We take for granted our ability to button a shirt, use a computer, or drive a car. But many people—injured adults, children born with disabilities, elders beset by aging—cannot assume those skills. The occupational therapist helps such people live as fully and independently as possible. Thirty percent of OTs work in schools helping, for example, autistic kids learn how to interact with other children. The majority of OTs work in hospitals or visit patients in their homes.
Most older adults wish to remain in their homes as long as possible, so OTs often help elders avoid long-term-care facilities. An OT might recommend a robot that can climb stairs to retrieve needed items, or help develop workarounds that enable stroke patients to feed themselves, or suggest memory aids and computer programs to help an Alzheimer's patient. This is a challenging career that's best for creative, practical people who find satisfaction in small successes.
National: $63,900. More pay data by metropolitan area
(Data provided by PayScale.com)
- U.S. News publishes a comprehensive list of training programs (choose "Occupational Therapy").
- The American Occupational Therapy Association lists training programs and their accreditation status.
OT Consultant. As people age, their reaction time, night vision, and peripheral vision decline. A person might hire an OT consultant to assess an aging parent's driving, and perhaps offer training or recommend devices to help keep him safely behind the wheel. Some OT consultants may never see a patient. A real-estate developer might hire an OT, for example, to assist in designing a senior housing development.