“Physical therapy teaches people how to walk, and occupational therapy teaches them how to dance”. Occupational therapists treat patients with a variety of physical, mental or emotional impairments, helping them develop skills which allow them to carry out everyday tasks. Therapists use a wide variety of methods to help their patients achieve self-reliance. Ever wondered how much an occupational therapist makes? Read on, and find out their average salary, key responsibilities, typical work environments and career paths.
Occupational Therapist Salary
What is the salary for an occupation therapist? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), on average they received $80,000 per annum, or $38.46 per hour. The top 10% of earners enjoy $112,950, whereas the lowest 10% take home $52,670 annually.
Income is influenced by a number of factors. Annual salaries grow moderately with experience: starting salaries for entry-level positions are [Starting Salary], which rises about 5% for every 5 years on the job. Also contributing to earnings is employment location. The top 5 paying states are Nevada, California, New Jersey, Texas and District of Columbia. Lastly, the industry of employment also influences average salaries.
Most occupation therapists receive modest benefit packages, which often include health and dental care.
The goal of occupation therapy is helping people develop skills necessary for daily life. Therapists treat patients of all ages, genders and disabilities, and support them in accomplishing their goals. Due huge range of patient needs, therapists must build treatment plans purposefully designed for those individuals. For example, a car-crash victim undergoes very different therapy than a child with autism.
When patients are first seen, their medical history is taken, and therapists will ask questions to gauge their physical and mental condition. After a thorough assessment, it’s possible to design a treatment plan which incorporates therapeutic activities relevant to the patient’s needs. Activities are chosen based on patient interests, hopefully making the plan interesting and easier to follow.
Therapists will educate patient’s families and employers on how best to care for, and accommodate them. They also observe their home and work environments, suggesting potential improvements to help make the patient’s life easier. This could be as simple as writing labels on drawers for someone with memory loss, or raising the height of work desks for patients with back problems. They may also prescribe specialist equipment such as wheel chairs, and provide instruction on their use.
Occupational therapists work in a huge number of different environments. These include schools, hospitals, private clinics, rehabilitation centers as well as in client’s homes. Most work in clean, well-lit environments that are built to ensure patients are comfortable.
A large part of their day is spent on their feet, tending to clients. Therapists usually treat between 5 and 8 patients per day, enjoying fully booked schedules. Being adaptable to change is important, as appointments can be delayed or cancelled at short notice. Most occupational therapists are in full time employment, working an average of 40 hours per week, while a quarter work part-time. Many work at night and at weekends to accommodate their patient’s needs.
Occupational therapy is regarded by many as a very fulfilling career. It ranks highly in job satisfaction, and was given a 5/5 rating in this category in a survey conducted by PayScale. This is attributed to having a career based around helping others. A student intern describes her experience: “The satisfaction you get from helping someone reclaim their life is enormous. Sometimes they come in depressed and angry and gradually their spirits are renewed with each day of therapy, and hope is in their eyes and their future.”
How to become an Occupational Therapist
Those wishing to enter the profession must attain a Master’s degree in occupational therapy. To be accepted into a graduate program, you must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology or psychology. Bachelor degree programs are typically 4 years long, and must be attained from a university accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy. Additionally, institutions expect applicants to have practical experience in patient care, which could consist of volunteering at a hospital for example.
Students in Master’s programs study courses including functional anatomy, medical conditions and patient treatment. After graduation, prospective therapists must complete 24 weeks of supervised work placements, before passing the national occupational therapy certification exam. Only then can one become a licensed professional, which is required by state.
Occupational therapy is one of the fastest growing occupations. BLS expects the number of employment opportunities to increase by 29% in the 2012-2022 projection period. As the large baby-boom population ages, more care is needed to treat age-related diseases such as arthritis. Also, an ageing population requires a greater number of therapists to help senior citizens maintain their independence.
Furthermore, advances in medical technology means that more people are surviving mortal injuries and life-threatening diseases than ever before. Survivors will almost certainly need some form of occupational therapy to assist rehabilitation, increasing demand for therapists.
Occupational therapists working in schools have particularly bright job prospects. With cases of autism in children being commonly diagnosed, more professionals are required to provide care.
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