As a therapist, you can have an important role in the development and functioning of children and young adults (from 3-21 years of age). You can do this by working in the school or preschool setting. Within this setting, therapists aid students in their access to and participation in educational activities. This is a common job choice for speech language pathologists — 41 percent work in elementary and secondary schools. In addition, 12 percent of occupational therapists and 8 percent of physical therapists work in schools.
Therapists have several options for employment within the school setting, and each come with their own benefits and drawbacks. You can work as:
- An employee of a school district. Much like a teacher or other staff member, a therapist working directly for a school district receives the same benefits as any other employee. These include weekends, holidays and summers off, which can be a great opportunity if you have children of your own. You will also receive the same healthcare benefits, 401(k), pension, etc., as other employees of the school district. However, you must also weather the same concerns as other district employees, including potential layoffs and school politics, as well as lower pay than other therapists working in this setting.
- A contract worker. You can also choose to work for an agency that contracts with schools for therapy services. With this option, you’ll receive good pay and benefits (though not as rich as those available to school district employees). You’ll also have job stability through the length of your employment contract.
- An independent contractor. Your third option is working for yourself. As your own boss, you’ll have the advantage of setting your rate and can be among the highest paid in the school setting. However, you’ll also take on the responsibility of negotiating contracts with schools, purchasing malpractice and health insurance, invoicing your client and managing your own tax payments.
Advantages of the school setting
Working with children is rewarding in itself — you’ll get to have an impact on the futures of all students you come into contact with, and their families. School-based therapy is similar to working in the pediatric setting, so if you enjoy working with kids, it’s an excellent career choice.
Average salaries of school-based therapists
Your annual pay will fluctuate based on where you work within this setting. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay for therapists working in NAICS 611000 – Educational Services (including private, state, and local government schools) is:
- $96, 810 (physical therapists)
- $66, 910 (speech language pathologists)
- $66, 610 (occupational therapists)
To learn more
For more information about becoming a school-based therapist, you can check out the following associations:
- Michigan Alliance School Physical and Occupational Therapists (MASPOT): http://www.maspot.org/
- American Physical Therapy Association – Education Chapter: http://www.aptaeducation.org/home-page.cfm
- American Occupational Therapy Association—OTs in the school setting: https://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT/Professionals/WhatIsOT/CY/Fact-Sheets/School%20Settings%20fact%20sheet.pdf
Looking for a great new therapy position?
PT Solutions can help. We’re a staffing firm run by therapists for therapists. We place physical and occupational therapists and speech language pathologists with rewarding positions nationwide. To learn more, contact a PT Solutions’ Employment Specialist today!