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Is Occupational Therapy a Good Career? OT Pros and Cons

  • Thread starter Thread starter Siege Media
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Siege Media

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a group of USAHS students practicing in a kitchen.


If you want to help individuals improve their daily lives in meaningful and creative ways, occupational therapy (OT) may be right for you. As an occupational therapist (OT), you will work with individuals or groups with physical and mental injuries or disabilities. You will aid in recovery and help individuals master vital living skills to navigate the world more independently.

Is occupational therapy a good career? Is it right for you? Let’s review the pros and cons of being an occupational therapist and what you can expect in an occupational therapy career.

Pros and Cons of Being an Occupational Therapist​


Occupational therapy stands at the intersection of compassion, skill and creativity, offering a unique career path for those drawn to helping others regain independence and improve their quality of life. As an occupational therapist, you can profoundly impact individuals of all ages facing physical, cognitive or emotional challenges. However, as with any profession, there are pros and cons of being an occupational therapist. Understanding these aspects can help aspiring occupational therapists make informed decisions about their career paths. Below, we will delve into the advantages and challenges of this rewarding profession.

Let’s start with the pros of being an occupational therapist.

Pros of an Occupational Therapy Career​


Arguably the most important factor when deciding which career to pursue is job satisfaction. In a recent qualitative study exploring work fulfillment among occupational therapists, the surveyed OTs expressed positive levels of job satisfaction. The authors note having more work experience was significantly related to higher job satisfaction.1

Another key determinant in deciding a career path is the opportunities within a particular occupation. In the case of an occupational therapist career, there are diverse settings where you can treat patients across the entire lifespan. As the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) outlines, occupational therapy is the only profession that has the privilege to help people across the lifespan.2 This opportunity affords clinicians the flexibility to not only treat a diverse patient population but also transition into a new setting should they seek a unique challenge.

Another pro of being an occupational therapist is the flexibility to work anywhere in the United States. Once you complete the educational requirements and pass the required exam, you can apply for licensure in any U.S. state, including the District of Columbia.3 With the increasing expected job growth (12%) for occupational therapists, finding the perfect job doesn’t mean you have to reside in your current state.4 Additionally, U.S. News & World Report ranks occupational therapy as the fourth best health care job and as #19 in best jobs in America in 2024.5

Cons of Being an Occupational Therapist​


While a career in occupational therapy is rewarding with a positive growth outlook, there are a few considerations to weigh before pursuing occupational therapy as a career.

The first is the growing cost of tuition and stagnant wages due to decreasing insurance reimbursement rates.6 One way to ease the financial burden of tuition is to apply for scholarships or financial aid, like the support offered at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS).

Another important consideration is the relatively high burnout among occupational therapists. A 2021 meta-analysis of 17 peer-reviewed articles identified several risk factors associated with occupational therapist burnout.7 Risk factors that showed a significant positive correlation to burnout were work field and hours, job challenges, position and work addiction.

Despite these cons of being an occupational therapist, a career in this field still holds significant benefits. Let’s dive deeper into these advantages.

Benefits of Being an Occupational Therapist​

1. Enjoy Salary Potential


what does employment for occupational therapists looks like in 2023


Earn a comfortable living with a career in occupational therapy. The median annual pay for OTs in 2023 was $96,370, and opportunities continue to rise.4 Based on 2023 data, these are the average salaries for popular OT careers:8

  • Home health care services: $104,790
  • Nursing care facilities: $101,520
  • State, local, and private hospitals: $99,570
  • Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists and audiologists: $94,930
  • Elementary and secondary schools: $80,910

Salary in an occupational therapist career can grow with experience and seniority and may vary based on:

  • Type of facility or environment
  • Specialties and credentials
  • Location (both actual pay and income may be relative to local cost of living)
  • Completion of master’s or doctorate

Another key consideration is where you live and work during your occupational therapy career. The five highest-earning states for OTs, along with their average annual salaries are:9

  • California: $113,550
  • New York: $107,530
  • Nevada: $107,070
  • New Jersey: $105,880
  • Colorado: $104,950

Consider each state’s cost of living when deciding where to pursue your career in occupational therapy. For instance, while Nevada’s cost of living is about 10% above the national average, California’s is almost 50% above average and New York’s is nearly 22%.That puts Nevada in the #1 spot by a long shot.10,11,12

2. Engage in a Promising Profession​


Compared to a nearly 3% growth rate for all professions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a much higher growth rate of 12% for occupational therapists between 2022 and 2032.13,4

That growth equals about 9,600 annual job openings, on average, for OTs, including role replacement and new positions.4 While your job opportunities and hiring potential can vary depending on your specific circumstances, occupational therapy as a career can be promising.

3. Choose Your Workplace Settings​


One of the benefits of being an occupational therapist is the flexibility to work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Home healthcare
  • Free clinics and community centers
  • Offices
  • Hospitals
  • School systems
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Mental health facilities

OTs can also work in teletherapy, which allows an OT to connect with clients using video conference software. Virtual OTs may be fully remote or balance in-person and virtual environments.

4. Pursue a Variety of Specialties​


One of the pros of being an occupational therapist is that you can choose from a range of specialties and patient populations. There are many certifications to pursue after you earn a degree, including:

Aquatic therapeutic exerciseAssistive technology
AutismBrain injuries
DiabetesDriving and community mobility
Environmental modificationFeeding, eating and swallowing
GerontologyHand therapy
HippotherapyLow vision
LymphedemaMental health
Neuro-developmental treatmentPediatrics
Physical rehabilitationSaebo
School systemsSeating and mobility specialist
Stroke rehabilitationClinical anxiety treatment

If you want to better the lives of individuals in a specific area, there is likely an occupational therapy career where you can leverage your skills.

5. Leverage Your Creativity​


During your occupational therapist career, you’ll create customized treatment plans based on a patient’s needs. You will likely need to think creatively about how a patient can implement their treatment plan at home.

For example, you’re working with a patient to build their strength. You use resistance bands in your exercises, but your patient doesn’t have this equipment at home. Instead, think of household objects, such as small dumbbells, pantyhose or a towel, that will provide the same effect.

6. Build Relationships with Clients​


In your occupational therapy career, you may work with clients who require either short- or long-term treatment. You will likely work closely with your clients to improve their mobility, strength and ability to perform everyday tasks.

You may build rapport with your clients as you get to know them and their circumstances during sessions. If you enjoy working with people and thrive on empowering others, you will likely enjoy occupational therapy as a career.

7. Find Career Satisfaction


OT job satisfaction statistic


An occupational therapy career can be a rewarding professional path for many people.14 A career in occupational therapy may suit you if you have the following capabilities:

  • Patience
  • Excellent listening, communication and interpersonal skills
  • Adaptability and creativity
  • Compassion and empathy

The ability to choose a career that keeps you moving instead of sitting behind a desk is appealing to many individuals. The opportunity to hone your skills with a patient group and in an environment you enjoy can also be one of the pros of being an occupational therapist.

8. Explore OT Travel Positions​


In an occupational therapy career, you can become a travel OT. Apply with an agency to choose from short-term openings across the country.

Travel positions may allow for:

  • Opportunities to travel nationwide
  • Experience in many different care settings
  • Increased job flexibility
  • Employee benefits such as housing stipends

Travel OT positions are great opportunities for those who want to practice in several locations.

OT-overview-cta-shield.png

Want to know more about our OT programs?​

Program InformationRequest Information

Frequently Asked Questions


The following are common questions about an occupational therapy career.

What Degree Do You Need to Become an Occupational Therapist?​


What are the education requirements needed to pursue a career in occupational therapy? OTs generally require a graduate degree, either a master’s or doctorate.

To work in the field, you’ll need to:15

  • Step 1: Acquire either a master’s or doctoral degree in occupational therapy
  • Step 2: Attend a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE)16
  • Step 3: Pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®) exam17
  • Step 4: Become licensed by your state board
  • Step 5: Once you’ve completed these steps, you can work with the professional title of occupational therapist (OT) or Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR) and maintain your license with continuing education credits.

To move into specialized roles in your occupational therapist career, you may need to earn an advanced certification from AOTA or another credentialing agency. These positions generally require a combination of targeted experience and continuing education coursework.

What Are Common OT Program Admission Requirements?​


There are a few different routes to enter a graduate studies program, depending on your educational and professional experience.

Below are the admission requirements for USAHS’ Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher. Alternatively, if you don’t have an undergraduate degree, you can still apply to the MOT program through our OTA to MOT Bridge Program and earn your masters degree in as little as two years*.
  • Resume
  • Statement of purpose
  • Prerequisite coursework, including:
    • Anatomy and Physiology with Lab
    • Sociology or Anthropology
    • Human Growth and Development (Lifespan)
    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Statistics
    • Medical Terminology
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Observation hours
  • OT supplemental questions

The GRE is not required for admission to USAHS’ MOT program.

How Long Is Occupational Therapy School?​


When you apply to an occupational therapy program, decide whether to attend on a full- or part-time basis. This choice can determine the length of your graduate program. Programs vary between schools, and USAHS’ programs are designed to be completed as follows:

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)

  • Residential: 2 years*
  • Hybrid Immersion: 2 years*
  • Flex: 3 years*

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)

  • Residential: 2.7 years*
  • Flex: 3.7 years*

The length of time it takes to complete an OT program may also vary depending on:

  • Residential, Flex or Hybrid Immersion format and if travel is required
  • If you need to complete any prerequisite coursework before starting a program
  • Your progress through coursework, any credits you transfer and other academic factors
  • Life considerations, such as if you work full- or part-time while earning your degree

All programs also include at least 24 weeks of supervised clinical fieldwork.

Is OT a Good Career and Worth the Investment?​


A career in occupational therapy can be ideal for those who enjoy working with people and want to specialize in a particular area or work with a specific population. Pursuing an occupational therapist career also usually comes with a promising annual wage ($96,370) and a rewarding job outlook (12% projected growth rate).4

Launch Your Occupational Therapy Career with USAHS​


Ready to take the next step toward advancing your education? The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers MOT and OTD programs.

At USAHS, learn anatomy with high-tech tools, practice with mock clients in state-of-the-art simulation centers and prepare for clinical practice with clients of all ages.

Explore our programs online or request more information to learn how you can further your passion for patient care with occupational therapy as a career.

*Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred, and other factors.

The entry-level occupational therapy master’s degree program at the Dallas, Texas, campus has applied for accreditation and has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 7501 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 510E, Bethesda, MD 20814-6519. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-6611 and its web address is www.acoteonline.org. The program must have a preaccreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.

Students must complete 24 weeks of Level II fieldwork within 24 months following completion of the didactic portion of the program.


Sources​

  1. Tore Bonsaksen, et al. “Job Satisfaction among Occupational Therapists Employed in Primary Care Services in Norway,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2023;20:6, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20065062.
  2. American Occupational Therapy Association “What is occupational therapy?,” AOTA, 2024, https://www.aota.org/about/what-is-ot.
  3. American Occupational Therapy Association “Find your state licensure answers?,” AOTA, 2024, https://www.aota.org/career/state-licensure/frequently-asked-questions.
  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Therapists: Summary,” BLS, last modified April 17, 2024, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm#tab-1.
  5. U.S. News and World Report, “U.S. News Best Jobs Rankings,” U.S. News and World Report, January 2024, https://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/the-25-best-jobs.
  6. American Occupational Therapy Association “Congress Set to Decrease Cuts to 2024 Medicare Fee Schedule,” AOTA, March 2024, https://www.aota.org/advocacy/advocacy-news/2024/congress-decreases-cuts-to-2024-medicare-physician-fee-schedule.
  7. Eun-Young Park, “Meta-Analysis of Factors Associated with Occupational Therapist Burnout,” Occupational Therapy International, December 2021, https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/122684.
  8. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Therapists: Pay,” BLS, April 17, 2024, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm#tab-5.
  9. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2023,” BLS, April 3, 2024, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291122.htm.
  10. Best Places, “Nevada Cost of Living,” Best Places, 2024, https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/nevada.
  11. Best Places, “California Cost of Living,” Best Places, https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/california.
  12. Best Places, “New York Cost of Living,” Best Places, https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/new-york.
  13. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupations with the most job growth,” BLS, April 17, 2024, https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/occupations-most-job-growth.htm.
  14. Sanna-Maria Mertala, Outi Kanste, et al., “Job Satisfaction among Occupational Therapy Practitioners: A Systematic Review of Quantitative Studies,” Occupational Therapy in Health Care, January 2022; 36(1):1-28, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34407737.
  15. American Occupational Therapy Association “Become an occupational therapy practitioner,” AOTA, 2024, https://www.aota.org/career/become-an-ot-ota.
  16. “Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education,” ACOTE, https://acoteonline.org.
  17. “National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy,” NBCOT, https://www.nbcot.org.
If you want to help individuals improve their daily lives in meaningful and creative ways, occupational therapy (OT) may be right for you. As an occupational therapist (OT), you will work with individuals or groups with physical and mental injuries or disabilities. You will aid in recovery and help individuals master vital living skills to
 

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