Occupational Therapy OT

| 24 August 2023

The data in this blog is for general informational purposes only and information presented was accurate as of the publication date.

How To Become a Travel Occupational Therapist

occupational therapist working with patient

Maybe you’ve graduated from college recently or decided to go back to school, and you find yourself drawn to careers where you can make a difference in people’s lives. You’ve thought about occupational therapy (OT) but aren’t ready to settle down in one place. So now you might be wondering how to become a travel occupational therapist (OT).

Travel OTs need to follow the path of any other OT to become certified and licensed to practice. First, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree, then pursue a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD), pass the NBCOT and obtain licensure.

Read our step-by-step guide to become a travel OT and learn everything you need to know about taking these next steps in your career.

Table of Contents

What Is A Travel Occupational Therapist?

travel occupational therapist responsibilities

A travel occupational therapist has the same core responsibilities as a regular OT. The main difference is that travel OTs visit different locations within the United States and work on short-term contracts, typically for thirteen weeks. As with many other traveling healthcare positions, travel OTs may get paid more than traditional OTs.

The main responsibilities of travel OTs include:

  • Create a support plan to help improve patients’ physical and cognitive well-being
  • Teach patients and caregivers how to safely and properly complete exercises in the support plan
  • Recommend and explain how patients can use tools to increase independence and complete daily tasks
  • Track patient progress and adjust the support plan as needed

Travel OTs typically find new assignments in one of two ways:

  • Work with an agency. A travel OT agency will interview you and decide if they will hire you. From there, you’ll match with a recruiter who will send you travel OT opportunities and help you apply. 
  • Research opportunities independently. You’ll explore and apply to positions on your own.

Travel occupational therapists work at the same places non-travel OTs work, including:

  • Clinics 
  • Government agencies
  • Home healthcare
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Mental health facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Schools

If you enjoy switching up your routine, traveling and meeting new coworkers around the county, then a career as a travel OT might be right for you.

Five Steps To Become a Travel Occupational Therapist

how to become a travel occupational therapist

As with any healthcare profession, you must pursue an advanced degree and formal training and work under a mentor before you start your career. Keep reading for everything you need to know about becoming a travel OT.

1. Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to travel OT is earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. While you can technically apply for a master’s or doctorate OT degree with any bachelor’s, there are prerequisites. It’s typically easier to apply for a graduate degree program if your bachelor’s requires classes such as:

  • Human Anatomy
  • Statistics
  • Anthropology
  • Human Physiology
  • Psychology

There are often unique requirements for different OT programs, so if you’re considering a career as a travel OT, review prospective programs in advance to see which classes you should prioritize to simplify your graduate school applications. Some of the best degrees for prospective occupational therapists include:

  • Occupational Therapy
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Education
  • Child Development
  • Kinesiology

If you graduate from a different program and want to pursue a career as an OT, some universities offer classes à la carte to bridge the gap. This is called a postbaccalaureate, or post-bacc, program and allows students to complete required courses and apply for advanced degree programs, such as an MOT or OTD.

Earn Your Graduate Degree

Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need a master’s or doctoral degree to become a travel OT. The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) is an accredited university that offers both program types:

An MOT is typically a two-year degree program that allows you to practice OT after you pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and obtain a license.1 An OTD is typically a three-year program that allows you to practice or explore other OT-related professions, such as policymaking and teaching. 

When you’re deciding where to attend OT school, it’s important to consider your budget, career goals, accreditation and the level of support you want from a program.

3. Pass the NBCOT

To practice OT throughout the country, you’ll need to first pass the NBCOT exam.

You’ll need to renew your NBCOT certification every three years, but you don’t need to retake the test. Instead, the NBCOT offers practice assessments and other activities you can complete.

4. Apply for Licensure

OT licensing requirements vary by state, but you’ll typically need to provide2:

  • Proof of identification
  • A licensing fee
  • Proof you’ve worked under a licensed supervising OT
  • NBCOT certification

Some states require transcripts from your MOT or OTD program, background checks and more. You’re required to work under a supervising OT, but the time requirement varies by state.

Traveling OTs will need licensure for each state they work in. The Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact (OT Compact) is a shared licensing agreement among several states that allows you to work in any participating state if you have a valid OT license in one of them.3 You can check the OT Compact Map to see which states participate.4

5. Apply for Travel OT Jobs

Travel OTs either find assignments or work with a travel employment agency. Working independently is great for maximizing control over your work schedule. 

Those who want to expand their OT career but do not enjoy searching for jobs might consider working with an agency. If you stick with an agency for an extended period, it gives your recruiter time to understand your strengths and goals so they can pick the best opportunities for you.

Pros and Cons of Being a Travel Occupational Therapist

pros and cons of being a travel occupational therapist

You might know what you want out of your OT career—freedom and flexibility are just some advantages of traveling OT assignments. Still wondering if a traditional or travel OT position is better for you? There are many reasons to be an OT, but here are some main pros of being a travel OT:

  • Opportunities to travel nationwide
  • Experience in many different care settings
  • Increased job flexibility
  • May provide benefits such as housing stipends

However, a travel position isn’t for everyone. Here are some disadvantages of being a travel OT:

  • Can be difficult to build a social life
  • Moving often can be tiring
  • Can feel like you’re constantly searching for a new position

Many full-time, non-travel OT positions require you to remain in the role for a few years before advancing your career. If you’re unsure about which area of OT to specialize in, the shorter work assignments as a travel OT allow you to figure out your career preferences before committing.

Travel Occupational Therapist Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median OT salary is $85,570 per year.5 If you work with an agency, you might also have access to these benefits as a travel OT:

  • Referral bonuses
  • 401(k) contributions
  • Housing stipends
  • Contract completion bonuses

Many OTs choose to travel at the beginning or end of their careers, valuing the competitive pay and the ability to take time off between assignments.

Start Your Travel OT Career With USAHS

The stability of a traditional OT role is great, but a travel OT position offers unique benefits—including higher pay, travel opportunities, paid housing and flexibility. 

Are you ready to become a travel OT? Apply now to USAHS’ MOT program to take the next step in your career and help improve the quality of life for people across the U.S.

Source List: 

  1.  National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, NBCOT Occupational Therapy Certification, https://www.nbcot.org/
  2.  National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, State Boards, https://www.nbcot.org/state-boards 
  3.  Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact, About, https://otcompact.org/about/ 
  4.  Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact, Compact Map, https://otcompact.org/compact-map/ 
  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Therapists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified May 2021, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm.



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