- You must hold a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in order to work as an independent OT.
- You may be able to work as an assistant OT or as an intern if you hold only a bachelor’s degree or have just begun working towards your master’s.
What you study:
You will study all of the following in an occupational therapy program:
- Human Occupations
- Occupational Therapy Foundations and Philosophy
- Occupational Performance
- Professional Practices and Ethics
- Research Analysis
- Occupational Therapy Methods
Briefly recaps the occupational therapist career. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
Your time as an occupational therapist or OT is spent helping individuals who have mental physical or emotional disabilities to live happy independent lives. Before you begin your hands-on work for the day you drop by the social services facility where you are employed. You check in with your supervisor to let her know what your schedule is like for the day. She asks you about your workload and lets you know that you’ll be getting a new client next week.
After you gather your client folders for the day you head to your first client’s home. A father of three he lost the use of one arm in an industrial accident. When you arrive at his house you spend some time talking to him to see what tasks that he feels comfortable completing and what tasks he still finds difficult. He tells you that he’s mastered self hygiene but is unable to help with his infant son. You use a doll to help him practice changing diapers feeding the baby and picking the baby up. You let your client know that you both can continue working on these skills when you return next week.
Your next client is a young woman who suffers from cerebral palsy. She is extremely intelligent but is struggling with continual loss of movement. This is your first meeting with this patient so you take time to get to know her. You talk with her about her daily challenges and start to work out a therapy plan. You’ll finish your plan over the next few days and will review it with her when you begin hands-on work next week.
You take a lunch break before heading to your next appointment. In the afternoon you work with an elderly woman who is suffering from memory loss and a young man who suffers from anxiety problems. You help both of these clients learn how to navigate daily challenges. When working with the young man you focus on how he can overcome problems in the workplace so that he can succeed in his chosen field.
At the end of the day you return to your office and update all client paperwork. You look over the next day’s schedule and place the files that you’ll need in a separate drawer. Before you head home you lock up all client files and check in with your boss again. You go and enjoy a relaxing evening so that you’re ready to head back to work tomorrow.
Certifications and Licensing
All states require that occupational therapists hold special licensing in order to practice. While requirements vary from state to state all states require that applicants hold at least an M.S. degree in occupational therapy. You may also be required to complete an internship and pass a background check.
Full-time versus part-time:
Most OTs work full-time schedules. However you may be able to work a part-time schedule if you focus on providing support for young children or if you work in a school setting.
As an OT you can choose to work in your client’s homes or from a social services center. You may also work with children in a school setting. Regardless of where you work you will maintain an office where you store files and prepare therapy plans.
- American Occupational Therapy Association: The AOTA website offers information about the field of occupational therapy for practitioners students and community members. The "Forums" and "Issues/Advocacy" sections of the site are particularly helpful for those who are interested in pursuing careers in occupational therapy.
- The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook for Occupational Therapists: Published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this handbook offers information about salary averages and career projections in the field of occupational therapy. Some information is presented about education and workplace dynamics but interested students should be sure to consult sources that provide more well-rounded information about this field.
- The American Occupational Therapy Foundation: AOTF’s website provides an excellent online library with many resources useful for professionals and students alike. Graduate-level students may also be interested in exploring the AOTF’s scholarship and grant programs.
Salaries by City
See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.
|State||City / Region||Typical Salary||Salary Range||Job Count||% of All Jobs|
|AL||Birmingham – Hoover||$68040||360||0.08%|
|AR||Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers||$89760||120||0.06%|
|AR||Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway||$75240||430||0.13%|
|AZ||Lake Havasu City $ Kingman||$84370||30||0.07%|
|AZ||Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale||$77780||840||0.05%|
|CA||Bakersfield – Delano||$89850||130||0.05%|
|CA||Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)||$88120||2490||0.06%|
|CA||Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)||$93070||620||0.06%|
|CA||Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura||$83680||240||0.08%|
|CA||Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario||$88550||560||0.05%|
|CA||Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville||$77740||490||0.06%|
|CA||San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos||$77600||990||0.08%|
|CA||San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)||$92190||370||0.04%|
|CA||San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara||$90510||410||0.05%|
|CA||San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles||$67190||110||0.11%|
|CA||Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)||$90950||1300||0.09%|
|CA||Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta||$85490||100||0.06%|
|CA||Santa Cruz – Watsonville||$84320||50||0.06%|
|CA||Santa Rosa – Petaluma||$82460||100||0.06%|
|CA||Vallejo – Fairfield||$85890||N/A||N/A|
|CA||Visalia – Porterville||$92370||N/A||N/A|
|CO||Denver – Aurora – Broomfield||$76030||1580||0.13%|
|CO||Fort Collins – Loveland||$71810||150||0.11%|
|CT||Bridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk||$81320||390||0.09%|
|CT||Hartford – West Hartford – East Hartford||$85120||730||0.13%|
|CT||Norwich – New London||$81630||110||0.09%|
|DC||Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)||$83390||1060||0.05%|
|DE||Wilmington (Metro Area)||$79100||220||0.07%|
|FL||Cape Coral – Fort Myers||$87720||140||0.07%|
|FL||Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach||$86490||130||0.09%|
|FL||Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)||$84650||660||0.09%|
|FL||Lakeland – Winter Haven||$59450||90||0.05%|
|FL||Miami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)||$73980||690||0.07%|
|FL||Naples – Marco Island||$85320||90||0.07%|
|FL||North Port – Bradenton – Sarasota||$71590||290||0.12%|
|FL||Orlando – Kissimmee – Sanford||$80630||370||0.04%|
|FL||Palm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville||$72110||220||0.12%|
|FL||Panama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach||$70390||40||0.06%|
|FL||Pensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent||$76650||110||0.07%|
|FL||Port St. Lucie||$78220||100||0.08%|
|FL||Sebastian – Vero Beach||$81110||50||0.11%|
|FL||Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater||$84320||1020||0.09%|
|FL||West Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)||$79860||350||0.07%|
|GA||Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta||$76300||1290||0.06%|
|GA||Augusta – Richmond County||$71060||140||0.07%|
|IA||Davenport – Moline – Rock Island||$67940||140||0.08%|
|IA||Des Moines – West Des Moines||$70440||N/A||N/A|
|IA||Waterloo – Cedar Falls||$67770||90||0.10%|
|ID||Boise City – Nampa||$71810||170||0.06%|
|ID||Coeur d’Alene ID||$71810||40||0.08%|
|IL||Champaign – Urbana||$75960||N/A||N/A|
|IL||Chicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)||$76780||3070||0.08%|
|IL||Lake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)||$76710||220||0.06%|
|IN||Elkhart – Goshen||$72900||40||0.04%|
|IN||Gary (Metro Area)||$81780||220||0.08%|
|IN||Indianapolis – Carmel||$78550||950||0.11%|
|IN||South Bend – Mishawaka||$64920||70||0.06%|
|KY||Lexington – Fayette||$78380||260||0.11%|
|KY||Louisville – Jefferson County||$73680||610||0.10%|