If you have an interest in the health care field, but don't necessarily want to work directly with patients, occupational therapy instruction is an in-demand career alternative to clinical occupational therapy. Increased educational requirements, teaching salaries less than salaries in clinical practice, retirement of educators, and more occupational therapy programs have resulted in an ongoing shortage of instructors.
About the Career
Occupational therapy instructors are responsible for preparing aspiring occupational therapists or assistants to understand how to perform therapy that helps patients to reach their physical or emotional goals. Occupational therapy is rehabilitation therapy for people with injuries or disabilities that need help with doing everyday tasks. Occupational therapists work with people on a wide variety of issues, such as teaching a stroke patient how to tie her shoes, teaching a child with a mental disability how to feed himself, or teaching someone with anxiety how to deal with workplace stress. They are trained to help in a number of ways -- all with the goal of helping people to live independently and have the fewest challenges possible. You must have a minimum of a master's degree in order to be an occupational therapy instructor. Having a doctoral degree is even better, as regulations are requiring that more faculty have these advanced degrees.
Although occupational therapy instructors may pull in a bit less than clinical occupational therapists, there is still potential to earn a good paycheck. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teachers earned an average income of $62,050 as of May 2010. Because occupational therapy instructors are in high demand, their salary appears to have been higher than that average during a comparable time period. According to a 2009 salary survey conducted by the Advanced Healthcare Network for Occupational Therapy Practitioners, occupational therapy faculty reported an average salary of $69,133.
As with many professions, the job location can affect your salary dramatically. If you are looking to earn high wages, you may want to pack your cool clothes and head to New Mexico. In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that New Mexico had the highest average annual salary for postsecondary health specialty teachers, at $143,320. The District of Columbia followed at $136,770. Idaho reported the lowest average salary for health specialty teachers, at $57,950 per year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that the field of occupational therapy is expected to grow at an above-average rate between 2010 and 2020. People are living longer, which means occupational therapists will be needed more and more to help with conditions and problems brought on by age. With the need for more occupational therapists, the need for instructors to teach them will also increase. Employment in the education field is expected to grow by about 17 percent between 2010 and 2020 as college enrollment keeps going up. With both the occupational therapy and education fields growing, occupational therapy instruction can offer exciting and lucrative career opportunities.
Based in Los Angeles, Amber Collins has been working in private-sector Human Resources for 10 years. Collins has been certified as a Professional in human resources by the Human Resources Certification Institute since 2007. She holds a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in human resources management from California State University, Dominguez Hills.