Hospitals, schools and home health-care companies rely on occupational therapists to help autistic children function more independently. Occupational therapists who work with children assess their needs and assist them with activities to develop their cognitive, coordination and motor skills. If you want to work as an occupational therapist for autistic children, you need a master's degree in occupational therapy. In return, you can expect to earn an above-average income compared to most occupations.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary for an occupational therapists who works with autistic children was $88,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Indeed. To specialize in this field, you need a master's degree in occupational therapy and roughly three years' experience working with autistic children. You also need to get licensed through the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Your college or university will likely prepare you for the licensing exam during your last year in school if it's accredited through the AOTA. Other important qualifications include compassion, patience and listening, communication and writing skills.
In 2013, average salaries for occupational therapists who worked with autistic children varied the most within the West region, according to Indeed, where they earned the least in Hawaii and the most in California -- $57,000 per year and $95,000 per year, respectively. Those in the Northeast made $75,000 to $106,000 per year, respectively, in Maine and New York. If you worked as an occupational therapist for autistic children in South Dakota or Illinois, you would earn $65,000 or $97,000 per year, respectively, which represented the lowest and highest earnings in the Midwest. In the South region, you'd make the most in Washington, D.C. and least in Louisiana at $105,000 and $75,000, respectively.
Occupational therapists who work with autistic children can earn more working for specific types of employers. For example, occupational therapists in the home health care services industry in 2012 earned the highest salaries among all occupational therapists at $86,850 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These occupational therapists also earned more working at specialty hospitals -- children's hospitals, for example -- $77,790 versus the industry average of $76,400 per year for all occupational therapists. You'd also likely earn more if you worked for a larger home-health care company or hospital.
The BLS projects a 33 percent increase in employment for occupational therapists, including those working with autistic children, from 2010 to 2012, which is more than double the growth rate of 14 percent for all occupations. You may find the most job opportunities in this field working for outpatient centers or orthopedic doctors' offices, as advances in technology enable these establishments to provide more services. It may also benefit you to get certified through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, which may increase your chances of getting hired as an occupational therapist for autistic children. Certification is optional for occupational therapists.