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Occupational Therapy Career

Career Description

Occupational Therapists help patients improve their ability to perform tasks in living and working environments. They work with individuals who suffer from a mentally,  physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling condition. Occupational therapists use treatments to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of their patients.

Common Work Tasks

  • Help clients to perform all types of activities,  from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as dressing, cooking, and eating
  • Use computer programs to help clients improve decision-making, abstract-reasoning, problem-solving, and perceptual skills, as well as memory, sequencing, and coordination
  • Demonstrate the use of adaptive equipment,  including wheelchairs, orthoses, eating aids, and dressing aids
  • Design or build special equipment needed at home or at work, including computer-aided adaptive equipment
  • Teach clients how to use the equipment to improve communication and control various situations in their environment
  • Arrange employment, evaluate the work space,  plan work activities, and assess the client’s progress
  • Collaborate with the client and the employer to modify the work environment so that the client can successfully complete the work
  • Assess and record a client’s activities and progress
  • Work with children individually, lead small groups in the classroom, consult with a teacher, or serve on an administrative committee
  • Treat individuals who are mentally ill,  developmentally challenged, or emotionally disturbed

Other Job Titles

Occupational Therapists are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Physical Therapists
  • Rehabilitation Therapists
  • Occupational Therapist Assistants
  • Occupational Therapist Aides

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Individuals pursuing a career as an occupational therapist usually need to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy from an accredited college or university, which includes 6 months of supervised fieldwork.

Certification and Licensure
All States,  require that occupational therapists be licensed. To obtain a license,  applicants must graduate from an accredited educational program and pass a national certification examination. Those who pass the exam are awarded the title “Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR).” Specific eligibility requirements for licensure vary by State.

Occupational therapists need patience and strong interpersonal skills to inspire trust and respect in their clients. Patience is necessary because many clients may not show rapid improvement. Ingenuity and imagination in adapting activities to individual needs are assets. Those working in home health care services also must be able to adapt to a variety of settings.


The median annual salary for an Occupational Therapist is $64,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $94,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $42,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of occupational therapists are:

  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $66,350
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners - $68,720
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools  - $59,590
  • Nursing Care Facilities - $70,040
  • Home Health Care Services  - $76,530

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  23%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 23,000
  • Employment 2006 : 99,000
  • Employment 2016:  122,000
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