Travel OT can be the perfect way to start a new adventure right out of OT school.
When I finished OT school, I really wanted to be a travel OT.
I wanted to island hop in Hawaii, experience living in manhattan for a few months, and see as many national parks as possible.
After discussing travel OT with my peers and other therapists, I became discouraged. I was told that I would need mentorship and more experience before working as a traveler.
I later met OTs who started travel OT right out of school and were able to find mentorship. This helped me to finally get onboard and contact recruiters.
Travel OT is definitely doable as a new grad, and here are 5 reasons why you should start working as a travel OT right out of OT school.
#1 You don’t need experience to be a Travel OT
Some say you need experience before working as a travel therapist, but that’s not entirely true.
If you completed fieldwork and feel comfortable, you can start working in that setting.
For example, if you just finished working at an acute rehab facility, you should be able to work at any acute rehab or skilled nursing facility.
If there’s a travel job at an acute care hospital and you’ve never worked in acute care, skip it until you have more experience.
If you worked in a specialty like hand therapy, it’s probably best to have more hours working in that setting before traveling, and some agencies won’t allow you to be hired until you have more experience.
#2 You won’t have this experience again in your lifetime
If you plan on getting married or having kids, you may not have another opportunity to be a travel therapist.
For example, your partner may want to travel with you, but being a traveler and moving every 3 months can be stressful.
Moving is actually considered one of the most stressful life events, so sharing that experience with a partner can make that even more difficult.
It’s also difficult traveling if your partner has a solid job and isn’t able to work remotely.
I’m not saying that couples shouldn’t try traveling, because in some cases it works.
But if you’re single and just finished OT school, don’t let travel therapy be a missed opportunity.
#3 You can pay off your loans quicker with a travel job
Travel OT can be enticing, because it usually pays more. As a new grad, you probably won’t get as much pay starting out as a regular full time employee, so traveling allows you to bypass the pay tiers based on experience.
As a traveler, you can start at a higher salary, and when you start a regular job you can negotiate a higher rate with the experience you have.
#4 Travel OTs gain experience you can’t get anywhere else
As a traveler you get experience that employers may want in a future position.
Working as a traveler shows your employer that you can be flexible, handle stress, and work in a variety of different settings.
It also shows that you cope with change well.
#5 Travel OTs are able to save more money
Living on less
As a traveler you can save more money by living a minimalist lifestyle. Some travel therapists choose to live in a tiny house or RV to save money.
When I was living in Las Vegas, I met a traveling RN who was living at lake mead. Every few weeks she would travel to another campground in Mt Charleston, or a RV park near the strip. She would then return to Lake Mead for longer periods.
Some national parks will allow RV camping for 30 days, making it easier for travelers to find temporary housing.
Another way to save money as a travel OT is by traveling to a remote location. These locations will often pay more, and the housing can be more affordable. Some facilities will even offer you a place to stay.
Tax Benefits of Travel OT
The tax benefits can sometimes be beneficial as a traveling therapist, but this is only true if you have an existing residence. For example, if you have a home mortgage or pay rent, you can receive a tax stipend for meals and housing.
A lot of agencies and therapists will tell you that everyone gets tax stipends, but according to the IRS you need to qualify.
Almost any job you choose as a new grad will make you feel like a traveler. You’ll be working with new people, in a new position, setting, and be expected to have new job duties.
If you really need the mentorship, there are plenty of facilities that can provide it to travelers.
I hope these 5 reasons helped you feel more confident about traveling as a new grad. To learn more about travel OT salary click here.
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David is the lead editor of OT Focus. He has been practicing as an Occupational Therapist since 2013. He specializes in acute care, hand therapy, and ergonomics.