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Occupational Therapist

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(7.5 out of 10)

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Unemployment Rate

2.3 percent

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The 100 Best Jobs #14

Occupational therapists work in a number of diverse environments, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, small medical offices and clients’ homes. They serve patients suffering from different conditions, including mental, physical, emotional and developmental issues. While the nature of the job might vary substantially, all occupational therapists have one overriding goal: to help patients perform daily living and working tasks so they can lead independent, satisfying lives. They assist patients with a variety of activities that are essential to daily life, including eating, bathing and dressing, as well as smaller tasks like operating a computer. Occupational therapists work with patients who range from toddlers to the elderly. Maintaining copious records and assessments of a patient’s progress is crucial to provide the best possible care.

Growth in America’s elderly population is expected to keep the job market for occupational therapists especially favorable. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects occupational therapist employment growth of 29 percent between 2012 and 2022, adding 32,800 more professionals to the 105,540 existing jobs in this field. Good job prospects help this profession rank in the top half of The Best Jobs of 2014.


The median annual salary for occupational therapists was $75,400 in 2012, according to the BLS. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made $107,070, while the bottom 10 percent made $50,500. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of Las Vegas, Elizabethtown, Ky., and Sherman, Texas.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $90,270
Median $75,400
25th Percentile $62,510


The minimum level of education for occupational therapists is a master’s degree in the field. To sit for the national certifying exam, occupational therapists must receive their degree from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Most occupational therapy programs are a full-time commitment, but a growing number of schools offer weekend and part-time programs. All accredited programs require a minimum of 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork. After graduation, candidates must pass a national certification test before obtaining their license.

Reviews & Advice

The diversity of the field makes choosing a specialization early important for occupational therapists. “The most important thing a person coming out of school can do is know where their personal professional passion lies,” says Maureen Freda Peterson, chief professional affairs officer for the American Occupational Therapy Association. “It’s extremely important that they are looking for something that excites them professionally.” Peterson emphasizes finding a niche within the field because specialized skills and passion for their work help aspiring occupational therapists stand out among the crowd of candidates.

The need for occupational therapists is expected to increase as baby boomers age and strive to maintain their independence and physical health. So on the job hunt, zone in on acute hospital, rehabilitation and orthopedic settings, which provide services for the elderly.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Stephanie Steinberg.

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