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Occupational Therapists

Summary

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Quick Facts: Occupational Therapists
2022 Median Pay $93,180 per year
$44.80 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 139,600
Job Outlook, 2022-32 12% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 16,100

What Occupational Therapists Do

Occupational therapists evaluate and treat people who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities to help them with vocational, daily living, and other skills that promote independence.

Work Environment

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, and outpatient clinics. They stand for long periods and may need to lift or move clients.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist

To enter the occupation, occupational therapists typically need a master’s degree in occupational therapy. All states require occupational therapists to be licensed.

Pay

The median annual wage for occupational therapists was $93,180 in May 2022.

Job Outlook

Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 9,600 openings for occupational therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for occupational therapists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of occupational therapists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about occupational therapists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Occupational Therapists Do About this section

Occupational therapists
Occupational therapists help people, such as those with disabilities, live independently.

Occupational therapists evaluate and treat people who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities. They help clients meet goals to develop, recover, improve, and maintain skills needed for daily living and working.

Duties

Occupational therapists typically do the following:

  • Evaluate clients' conditions by reviewing their medical history, interviewing them, and observing them perform various tasks
  • Develop and implement treatment plans that have specific activities to help clients work toward their goals
  • Help clients relearn and perform daily living tasks, such as teaching a person who has had a stroke how to get dressed
  • Demonstrate exercises—for example, stretching the joints for arthritis relief—to help relieve clients’ pain
  • Evaluate a client’s home, school, or workplace to identify potential accessibility improvements, such as labeling kitchen cabinets for an older person with poor memory
  • Educate a client’s family about how to accommodate and care for them
  • Recommend special equipment, such as mobility aids and eating aids, and instruct clients and families on how to use it
  • Assess and record clients’ activities and progress for client evaluations, billing, and other purposes

Occupational therapists work with people who have permanent disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, and may need help with daily tasks. They recommend options and show clients how to use appropriate adaptive equipment, such as leg braces, wheelchairs, and eating aids. These devices help clients live their lives more independently.

Some occupational therapists work with children in inpatient, outpatient, or educational settings. They may provide early intervention therapy to infants and toddlers or work with school-aged children to encourage engagement, such as participating in academic activities.

Therapists who work with older adults help clients live independently and improve their quality of life. They assess clients’ abilities and environment and make recommendations to improve the clients’ everyday lives. For example, therapists may identify potential fall hazards in a client’s home and recommend their removal or help clients attend social outings.

Occupational therapists help clients create functional work environments. They evaluate the workspace, recommend modifications, and meet with the client’s employer to collaborate on changes to the client’s work environment or schedule.

Occupational therapists also may work in mental health settings, where they help clients who have developmental disabilities or mental health conditions. Therapists assist and educate clients on improving skills such as managing time, using public transportation, and doing household chores. In addition, therapists may work with individuals who have problems related to drug or alcohol abuse, depression, or trauma.

Some occupational therapists, such as those employed in hospitals, work as part of a healthcare team along with doctors, registered nurses, and other types of therapists, including physical therapists. They may work with patients who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis, or help rehabilitate a patient recovering from a stroke or spinal cord injury. Occupational therapists also oversee the work of occupational therapy assistants and aides.

Work Environment About this section

Occupational therapists
Occupational therapists may spend a lot of time on their feet working with clients.

Occupational therapists held about 139,600 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of occupational therapists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 29%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 28
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 12
Home healthcare services 8
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 7

Occupational therapists may spend a lot of time standing while working with clients. They may be required to lift and move clients or heavy equipment, which can cause injuries. To limit the risk of injury, occupational therapists must use proper body mechanics and lifting techniques.

Therapists sometimes travel between multiple locations, such as between a hospital and a client’s home.

Work Schedules

Most occupational therapists work full time, but part-time work is common. They may work nights or weekends, as needed, to accommodate clients’ schedules.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist About this section

Occupational therapists
Occupational therapists must be sympathetic to clients' needs and concerns.

To enter the occupation, occupational therapists typically need a master’s degree in occupational therapy. All states require occupational therapists to be licensed.

Education

Occupational therapists typically need a master’s degree in occupational therapy to enter the occupation. Occupational therapy programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.

Admission to graduate programs in occupational therapy requires a bachelor’s degree, although it may not need to be in a particular subject. However, master’s degree programs frequently require applicants to have completed coursework in biology, psychology, and other sciences. Some programs also require applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational therapy setting. To learn about specific requirements, applicants should contact the program in which they are interested in enrolling.

Master’s degree programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete and typically include courses such as kinesiology, neuroscience, and anatomy. Additionally, these programs require a specified number of hours of supervised fieldwork during which prospective occupational therapists gain clinical experience.

Some schools offer a dual-degree program in which the student earns a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree upon completion.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but at a minimum, candidates must pass the national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). To sit for the NBCOT exam, candidates must have earned a degree from an accredited occupational therapy program that includes fieldwork.

Therapists must pass the NBCOT exam to use the title “Occupational Therapist Registered” (OTR). They also must complete a specified number of hours of continuing education to maintain state licensure and NBCOT certification.

The American Occupational Therapy Association offers board and specialty certifications in a number of areas, such as gerontology, pediatrics, and physical rehabilitation.

Some employers require candidates to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS) certification.

Important Qualities

Adaptability. Occupational therapists must be accommodating when working with clients. They must be able to change treatment plans based on clients’ needs.

Communication skills. Occupational therapists must listen closely to clients. They also must be able to explain treatment plans and goals to clients, clients’ families, and other members of the healthcare team.

Compassion. Occupational therapists work with patients who may struggle with life’s daily activities. Because of this, they must be empathetic and sensitive to a client’s needs and concerns.

Interpersonal skills. Occupational therapists spend much of their time interacting with clients and explaining treatment. They must be able to develop a rapport with clients.

Patience. Occupational therapists work with clients who have problems with everyday activities. Therapists must remain calm in order to provide quality care.

Pay About this section

Occupational Therapists

Median annual wages, May 2022

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

$93,710

Occupational therapists

$93,180

Total, all occupations

$46,310

 

The median annual wage for occupational therapists was $93,180 in May 2022. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $63,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,870.

In May 2022, the median annual wages for occupational therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Home healthcare services $101,500
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 99,560
Hospitals; state, local, and private 97,400
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 91,420
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 79,660

Most occupational therapists work full time. They may work nights or weekends, as needed, to accommodate clients’ schedules.

Job Outlook About this section

Occupational Therapists

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Occupational therapists

12%

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

9%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 9,600 openings for occupational therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of treatment for people with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, autism, or the loss of a limb.

The need for occupational therapists is expected to increase as the large baby-boom generation ages and people remain active later in life. Occupational therapists help older adults maintain their independence by recommending home modifications and strategies that make daily activities easier.

People will continue to seek noninvasive outpatient treatment for long-term disabilities and illnesses, and they may need occupational therapy to become more independent. Therapists will continue to be needed to assist people with autism spectrum disorder in improving their social skills and accomplishing a variety of daily tasks.

Employment projections data for occupational therapists, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational therapists

29-1122 139,600 155,600 12 16,100 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of occupational therapists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2022 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Occupational therapy assistants and aides Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

See How to Become One $63,450
Physical therapists Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $97,720
Recreational therapists Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based medical treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses.

Bachelor's degree $51,330
Speech-language pathologists Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists assess and treat people who have communication disorders.

Master's degree $84,140
nurse anesthetists nurse midwives and nurse practitioners image Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty healthcare.

Master's degree $125,900
Orthotists and prosthetists Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical supportive devices and measure and fit patients for them.

Master's degree $77,070
Physician assistants Physician Assistants

Physician assistants examine, diagnose, and treat patients under the supervision of a physician.

Master's degree $126,010

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about occupational therapists, visit

American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

For more information about the certification exam for Occupational Therapist, Registered, visit

National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy

For information regarding the requirements for practice as an occupational therapist in schools, contact state occupational therapy regulatory agencies.

O*NET

Low Vision Therapists, Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists

Occupational Therapists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Therapists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm (visited March 14, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Monday, December 11, 2023

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2022 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2022 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.