USA Career Guide-Occupational Therapists

Education Required to be Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists need a master’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy program. Admission to occupational therapy programs generally requires a bachelor’s degree and specific coursework, including biology and physiology. Many programs also require applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational therapy setting.

Master’s programs generally take 2 years to complete; doctoral programs take longer. Some schools offer a dual degree program in which the student earns a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in 5 years. Part-time programs that offer courses on nights and weekends are also available. Both master’s and doctoral programs require several months of supervised fieldwork, in which prospective occupational therapists gain real-world experience.

Licenses and Certification

Certification is voluntary, but many occupational therapists choose to become certified. They must pass the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT) exam to become certified. Certification allows therapists to use the title of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR).
All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensure requires a degree from an accredited educational program and passing the NBCOT certification exam. Other requirements, such as continuing education and fees, vary by state.

Pay of Occupational Therapists in the USA

The median annual wage of occupational therapists was $72,320 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,920, and the top 10 percent more than $102,520.
 Median annual wages of Occupational Therapists (May 2010)

Home health care services $79,570
Nursing care facilities 78,410
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists,
and audiologists 73,770
Hospitals; state, local, and private 72,450
Individual and family services 64,520
Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition

Job Prospects of Occupational Therapists

As the number of middle-aged and elderly individuals increases, the demand for therapeutic services, including occupational therapy, also multiplies. Currently, job growth within nearly all health care disciplines are projected to increase at a much faster rate than other field, but the job outlook for practitioners in OT in particular is expected to increase by 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Job opportunities are good for licensed occupational therapists in all setting, particularly in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings because the elderly receive most of their treatment in these settings. Occupational therapists with specialized knowledge in a treatment area also will have increased job prospects.

Industrial Overview of Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists held about 108,800 jobs in 2010. Forty-eight percent of occupational therapists worked in offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologist or hospitals. Others worked in schools, nursing homes, and home health services in 2010:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 27%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 21
Nursing care facilities 9
Home health care services 7
Individual and family services 3

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition
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