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Become An Occupational Therapist

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Working As An Occupational Therapist

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • $76,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Occupational Therapist Do

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

Duties

Occupational therapists typically do the following:

  • Review patients’ medical history, ask the patients questions, and observe them doing tasks
  • Evaluate a patient’s condition and needs
  • Develop a treatment plan for patients, identifying specific goals and the types of activities that will be used to help the patient work toward those goals
  • Help people with various disabilities with different tasks, such as teaching a stroke victim how to get dressed
  • Demonstrate exercises—for example, stretching the joints for arthritis relief—that can help relieve pain in people with chronic conditions
  • Evaluate a patient’s home or workplace and, on the basis of the patient’s health needs, identify potential improvements, such as labeling kitchen cabinets for an older person with poor memory
  • Educate a patient’s family and employer about how to accommodate and care for the patient
  • Recommend special equipment, such as wheelchairs and eating aids, and instruct patients on how to use that equipment
  • Assess and record patients’ activities and progress for patient evaluations, for billing, and for reporting to physicians and other healthcare providers

Patients with permanent disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, often need help performing daily tasks. Therapists show patients how to use appropriate adaptive equipment, such as leg braces, wheelchairs, and eating aids. These devices help patients perform a number of daily tasks, allowing them to function more independently.

Some occupational therapists work with children in educational settings. They evaluate disabled children’s abilities, modify classroom equipment to accommodate children with certain disabilities, and help children participate in school activities. Therapists also may provide early intervention therapy to infants and toddlers who have, or are at risk of having, developmental delays.

Therapists who work with the elderly help their patients lead more independent and active lives. They assess patients’ abilities and environment and make recommendations to improve the patients’ everyday lives. For example, therapists may identify potential fall hazards in a patient’s home and recommend their removal.

In some cases, occupational therapists help patients create functional work environments. They evaluate the workspace, recommend modifications, and meet with the patient’s employer to collaborate on changes to the patient’s work environment or schedule.

Occupational therapists also may work in mental health settings, where they help patients who suffer from developmental disabilities, mental illness, or emotional problems. Therapists teach these patients skills such as managing time, budgeting, using public transportation, and doing household chores in order to help them cope with, and engage in, daily life activities. In addition, therapists may work with individuals who have problems with drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, or other disorders. They may also work with people who have been through a traumatic event, such as a car accident.

Some occupational therapists, such as those employed in hospitals, work as part of a healthcare team along with doctors, registered nurses, and other types of therapists. They may work with patients who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes, or help rehabilitate a patient recovering from hip replacement surgery. Occupational therapists also oversee the work of occupational therapy assistants and aides.

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How To Become An Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists need at least a master’s degree in occupational therapy; some therapists have a doctoral degree. Occupational therapists also must be licensed.

Education

Most occupational therapists enter the occupation with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. In 2014, there were nearly 200 occupational therapy programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, part of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Admission to graduate programs in occupational therapy generally requires a bachelor’s degree and specific coursework, including biology and physiology. Many programs also require applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational therapy setting.

Master’s programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete; doctoral programs take about 3 years. Some schools offer a dual-degree program in which the student earns a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in 5 years. Part-time programs that offer courses on nights and weekends are also available.

Both master’s and doctoral programs require at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork, in which prospective occupational therapists gain clinical work experience.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all require candidates to pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). To sit for the NBCOT exam, candidates must have earned a degree from an accredited educational program and completed all fieldwork requirements.

Therapists must pass the NBCOT exam to use the title “Occupational Therapist, Registered” (OTR). They must also take continuing education classes to maintain certification.

The American Occupational Therapy Association also offers a number of board and specialty certifications for therapists who want to demonstrate their advanced or specialized knowledge in areas of practice, such as pediatrics, mental health, or low vision.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Occupational therapists must be able to listen attentively to what patients tell them and must be able to explain what they want their patients to do.

Compassion. Occupational therapists are usually drawn to the profession by a desire to help people and improve their daily lives. Therapists must be sensitive to a patients’ needs and concerns, especially when assisting the patient with his or her personal activities.

Flexibility. Occupational therapists must be flexible when treating patients. Because not every type of therapy will work for each patient, therapists may need to be creative when determining the treatment plans and adaptive devices that best suit each patient’s needs.

Interpersonal skills. Because occupational therapists spend their time teaching and explaining therapies to patients, they should be able to earn the trust and respect of those patients and their families.

Patience. Dealing with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities is frustrating for many people. Occupational therapists should be patient in order to provide quality care to the people they serve.

Writing skills. When communicating in writing with other members of the patient’s medical team, occupational therapists must be able to explain clearly the treatment plan for the patient and any progress made by the patient.

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Occupational Therapist Career Paths

Occupational Therapist
Senior Technician Specialist Manager Case Manager
Registered Nurse Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Technician Specialist Manager Program Director
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Technician Specialist Supervisor Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Therapist Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Therapist Supervisor Assistant Director
Interim Director
10 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
PRN Registered Nurse Supervisor Nursing Director
Managed Care Director
9 Yearsyrs
PRN Registered Nurse PRN Staff Nurse
Registered Nurse Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Unit Manager Nursing Director
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
PRN Registered Nurse Supervisor Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Clinical Social Worker Social Work Supervisor
Director Of Social Work
6 Yearsyrs
Staff Therapist Clinician
Lead Therapist
5 Yearsyrs
Staff Therapist Clinician Speech Language Pathologist
Therapy Program Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Program Director Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Director Clinical Director
Director Of Rehabilitation
7 Yearsyrs
Lead Therapist Clinical Director Director Of Rehabilitation
Rehab Director
6 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Clinical Supervisor Nurse Manager
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Nurse Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Coordinator Clinical Manager Director Of Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation Services Director
8 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Physical Therapist 4.6 years
Speech Therapist 4.4 years
Therapist 2.7 years
Top Careers Before Occupational Therapist
Internship 7.9%
Volunteer 5.8%
Therapist 5.6%
PRN 3.4%
Supervisor 3.0%
Consultant 2.0%
Top Careers After Occupational Therapist
PRN 8.5%
Therapist 7.7%
Supervisor 4.1%
Volunteer 2.9%
Owner 2.8%
Consultant 2.6%
Manager 2.4%

Do you work as an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

74.9%

Male

15.8%

Unknown

9.3%
Ethnicity

White

64.8%

Hispanic or Latino

12.7%

Black or African American

10.7%

Asian

8.2%

Unknown

3.5%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

56.0%

French

5.6%

Russian

5.3%

Korean

4.3%

Chinese

3.7%

Italian

3.4%

Hebrew

3.4%

Hindi

2.5%

Mandarin

2.5%

Cantonese

2.2%

German

1.9%

Japanese

1.9%

Gujarati

1.5%

Portuguese

1.5%

Vietnamese

0.9%

Polish

0.9%

Filipino

0.6%

Urdu

0.6%

Tagalog

0.6%

Yiddish

0.6%
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Occupational Therapist Education

Schools

San Jose State University

7.1%

Eastern Kentucky University

6.9%

Western Michigan University

6.5%

New York University

6.3%

Texas Woman's University

6.3%

University of Southern California

6.0%

Quinnipiac University

5.8%

Florida International University

5.5%

Eastern Michigan University

5.5%

Nova Southeastern University

4.9%

Towson University

4.6%

Tufts University

4.4%

University of Pittsburgh -

4.2%

Temple University

3.8%

Saint Catherine University

3.8%

Utica College

3.7%

Thomas Jefferson University

3.7%

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

3.7%

University of New Hampshire

3.6%

Mount Mary University

3.6%
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Majors

Occupational Therapy

84.6%

Psychology

2.3%

Business

1.7%

Rehabilitation Science

1.4%

Health Sciences And Services

1.3%

Kinesiology

1.1%

Physical Therapy

1.0%

Nursing

0.9%

Health Care Administration

0.9%

Education

0.9%

Clinical Psychology

0.5%

Public Health

0.5%

Special Education

0.4%

Biology

0.4%

Management

0.4%

Medical Assisting Services

0.3%

Elementary Education

0.3%

Health And Wellness

0.3%

Secretarial And Administrative Science

0.3%

Physiology And Anatomy

0.2%
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Degrees

Masters

57.2%

Bachelors

28.7%

Other

5.8%

Doctorate

3.8%

Associate

2.5%

Certificate

1.6%

Diploma

0.2%

License

0.1%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$76,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$52,000
Min 10%
$76,000
Median 50%
$76,000
Median 50%
$76,000
Median 50%
$76,000
Median 50%
$76,000
Median 50%
$76,000
Median 50%
$76,000
Median 50%
$113,000
Max 90%
Highest Paying City
Sunnyvale, CA
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
6.1 years
How much does an Occupational Therapist make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Occupational Therapist in the United States is $76,962 per year or $37 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $52,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $113,000.

Real Occupational Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Senior Occupational Therapist Gericare Med Supply, Inc. Channelview, TX Dec 21, 2015 $125,220
Occupational Therapist Multilingual Therapy Associates, Inc. New York, NY Aug 15, 2016 $120,003
Occupational Therapist Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Vineland Vineland, NJ Jun 05, 2015 $116,872
Occupatinal Theripist Healthy Living at Home Medford, OR Jan 04, 2016 $114,785
Occupational Theripist Healthy Living at Home Medford, OR Jan 04, 2016 $114,785
Occupational Therapist Lead II Tender Touch Rehab Services LLC Trenton, NJ Jun 20, 2016 $114,733
Occupational Therapist Lead II Tender Touch Rehab Services LLC Trenton, NJ Sep 25, 2015 $114,733
Occupational Therapist Lead II Tender Touch Rehab Services LLC South Plainfield, NJ Oct 26, 2015 $112,195
Occupational Therapist Community Physical Therapy Chicago, IL Jul 25, 2016 $110,975
Occupational Therapist Interface Rehab Inc. Modesto, CA Aug 04, 2016 $110,611
Occupational Therapist Pediatric Therapy Network Torrance, CA Jan 07, 2016 $110,611
DIR. Occupational Therapist Interface Rehab Inc. Placentia, CA Oct 01, 2015 $108,524
Occupational Therapist Supervisor Integrated Resources, Inc. Edison, NJ Aug 05, 2015 $108,098
Occupational Therapist Fig Holdings, LLC Modesto, CA Dec 27, 2015 $105,394
Occupational Therapist Greenbrook Nh LLC Saint Petersburg, FL Sep 30, 2015 $79,181
Occupational Therapist II Adventist Healthcare Rockville, MD Jul 13, 2016 $79,164
Occupational Therapist Heritage Care, Inc. Silver Spring, MD Aug 31, 2015 $79,102
Occupational Therapist Heritage Care, Inc. Silver Spring, MD Feb 18, 2016 $79,102
Occupational Therapist Heartland Employment Services, LLC Chevy Chase, MD Aug 30, 2016 $79,102
Occupational Therapist Hoquiam Healthcare, Inc. Hoquiam, WA Jun 29, 2016 $79,040
Occupational Therapist Dignity Health Phoenix, AZ May 23, 2016 $79,040
Occupational Therapist Kindred Rehab Services, Inc. Auburn, CA Jan 16, 2015 $70,207 -
$93,915
Occupational Therapist Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, Inc. Centreville, MD Jun 15, 2015 $70,186 -
$97,672
Occupational Therapist Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, Inc. Cambridge, MD Jun 15, 2015 $70,186 -
$97,672
Occupational Therapist Community Rehabilitation Services Inc. Comer, GA Sep 28, 2015 $70,102
Occupational Therapist Community Rehabilitation Services Inc. Commerce, GA Aug 15, 2016 $70,102
Occupational Therapist Community Rehabilitation Services Inc. Lyons, GA May 09, 2016 $70,102
Occupational Therapist All American Health Care Services Inc. NJ Dec 14, 2015 $70,054
Occupational Therapist Select Physical Therapy Texas Limited Partnership Dallas, TX Mar 29, 2016 $70,000 -
$90,000

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Top Skills for An Occupational Therapist

  1. Physical Therapy
  2. Occupational Therapy Services
  3. Treatment Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Collaborated closely with physical therapy and speech therapy in order to maximize patient outcomes and provide a team approach to rehabilitation.
  • Provided skilled Occupational Therapy services in a variety of settings and geographical locations.
  • Performed numerous evaluations and interventions, and successfully established collaborative goals and treatment plans with patients and the interdisciplinary team.
  • Provided children, family, and/or caregiver education and resources on occupational therapy techniques related to specific diagnoses.
  • Provided inpatient rehabilitation coverage as needed

What is it like to work as an Occupational Therapist

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October 2, 2019 on Zippia

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Top 10 Best States for Occupational Therapists

  1. Oregon
  2. Nevada
  3. Louisiana
  4. Arizona
  5. Tennessee
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Alaska
  8. Indiana
  9. California
  10. Delaware
  • (351 jobs)
  • (142 jobs)
  • (292 jobs)
  • (413 jobs)
  • (397 jobs)
  • (235 jobs)
  • (76 jobs)
  • (393 jobs)
  • (2,136 jobs)
  • (71 jobs)

Top Occupational Therapist Employers

Jobs From Top Occupational Therapist Employers

Occupational Therapist Videos

Day in the Life: Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapist, Career Video from drkit.org

Occupational Therapist Salary | How Much Money Does an Occupational Therapist Make?

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