Career Information for a Degree in Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements see if this is the right career for you.

It's a truism that life goes on. If you'd like to ensure that life goes on for people who have developmental or rehabilitative difficulties in performing everyday tasks, a career as an occupational therapist might be for you. You'll need a considerable amount of education in order to become licensed in this fast-growing field.

Essential Information

Occupational therapists (OTs) are healthcare professionals who evaluate, assess and implement rehabilitative programs. The role of an occupational therapist is to help patients with disabilities or developmental delays become more independent in their daily activities. They often work in hospitals or therapy offices, but there are many other opportunities for employment. A master's or doctoral degree in occupational therapy is required for licensing, which all states mandate.

Required Education Master's or doctoral degree in occupational therapy
Other Requirements State licensure
Projected Job Growth 27% from 2014-2024*
Median Salary $80,150 (2015)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Overview for an Occupational Therapist

These professionals help a variety of patients that have physical, mental or emotional problems. For example, an OT may recommend the use of specialized medical equipment for an individual with a spinal injury. OTs that work with infants or school children may design treatment plans that promote listening or social skills. Some of these professionals supervise occupational therapy assistants and aides. Common places of employment include hospitals, physicians' offices, elementary and secondary schools, nursing care facilities or home health care organizations.

Degree Information

Aspiring occupational therapists typically need to earn a master's or doctoral degree in occupational therapy from an accredited college or university to become licensed in their state. To be eligible for the national certification exam, candidates need to graduate from a degree program that has received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

Certification and Licensing Information

In all states, licensure as an occupational therapist is mandatory. Licensure in some states may be obtained by successfully completing the national certifying exam offered by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Completion of continuing education coursework is required in order to maintain licensure. In states where the NBCOT exam doesn't qualify OTs for licensure, voluntary certification can still be obtained through this organization.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, employment for occupational therapists was expected to increase by 27% between 2014 and 2024. During this time, demand for OTs will be driven by a growing elderly population, as well as a general increase in the number of disabled people seeking therapeutic treatment. As of May 2015, the median annual wage for OTs was $80,150, reported the BLS.

There is such a demand for occupational therapists for the foreseeable future that the BLS projects that employment opportunities will increase at a much faster rate than the national average for all occupations. Though a doctorate may be required, in many cases, you might secure a position with a master's degree, preferably from an ACOTE-accredited program. Licensure is required in all states and is often secured by passing the certifying exam administered by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy.

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