the joints for arthritis relief
  • Educating the patient's caregiver, family, and/or employer about how to best accommodate and care for the person
  • Evaluating a patient's home or workplace and, based on health needs, identify potential improvements, such as labeling kitchen cabinets for elderly clients with memory lapses
  • Recommending specialized equipment that will help the patient do tasks, such as eating aids and wheelchairs, and then instruct her or him on using that equipment

Qualities


OTs must be able to have important qualities, including:

  • Adaptability to determine best treatment plans and adaptive devices
  • Communication skills since they interact with patients and other medical practitioners as part of the therapy team
  • Interpersonal skills to earn trust and respect of patients, caregivers, and the patient’s family
  • Compassion, as OTs should have an unwavering desire to help people and make improvements in daily lives
  • Patience, as dealing with illnesses, injuries, and disabilities can be frustrating

Education and Certification

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To practice as an occupational therapist, you must first secure education along with the licenses, certifications, and registrations required for OTs.


Education Requirements for Occupational Therapists


Most OTs enter the profession with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. In 2017, there were about 200 occupational therapy programs that were accredited by the relevant body. The body that accredits such programs is the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, which is part of the American Occupational Therapy Association.


For you to be admitted to a graduate program in occupational therapy, you must first enroll in a bachelor’s degree program and specific coursework, including physiology and biology. Many occupational therapy programs also require the applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational therapy setting. You should contact the institution offering the program, express your interest, and ask about the general requirements you need to meet for you to be enrolled.


The master’s program takes about two to three years while the doctoral programs take approximately three and a half years. Some institutions offer dual-degree programs in which the student first earn a Bachelor’s degree and then a Master’s degree within five years. Other schools offer part-time programs on nights and weekends, which provide the much-needed convenience for those already working.


Both the master’s and doctoral programs require a 24-week period of supervised fieldwork, in which the prospective occupational therapist gains clinical experience. Further, doctoral programs require a 16-week capstone experience.


Certification


For you to practice, you must first secure the certification required. All states require OTs to be licensed. The requirements may vary from state to state, but the common denominator is that the candidates must pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). To sit for the examination, the candidate should have earned a degree from an accredited institution and that the program is also accredited. In addition, they should have completed all the fieldwork requirements.


After passing the NBCOT exam, they can now practice under the title “Occupational Therapist, Registered” (OTR). Continuing education classes are needed to maintain certification. The American Occupational Therapy Association also offers several board and specialty certifications for OTs who want to demonstrate specialized and advanced knowledge in specific areas of practice, such as low vision, mental health, or pediatrics.

Career Path and Salary

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Working Environment


Occupational therapists hold about 130,400 jobs. The largest employers are:

  • Home healthcare services: 8%
  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities): 9%
  • Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private: 10%
  • Hospitals (state, local, and private): 26%
  • Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists: 24%

OTs spend a lot of time on their feet while working with patients. They may also need to lift and move their patients to heavy equipment. Many OTs work in multiple facilities and must travel from one job to another. Since they work in different environments, the occupational therapists' salary is expected to vary.


Occupational Therapy Salary 


The median occupational therapist salary is $81,910. The lowest 10% of occupational therapists' salary is $54,200 while the highest 10% of occupational therapists' salary is $119,720. Base on top industries, the median wage is:

  • Elementary and secondary schools (state, local, and private): 71,480
  • Home healthcare services: $90,290
  • Hospitals (state, local, and private): 81,710
  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities): $90,380
  • Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists: $83,820

Job Outlook


Employment opportunities are forecasted to grow 21% over the next 10 years, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Occupational therapy will continue to be a vital part of treating individuals with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer's, autism, cerebral palsy, and those losing limbs. But this depends on whether the patient can pay for the services.


The need for OTs is expected to increase as the baby-boom generation ages, and people remain more active later in life. OTs can help the elderly and make their lives easier by recommending modifications in their home and strategies they can use to make daily activities easier. OTs will be needed in a variety of healthcare settings to treat patients with chronic conditions, for example, diabetes. Besides, demand will also stem from treating patients with autism. OTs will be needed in schools to help autistic children accomplish tasks.

Conclusion

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Occupational therapists help patients get back to form by ensuring that they develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills they need for daily living and working. Most times, the occupational therapy services include individualized evaluations, during which the patient or his/her family and the OT determine the person’s goals.

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The OTs are involved in customizing interventions to make major improvements in the person’s ability to perform day-to-day activities and reach their goals. They also make outcome evaluations to ensure that the set goals are met and make the necessary changes to the intervention plan.

The median occupational therapist salary is $81,910. The lowest 10% of occupational therapists make about $54,200 while the highest 10% make roughly $119,720. Employment opportunities are forecasted to grow 21% over the next 10 years.

 We hope that this article has adequately addressed what occupational therapists do, the required education and certification, their salary, and career path.

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