Occupational therapy assistants provide creative solutions and therapeutic aid under the close supervision of registered occupational therapists. Occupational therapy assistants aid people with mental and physical challenges by improving skills for independence relative to daily living. This is done through involvement in relevant daily tasks and activities.
Occupational Therapy: The Past
In the early 1900s, Susan Tracy began using the term “occupational nurse.” The term describes nurses who treat mentally ill patients through therapeutic occupation or activity. Tracy then began training nurses in this specialty.
By 1914, architect George Edward Barton made contact with Dr. William R. Dunton, Jr. to formally establish an association for people interested in learning about “occupational work,” a term synonymous with occupational therapy.
Three years later, in 1917, the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy (NSPOT) was founded with charter members Susan Tracy and George E. Barton. Four years later, NSPOT’s name was changed to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
Formal accreditation for occupational therapists was formalized with the development for the first educational curriculum in 1923.
Demand for trained occupational therapists increases over the next few decades. By 1958, AOTA approves the formal certification process for occupational therapy assistants, in an attempt to help meet the demand. The formalization of occupational therapy education was completed in the 1960s, when St. Catherine’s University became the first university to offer a two year Associate’s Degree Program for occupational therapy assistants.
Occupational Therapy: The Present
So now that we’ve established the history of occupational therapy – a fairly recent profession – what does the current state of the industry look like? Nowadays, an occupational therapy assistant needs to attend a school accredited by the Council for Occupational Therapy Education. The field is dominated by women; in fact, 90% of occupational therapists are women.
As far as pay rate goes, most occupational therapists can expect to earn between $19.53 and $27.29 per hour; overtime can equal between $28.25 and $39.72 per hour. Bonuses average between $102.33 and $1441, making the total annual pay range for therapists between $39,557 and $56,383.
A certified occupational therapy assistant can usually command a salary range between $39,557 and $56,383. Senior certified occupational therapy assistants usually average a bit higher, between $46,560 and $62,593. On average, occupational therapists can expect to make between $50,042 and $69,779. The difference in salary is usually determined by years of experience and level of education attained.
It is common for occupational therapists to enjoy health benefits; in fact, 68% of therapists have medical coverage. Dental insurance is available to nearly 57% of therapists and vision care at 42%. Of all the occupational therapists working in the industry, approximately 29% (roughly a third) have no medical benefits at all.
Occupational Therapy: The Future
Currently, the top four most popular industries for occupational therapists are: occupational therapy, healthcare, long-term care, and rehabilitation. The average salary per hour of these industries is listed below:
- Occupational therapy pays the most, at $20.20 to $27.95 per hour;
- Healthcare comes second, at $19.38 to $26.82 per hour;
- Long-term care comes third, at $19.91 to $26.68 per hour;
- Rehabilitation comes last, at $19.42 to $26.64 per hour.
Currently, employment in the occupational therapy industry stands at 26,600. By 2018, that number is expected to grow to 34,600. The field already experienced an 18% growth rate in 2008, meaning that this is an occupation that will continue growing well into the future. The unemployment rate was only 3%. Average age for retirement in the field is 62 – meaning that this is a career that people can follow for their entire lives.
If you enjoy helping people and want to build a career in a growing industry, then the field of occupational therapy may be an excellent fit for your needs.