about becoming an OT?

Maybe you are interested in the profession and are contemplating going into the wonderful field of occupational therapy.

First off, you may be wondering what exactly is Occupational Therapy, or “OT” for short?

Becoming an OT.Occupational Therapy, as defined by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT), is a “client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation.”

Additionally, OT’s help to enable people to participate in their activities of everyday life by working with them to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do. Occupations include self-care, leisure activities, work, and social participation.

As an OT, you can work in many settings with many different populations, treating mental along with physical conditions.

The types of patients OTs treat range from children with autism to adults with hand or wrist injuries, brain injuries, mental health clients, people with an orthopedic surgery like a hip replacement or motor vehicle accident, people who have had a stroke, and older adults with dementia.

Just to name a few.

What is the Salary?

While you shouldn’t base choosing to be an occupational therapist solely based on the salary, it is helpful to know that you can live comfortably as an OT.

The national average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014) is $78,810 per year, which equates to $37.89 per hour.

While that is a great salary/hourly rate,  I do want to also let you know that Occupational Therapy Master’s and Doctorate degrees are not cheap.

On the low end, programs start at $40,000 just for tuition. This is also an in-state tuition rate and such programs are rare and very competitive to get into.

Most programs are $60,000-$120,000.

If you do your research, you will notice that some programs will also include lab/equipment fees of $100-$700 per year and textbook costs of $4,500 (BLS, 2014).

If you aren’t living at home for free with parents, you can also expect to add $12,000 a year for rent, utilities and food. In total, you’re looking at spending up to nearly $150k for OT school if you’re living on your own and paying your own bills.

As an example, the total costs for my program came out to roughly $80,000. Assuming a 6% interest rate and 10-year term, you can can expect to come out of school with student loan payments of $888 per month. You can play with the numbers using Bankrate’s student loan calculator. 

Becoming an OT.

After the 6 month post-graduation grace period, you can plan to start making your student loan payments.

This number will of course be higher or lower depending on several factors, such as if you attend a Master’s degree state school (lower) or private Doctorate program (higher).

Please be aware: I did a Google search while writing this post on “Cheapest OT Schools,” and the posts I found were completely inaccurate, stating the most expensive schools were only $44,000. This does not make clear that those costs are per year.

Check your school’s website for the most accurate information.

I don’t want this to discourage you at all, as it is doable. But if you’re just interested in getting into the field for the money, you won’t feel like you’re really “raking it in” until you get those student loans paid down, since you’re probably looking at over $100K for OT school and living expenses.

If you’re considering going to school to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant, the schooling will be much less expensive, and I break this down in my post titled “OTR or COTA: What’s the Difference?

You Mentioned Types of Clients, but Where Can I Work?

Occupational therapists work with anyone who needs help to improve their lives, and therefore OTs have a wide variety of places that they can be employed.

I compiled this list from The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)’s Compensation and Workforce study, but left off the percentages as it is from 2010 and the numbers probably differ a bit today.

This study lists the settings that both Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants primarily work in, with the ones higher on the list being the most common and the bottom settings being the least common.

  1. Hospitals
  2. Schools
  3. Nursing Facilities (Skilled Nursing or Assisted Living Facilities)
  4. Outpatient Therapy
  5. Home Health
  6. Academia
  7. Early Intervention
  8. Community
  9. Mental Health

What Do I Need to do to Get Started?

To get started on your future career as an Occupational Therapist, check out these other blog posts:

5 Big Mistakes I Made When Applying to OT School

Write an Awesome Personal Statement for OT School

The MOT vs OTD: Which Degree Should You Pursue?

Is Occupational Therapy Stressful?

I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide in your future career plans (OT or not), and if you have any questions that I didn’t cover, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you again soon!

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