If you’d like to work with patients across the lifespan to help improve their overall quality of life, a career in occupational therapy might be for you. There are other factors to consider when making the decision to become an occupational therapist, such as job growth within the field.
You may also be drawn to a career in occupational therapy because of the various practice settings and areas of specialty available; occupational therapists can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, schools and homes. Learn more about each of these factors below.
What Can You Do With an Occupational Therapy Degree?
Think of an occupational therapist as a person who allows people of all ages to get back to the daily activities of life following an injury or due to disability or physical or mental changes related to aging. Within the field, there is significant flexibility. Occupational therapists can work in a range of specialty fields in hospitals, schools, nursing homes and home health services, depending on their areas of interest, with many of these sought-after careers accessible through online occupational therapy degrees.
A pediatric occupational therapist works with children – from infants to teenagers – to develop skills needed to perform tasks related to daily living and learning. They work with them on developing motor, cognitive and social skills, as well as performing self-care tasks, often through play, songs and exercises. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for occupational therapists in schools will continue to grow over the years. They will be needed to work especially with children with autism. The annual mean wage of occupational therapists working in elementary and secondary schools is $75,870, while those working in child day care services make $93,720, according to 2018 BLS salary data.
3. Swallowing Specialist Occupational Therapy Jobs
Swallowing specialists help patients who suffer from dysphagia, poor nutrition or disorders that make swallowing difficult and put them at risk for choking. Occupational therapists specializing in this area work with these patients on swallowing strategies, modified diets, feeding skills and more. Occupational therapists working in offices of audiologists and physical, occupational and speech therapists earn a median salary of $86,060, according to BLS data from May 2018.
4. Bilingual Occupational Therapy Jobs
Bilingual occupational therapists serve and support the millions of Americans in need of occupational therapy who do not speak English as a first language. With the addition of a second language skill, bilingual occupational therapists have a distinct advantage in the job market.
5. Occupational Therapist for Autism Jobs
There is rising demand for occupational therapists who specialize in treating patients across the autism spectrum. Occupational therapists who specialize in treating children with autism work in schools and home settings to evaluate children and work with them on key skills like dressing, grooming and writing to allow them to improve their social skills, learn and accomplish daily tasks. Annual salary for these types of therapists is similar to that of teachers working in elementary and secondary schools ($75,870).
Are Occupational Therapists in Demand?
Demand for occupational therapists will grow 18% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average of 5% for other occupations, according to the BLS. In part, demand for occupational therapists is growing in order to serve the needs of the aging baby boomer generation, whose members are looking to maintain their independence and mobility into their later years. Occupational therapists are also increasingly needed to support patients with chronic conditions, including patients with diabetes and those who are rehabilitating following strokes. There is also an increasing demand for occupational therapists to provide services to patients with autism.
Occupational Therapy Career Outlook
Job opportunities for occupational therapists are expanding in numerous settings, including acute hospital settings, rehabilitation facilities and orthopedic settings serving elderly patients. There will be increased need in coming years for occupational therapists who specialize in a particular form of care, including mental health, pediatrics, gerontology, driving and community mobility, environmental modification, and feeding, eating and swallowing.
Occupational Therapist Salary
With demand for occupational therapists growing faster than many other careers both inside and outside of health care, the BLS reports that occupational therapists earn a median income of $84,270 per year, much higher than the median annual wage for all workers ($38,640). In May 2018, the lowest 10% of occupational therapists earned $55,490, while the highest 10% earned more than $120,750 per year, according to the BLS.
How Much Do Starting Occupational Therapists Make?
Starting occupational therapists are likely to earn a salary close to the national median salary for occupational therapists of $84,270 per year, working in hospitals, medical offices, schools, home health care services and nursing care facilities.
What Is the Highest-Paying Occupational Therapy Job?
Occupational therapists can work in a range of settings, and where they choose to work may impact their salary. Refer to the table below for median annual wages for occupational therapists in five different practice settings.
Median Salary (as of May 2018)
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)
Home health care services
Offices of audiologists and physical, occupational and speech therapists
Hospitals; state, local and private
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local and private