|Number of Jobs:||36,400|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Healthcare Jobs||#7|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#11|
Occupational therapists work in a number of diverse environments, such as hospitals,rehabilitation centers,schools, small medical offices, and even clients' homes. They serve patients suffering from many different conditions, including mental, physical, emotional, and developmental issues. While the nature of the job might vary substantially, the factor that links all occupational therapists is their overriding goal: To help patients perform daily living and working tasks so they can lead independent, satisfying lives. They help patients with a wide range of activities that are essential to daily life, including eating, cooking, dressing, and operating a computer. Occupational therapists work with patients that 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 (BLS) projects occupational therapist employment growth of 33.5 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding 36,400 more professionals to the 108,800 already-existing jobs in this field. Good job prospects help this profession rank in the top half of The Best Jobs of 2013.
The BLS reports the median annual wage for occupational therapists was $73,820 in 2011. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made approximately $104,350, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $49,980. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of Elizabethtown, Ky., Las Vegas, and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
The minimum level of education for occupational therapists is a master's degree in the field. In order 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. Fortunately, students have many options. Most occupational therapy programs are a full-time commitment, but a growing number of schools are offering 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.
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.