What is an Occupational Therapist

Generally, an occupational therapist prepares rehabilitative programs for disabled individuals to restore the essential functions needed daily. They use various treatment methods to help patients with physical, mental, emotional, or developmental disabilities.

In this field, you may work with individuals suffering from short-term and long-term impairments to improve conditions to advance their quality of life. This may include helping an individual with everyday life and occupation tasks. As a part of your work, you will combine aspects from various disciplines, including medicine, psychology, and sociology, to evaluate and implement comprehensive plans for patients.

If these professionals' education level is Bachelor's Degree, their average salary would be around $88,300 per year. At the same time, if you possess a Master's Degree, you can make a whopping salary of $1,39,000 annually.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

Learn more about what an Occupational Therapist does

How To Become an Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists need at least a master’s degree in occupational therapy; some therapists have a doctoral degree. Occupational therapists also must be licensed.

Education

Most occupational therapists enter the occupation with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. In 2014, there were nearly 200 occupational therapy programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, part of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Admission to graduate programs in occupational therapy 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 usually take 2 to 3 years to complete; doctoral programs take about 3 years. 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 at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork, in which prospective occupational therapists gain clinical work experience.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all require candidates to pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). To sit for the NBCOT exam, candidates must have earned a degree from an accredited educational program and completed all fieldwork requirements.

Therapists must pass the NBCOT exam to use the title “Occupational Therapist, Registered” (OTR). They must also take continuing education classes to maintain certification.

The American Occupational Therapy Association also offers a number of board and specialty certifications for therapists who want to demonstrate their advanced or specialized knowledge in areas of practice, such as pediatrics, mental health, or low vision.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Occupational therapists must be able to listen attentively to what patients tell them and must be able to explain what they want their patients to do.

Compassion. Occupational therapists are usually drawn to the profession by a desire to help people and improve their daily lives. Therapists must be sensitive to a patients’ needs and concerns, especially when assisting the patient with his or her personal activities.

Flexibility. Occupational therapists must be flexible when treating patients. Because not every type of therapy will work for each patient, therapists may need to be creative when determining the treatment plans and adaptive devices that best suit each patient’s needs.

Interpersonal skills. Because occupational therapists spend their time teaching and explaining therapies to patients, they should be able to earn the trust and respect of those patients and their families.

Patience. Dealing with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities is frustrating for many people. Occupational therapists should be patient in order to provide quality care to the people they serve.

Writing skills. When communicating in writing with other members of the patient’s medical team, occupational therapists must be able to explain clearly the treatment plan for the patient and any progress made by the patient.

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the right jobs to get there.

Average Salary
$72,451
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
18%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
55,054
Job Openings
resume document icon

Don't Have A Professional Resume?

0 selections

Occupational Therapist Career Paths

Occupational Therapist Jobs You Might Like

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Create The Perfect Resume

Our resume builder tool will walk you through the process of creating a stand-out Occupational Therapist resume.

resume icon

Average Salary for an Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapists in America make an average salary of $72,451 per year or $35 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $89,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $58,000 per year.
Average Salary
$72,451
Find Your Salary Estimate
How much should you be earning as an Occupational Therapist? Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to get an estimation of how much you should be earning.
See More Salary Information

Calculate your salary

Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to see how your pay matches up.

Occupational Therapist Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming an Occupational Therapist. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write an Occupational Therapist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Occupational Therapist resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Occupational Therapist Resume Examples And Templates

Occupational Therapist Demographics

Occupational Therapist Gender Statistics

female

77.5 %

male

19.0 %

unknown

3.5 %

Occupational Therapist Ethnicity Statistics

White

79.1 %

Asian

7.7 %

Hispanic or Latino

6.3 %

Occupational Therapist Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

56.0 %

French

5.6 %

Russian

5.3 %
Job Openings

Find the best Occupational Therapist job for you

0 selections
0 selections
Show More Occupational Therapist Demographics

Create The Perfect Resume

Our resume builder tool will walk you through the process of creating a stand-out Occupational Therapist resume.

resume icon

Occupational Therapist Education

Occupational Therapist Majors

Occupational Therapist Degrees

Bachelors

55.3 %

Masters

37.5 %

Associate

4.9 %

Top Colleges for Occupational Therapists

1. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

2. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA • Private

In-State Tuition
$12,424
Enrollment
15,201

3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

4. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

5. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

6. Tufts University

Medford, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,382
Enrollment
5,597

7. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,381
Enrollment
34,564

8. Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,399
Enrollment
7,356

9. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

10. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,798
Enrollment
31,503
Show More Occupational Therapist Education Requirements
Job Openings

Find the best Occupational Therapist job for you

0 selections
0 selections

Online Courses For Occupational Therapist That You May Like

Occupational Therapy Introduction - ACCREDITED CERTIFICATE
udemy
4.5
(359)

How to become occupational therapist, basic Psychology, Physiology & Anatomy, working with disabilities, children adults...

Prehospital care of acute stroke and patient selection for endovascular treatment using the RACE scale
coursera

Acute stroke is a time-dependent medical emergency. In acute ischemic stroke, the first objective is to restore brain flow using sistemic thrombolytic treatment and, in patients with large vessel occlusion, by endovascular treatment. In hemorrhagic stroke there are also specific treatments that can improve the clinical outcome. The sooner the initiation of all these therapies the higher the clinical benefit. Thus, the organization of Stroke Code systems coordinated between emergency medical syst...

Vohra Wound Care Certification for Facility-Based Nurses
edX (Global)

The Vohra Wound Care Certification program was developed by Vohra Wound Physicians. Vohra is the largest group of wound physicians in the United States, with more than 20 years of clinical experience providing wound care services to more than 3000 skilled nursing facilities in 30 states, with thousands of patients treated every month. We believe every patient, family, nurse, and caregiver can be empowered through education. Hundreds of thousands of people have already benefited from this course...

Show More Occupational Therapist Courses
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For an Occupational Therapist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 16.2% of occupational therapists listed patient care on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and patience are important as well.

12 Occupational Therapist RESUME EXAMPLES

Best States For an Occupational Therapist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an occupational therapist. The best states for people in this position are California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Alaska. Occupational therapists make the most in California with an average salary of $96,017. Whereas in Hawaii and Nevada, they would average $88,477 and $85,456, respectively. While occupational therapists would only make an average of $80,495 in Alaska, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Occupational Therapist Jobs:
4,120
Highest 10% Earn:
$132,000
Location Quotient:
1.13
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Hawaii

Total Occupational Therapist Jobs:
142
Highest 10% Earn:
$114,000
Location Quotient:
1.36
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Louisiana

Total Occupational Therapist Jobs:
396
Highest 10% Earn:
$108,000
Location Quotient:
1
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Occupational Therapists

How Do Occupational Therapist Rate Their Jobs?

Zippia Official Logo

4.0

OTR/LOctober 2019

4.0

Zippia Official LogoOTR/LOctober 2019

What do you like the most about working as Occupational Therapist?

Geriatric population and working towards functional goal. Show More

What do you NOT like?

Clients don’t think they need to participate to get better. Show More

Working as an Occupational Therapist? Share your experience anonymously.
Do you work as an Occupational Therapist?
Rate how you like work as Occupational Therapist. It's anonymous and will only take a minute.

Top Occupational Therapist Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ occupational therapists and discovered their number of occupational therapist opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Tender Touch Rehab was the best, especially with an average salary of $76,467. RCM Technologies follows up with an average salary of $67,418, and then comes Community Services with an average of $66,574. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as an occupational therapist. The employers include None, None, and None

Occupational Therapist Videos

Occupational Therapist FAQs

How long does it take to become a registered occupational therapist?

Becoming a registered occupational therapist can take 5-11 years. Most occupational therapists enter the occupation with a master's degree in occupational therapy.

Master's programs usually take two to three years to complete, and doctoral programs can take about three and a half years. However, some schools offer dual-degree programs in which the student earns a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in five years.

Both master's and doctoral programs require at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork, in which prospective occupational therapists gain clinical work experience. In addition, doctoral programs require a 16-week capstone experience.

Learn more about this question

Is becoming an occupational therapist hard?

Yes, becoming an occupational therapist can be hard. Because it has specific requirements, examinations, and requires a license, it can take a lot of time and money.

Most occupational therapists enter the field with a master's degree. Master's degree programs are typically 2-3 years, and tuition can be costly. Before taking the required NBCOT exam, there are also fieldwork requirements, which cost over $500.

To specialize in a field and to keep your license, you have to take continuing education classes as well.

Learn more about this question

Is occupational therapy a dying field?

No, occupational therapy is not a dying field. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is projected to grow 17 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average (about eight percent) for all occupations.

Occupational therapists typically work with older populations or populations with illnesses, disorders, or injuries. Because these groups will always exist, occupational therapists will be needed to support a patient's healthcare.

Learn more about this question

What pays more OT or PT?

A physical therapist (PT) is paid a little more than an occupational therapist (OT).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for PTs in 2020 was $91,010, whereas, for OTs, it was $86,280. However, as most jobs go, it depends on factors like location. Nevada is a top-paying state for both PTs and OTs, but it pays OTs more, possibly because of a scarcer number of OTs employed.

Learn more about this question

What qualifications do you need to be an occupational therapist?

The minimum qualifications to be an occupational therapist are completing Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE(r))-accredited educational program and passing the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.

It's important to check what your state's licensing requirements are to make sure you have fulfilled them to be certified.

There are also continuing classes to keep certification or specialize in specific areas of practice such as pediatrics or mental health. Some also go into doctoral programs to advance skills in research, leadership, and administration.

Learn more about this question
Updated August 18, 2021