Certified Hand Therapist: Salary and Career Facts
Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as a certified hand therapist. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information.
What Is a Certified Hand Therapist?
A hand therapist is a physical therapist or occupational therapist who specializes in the treatment of hands and arms, including wrists, elbows and shoulders. For either of these jobs, certification is necessary. Hand therapists treat individuals who have suffered an injury or have an illness that affects the use of their hands. They devise treatment plans based upon their assessment of each individual patient's needs. Physical therapists typically offer treatments designed to alleviate pain, and they teach patients exercises that can help them improve their general strength and mobility. In contrast, occupational therapists focus more specifically on helping recovering individuals re-learn to use their hands for daily tasks.
See the table below for more information about this career choice:
|Degree Required||Master's degree at minimum for occupational therapists; doctoral degree for physical therapists|
|Education Field of Study||Occupational Therapy|
|Key Responsibilities||Assess functional problems and abilities, |
Develop individualized treatment plans,
Provide therapy based on assessment and treatment plans,
|Licensure/Certification||Licensure required by state; |
Hand therapist certification is voluntary but may enhance employment options
|Job Growth (2018-2028)*||18% for all occupational therapists, |
22% for all physical therapists
|Mean Salary (2018)*||$84,270 for all occupational therapists, |
$87,930 for all physical therapists
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Would I Do as a Certified Hand Therapist?
As a certified hand therapist your main job duty is to provide therapy for hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders utilizing occupational and physical therapy techniques. You plan treatments according to your assessment of each individual patient's needs. The therapy you provide helps the patient to gain use of the injured area, prevent future issues and prevent deterioration. You'll likely work with individuals who've undergone surgery or sustained injuries to their hands, and you'll help them regain enough use to carry out daily tasks or job skills.
What Education Do I Need?
You need to have at least a master's degree in occupational or physical therapy, along with the required licenses and experience working in some form of therapy. According to the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC), a hand therapist needs at least five years of clinical experience with 4,000 hours in hand therapy before applying for certification (www.htcc.org). A certified hand therapist must have extensive knowledge of hand surgery procedures and postoperative care techniques, according to the HTCC.
How Do I Get Certified?
Certification is available through the HTCC. Though voluntary, it may be helpful in finding employment as it verifies your skills and experience and provides proof that you meet the advanced competency standards set by the HTCC. The Certified Hand Therapist designation is recognized in the industry as an advanced credential. To earn the certification, you need to provide the following:
- Documentation of five years experience in occupational or physical therapy
- Copy of your active occupational or physical therapy license, registration or certificate
- Proof of 4,000 hours work experience in hand therapy
- Explanation of hours form
- Consent form
After completing the application for certification and providing all required documentation, you must pass the HTCC advanced skills and knowledge test to earn the Certified Hand Therapist designation.
How Much Can I Earn?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide exact earnings for certified hand therapists, but it did report the mean annual wages for occupational and physical therapists (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, occupational therapists earned a mean annual wage of $85,350 as of May 2018, while physical therapists earned a mean annual wage of $88,880.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Instead of working as a therapist, you could become a medical professional, where you would diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions, including hand-related injuries and disease. For instance, as a surgeon, you might conduct operations for patients who have suffered trauma to their hands. To become a surgeon, you need to earn a medical degree and complete a residency program in the field. Alternatively, you could consider becoming a prosthetist. They design and create artificial limbs, including hands. Prosthetists need to have a master's degree and pass a licensure exam.