Hand Therapist Careers

The hand is one of the most intricate, delicate, and complex parts of the human anatomy. The unique interaction of the bones, tendons and nerves in our hands provide our fine motor skills, dexterity, and precise motions. The hand is what makes humans so unique.

How many times have you used your hands today? You use them for work, play, and life. Hands are necessary for typing, opening doors, making food, or driving a car. You take them for granted until something happens to them. If something happens to your hands, visit a hand therapist.

Hand Therapists Help Preserve the Usefulness that is our Hands

Hand therapy is a specialized therapy niche that mixes the practices and theories of physical therapy and occupational therapy. Developed in the 1970’s, hand therapy focuses on hand and upper extremity rehabilitation. Due to the complexity of the hands and arms, highly focused and specialized hand therapists are required to properly treat patients, to improve their quality of life, and to help them adapt.

Hand therapists deal with both acute and chronic problems of the hands, arms, and shoulders. They work with patients who are dealing with a variety of injuries, accidents, and illnesses. They see and treat tendon injuries, crushing accidents, nerve damage, repetition injuries, burns, wounds, arthritis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, and chronic pain.

All of these things can cause a patient pain and discomfort, but a skilled hand therapist can help set these patients back on the right track. Hand therapists work with patients after surgery or treat issues that don’t require surgery. They may help a patient reduce sensitivity, regain feeling, increase range of motion, or help speed the recovery process.

A hand therapist works with numerous patients to evaluate, test, and treat different hand or arm ailments. They provide customized rehabilitation plans that include exercises and routines, track each patient’s progress, and tweak treatment plans as necessary. They also work with therapeutic interventions like manual manipulation, splint construction, and adaptive devices. During this process, hand therapists must be patient, compassionate, and dedicated as it is often a long road to recovery. But the end results are almost always rewarding.

To become a hand therapist, you need a master’s degree in Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy. Next you must earn either a state issued physical therapy or occupational therapy license before you can find a job. Once you are employed as a physical therapist or occupational therapist, you can choose to specialize in the hands and arms.

After 4,000 hours of hand therapy practice and 5 years of experience, you can become a Certified Hand Therapist with the Hand Therapy Certification Commission. Certification is not required, but can increase your income significantly.

Hand therapists can find jobs at hospitals, nursing homes, medical facilities, rehabilitation clinics, or therapy centers across the country. A hand therapist can make between $60,000 and $102,000 per year. The average salary for a hand therapist is $83,000.



As the population continues to grow and the baby boomers age, job growth for hand therapists is expected to grow by as much as 30%. According to CNN, hand therapists have one of the top 100 careers in the US in 2013. This job was ranked #13 due to high ratings in personal satisfaction, benefit to society, flexibility, and low stress.

Now is an excellent time to become a hand therapist. Great pay, rewarding work, and lots of job opportunities – what more can you want from a career?

Quick Facts About Hand Therapist Careers

Job Title: Hand Therapist
Office: Medical facilities
Description: Rehabilitate hands and arms to improve a patient’s quality of life
Certifications/Education: Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist Degree, State License
Necessary Skills: Knowledge of Hand Anatomy, Compassion, Patience, Dedication
Potential Employers: Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Therapy Centers
Pay: $60,000 and $102,000 per year

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