Spotlight on Top Careers of 2011: Occupational Therapist

Most occupational therapists work at hospitals, but others find employment within educational settings, evaluating students who may need assistance, and recommending therapies or treatments best for them. Occupational therapists are also found in nursing homes, helping elderly individuals become more productive and independent. Therapists can also teach patients to function better in their daily lives by showing them how to budget their time and money better. In the mental health setting, occupational therapists can help those who are struggling with eating disorders or depression, or those who have become addicted to alcohol or drugs.


Occupational therapists have many duties, from teaching a toddler who is struggling to develop normally to follow simple instructions or to helping a man suffering from spinal cord damage to get dressed. These therapists strive to help individuals who have become disabled either recover completely or develop certain life skills to continue to function as independent people. The goal of the occupational therapist is to assist and teach as much as necessary so that the patient can resume his life at home and at work.

Job employment is expected to increase at least 26 percent between 2008 and 2018, significantly faster than other job sectors. In 2008, occupational therapists held roughly 105,000 positions in the United States. That number is expected to continually increase, mainly because as baby boomers age and retire, there will be a higher demand for therapists skilled with elderly patient care.


According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2009, an occupational therapist salary averages $69,630. The lowest-paid 10 percent of occupational therapists made less than $45,340 while the highest-paid 10 percent received over $100,000 in earnings.


While there isn’t much room for growth, some occupational therapists take on managerial responsibilities or open their own clinic. Occupational therapists can advance by overseeing aides and completing administrative tasks. The best chance an occupational therapist has to move up is to gain additional experience that is concentrated on one area, for example, mental health or physical rehabilitation.
Activity and Stress

The activity level is high for the occupational therapist, mainly because they are on their feet and moving around for the better part of the day. The attitude of the clients can often affect the occupational therapist, especially if he finds that difficult clients are becoming increasingly frustrating. Similarly, the stress level of the occupational therapist can also be high, but this depends largely on the environment and the client with whom the therapist is dealing. Some clients may take longer to recover than others and may backtrack every so often, so patience is an important quality to have in this field. The occupational therapist should also be able to continually adjust and adapt his attitude and treatment method based on the needs of the client and the environment where he is working.

At the very least, most occupational therapists are required to complete a formal degree such as a master’s or higher. People interested in occupational therapy can typically find full-time programs at local colleges or universities. Some schools also offer part-time courses that take place on nights or weekends to adults who are switching careers. Training is also mandatory and includes at least 24 weeks of fieldwork under the supervision of a licensed therapist. Candidates must pass an examination test after graduation in order to receive their license.

Visit for more information in occupational therapy and other therapy careers.

Categories: College Life   Tags: occupational therapist, occupational therapist salary, top careers of 2011