For a Better Career: The Path to Becoming an Occupational Therapist

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Becoming an occupational therapist is one of the greatest careers one can aspire for in the US. But the path there isn’t entirely clear, and most people who go down this path get into various hurdles along the way. You’re going to need to be in the right mindset and physical fitness before you can go down this path.

The salary of an occupational therapist working in the US is one of the largest in the world. The average salary of an OT is estimated to be around $80,000, while the top earners earn about $100,000 annually. Not many careers start with such a high salary cap with the potential even to earn more. But what do you need to do to go down this path?

Bachelor’s Degree and Graduate Degree

This career requires you to take on college. This might already be a turn-off for some people because it does require you to go into debt. But if you consider your potential salary in the future, you can easily pay off that debt in a year. But some of the subjects you’ll have to study are considered some of the hardest in the world.

Becoming an occupational therapist requires extensive knowledge about the various muscles in the human body and knowing about the skeletal system. Above all that, you also need to learn about various diseases and how they can affect mobility. A bachelor’s degree in OT can take about four years of your life. However, you also have to take up a graduate’s degree in OT, which is another two to three years of your life.

On average, it takes people about seven to eight years to become an OT. But others take about ten years. That’s almost equivalent to becoming a doctor!


After you’ve done the necessary academic work to become an OT, you’re going to need to become certified. This is one of the most stressful moments of becoming an OT because the test you will take isn’t easy.

The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, or NBCOT for short, is known to be extremely hard to pass, despite having a decent pass rate of around 80% and above. Many OTs who take the exam dedicate a lot of time and effort to it, studying everything they have learned for the past seven years or so. So whatever notes you have taken from your undergraduate and graduate studies, make sure they are safe and sound.

Many OTs who pass this test will tell you to study as much as you can and make sure that you’re in the right mindset before taking the test. If you don’t follow any of these things, there is a high chance you’ll fail.

After you pass the NBCOT and become a certified occupational therapist, you can get your state license. This does require you to apply for it and wait for quite some time. However, once you get your license, you’re free to practice as an OT in your state.

Side Hustle

It’s quite common for OTs to get a side hustle, especially during the last years of college. So here is some side hustle you can do to get some of your finances in order.

Fitness Trainer

Since the two careers are so close to each other, you might as well work your way up as a fitness trainer as a side hustle. You don’t need to work all the way up when it comes to certifications. A Cert 3 in fitness should be just fine. With the combination of occupational therapy and fitness trainer, it’s estimated that you can earn upwards of $100,000 a year. That’s a lot of money. It’s a good side hustle considering that you’re already in that field anyway.

Health Coach

Another good side hustle is becoming a health coach. A health coach is different from a fitness trainer because you’re more concentrated on keeping someone healthy than being in shape. You’re generally looking over people’s weight and lifestyle, and most of your clients are those who are obese or overweight. Once again, it’s pretty close to your field, so you can also learn much from this side-hustle.


Lastly, you can become an educator for all sorts of people who want to have a career in fitness and health. Your extensive knowledge will certainly help them excel in their field and pass their exams. It’s also a great way to start reviewing for your upcoming NBCOT, so not only you’re earning, you’re learning as well!

Becoming an occupational therapist is pretty challenging, but it can be one of the most rewarding careers in the world. Throughout the years, you can see people improve from your work, from being disabled to being mobile again. You also get a decent salary that comes alongside that sense of fulfillment. So if you think you’re in the right mindset, then this career is for you!

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