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Working As A Staff 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/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • $74,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Staff 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.


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 A Staff 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.


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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Staff Occupational Therapist Career Paths

Staff Occupational Therapist
Senior Technician Specialist Manager Service Manager
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Technician Specialist Manager Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Senior Technician Specialist Manager Program Director
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
PRN Speech Language Pathologist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
PRN Registered Nurse Supervisor Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
PRN Registered Nurse Supervisor Nursing Director
Interim Director
10 Yearsyrs
Therapist Case Manager Program Director
Director Of Program Services
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Managed Care Director
9 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinical Manager Nursing Director
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Consultant Program Manager Program Director
Department Director
6 Yearsyrs
Consultant Supervisor Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Consultant Program Manager Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Director Clinical Director
Director Of Rehabilitation
7 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Unit Manager Nurse Manager
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Team Leader Unit Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Specialist Clinician
Lead Therapist
5 Yearsyrs
Clinical Specialist Clinician Speech Language Pathologist
Therapy Program Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Clinical Specialist Clinical Manager Director Of Rehabilitation
Rehab Director
6 Yearsyrs
Visiting Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor Clinical Director
Rehabilitation Services Director
8 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Physical Therapist 4.6 years
Therapist 2.7 years
Top Careers Before Staff Occupational Therapist
PRN 3.2%
Internship 2.9%
Supervisor 2.7%
Manager 2.6%
Therapist 2.5%
Consultant 1.6%
Instructor 1.1%
Top Careers After Staff Occupational Therapist
Therapist 3.8%
Supervisor 2.5%
PRN 2.4%
Owner 2.1%
Consultant 2.1%
Manager 2.0%

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Average Yearly Salary
Show Salaries
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Trinity Health
Highest Paying City
Walnut, CA
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
5.3 years
How much does a Staff Occupational Therapist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Staff Occupational Therapist in the United States is $74,190 per year or $36 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $59,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $93,000.

The largest raises come from changing jobs.

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Real Staff Occupational Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Staff Occupational Therpaist Tricare Rehab, LLC Jan 02, 2013 $93,915
Staff Occupational Therapist Sundance Rehabilitation Corporation Apr 30, 2012 $91,828
Staff Occupational Therapist 5NEX & Company, Inc. Sep 26, 2009 $86,400
Senior Staff Occupational Therapist University Medical Center at Princeton Jun 27, 2016 $85,588
Staff Occupational Therapist University Medical Center at Princeton Jun 27, 2013 $82,249
Staff Occupational Therapist Hand Rehab Associates, Inc. Aug 04, 2015 $79,306
Staff Occupational Therapist Kids Dc LLC Sep 24, 2016 $79,300
Staff Occupational Therapist Senior Rehab Solutions Apr 21, 2015 $75,525
Staff Occupational Therapist East Texas Medical Center Oct 19, 2014 $75,069
Staff Occupational Therapist TNR Staffing LLC Nov 13, 2014 $74,880
Staff Occupational Therapist Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. May 13, 2011 $73,045
Staff Occupational Therapist Three Rivers Home Health Services Inc. May 13, 2011 $73,045
Staff Occupational Therapist University Medical Center at Princeton Jun 27, 2010 $72,982
Staff Occupational Therapist Choice Rehab, Inc. Oct 01, 2009 $72,800
Staff Occupational Therapist The Waters of Yorktown, LLC May 19, 2009 $71,760
Staff Occupational Therapist Kids Dc LLC Sep 24, 2016 $68,000
Staff Occupational Therapist New York University School of Medicine Nov 17, 2015 $67,465
Staff Occupational Therapist Kids Dc LLC Sep 24, 2013 $66,955
Staff Occupational Therapist Advantage Rehabilitation Services, LLC May 15, 2010 $65,000 -
Staff Occupational Therapist Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc. Jan 11, 2016 $64,002 -
Staff Occupational Therapist New York University School of Medicine Dec 22, 2014 $64,000
Staff Occupational Therapist New York University School of Medicine Nov 17, 2012 $64,000
Staff Occupational Therapist New York University School of Medicine Feb 21, 2011 $63,500

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Top Skills for A Staff Occupational Therapist

  1. Physical Therapy
  2. Treatment Plans
  3. Patient Care
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Collaborated with other disciplines including physical therapy, speech therapy and director to establish overall goals for patients.
  • Developed and implemented treatment plans with measurable outcomes in compliance with professional standards of practice and PPS/insurance guidelines for reimbursement.
  • Work efficiently and effectively with all disciplines creating cohesive working relationships to provide client centered approach for patient care.
  • Provided occupational therapy services to the geriatric population, emphasizing a strong, interdisciplinary team approach to patient care.
  • Conducted independent evaluations and treated patients in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Staff Occupational Therapists

  1. Mississippi
  2. Alaska
  3. California
  4. Nevada
  5. Arizona
  6. Oregon
  7. Tennessee
  8. Utah
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Louisiana
  • (217 jobs)
  • (82 jobs)
  • (2,494 jobs)
  • (165 jobs)
  • (455 jobs)
  • (404 jobs)
  • (435 jobs)
  • (60 jobs)
  • (465 jobs)
  • (308 jobs)

Staff Occupational Therapist Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 2,099 Staff Occupational Therapist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Staff Occupational Therapist Resume

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Staff Occupational Therapist Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken














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Staff Occupational Therapist Education


New York University


Texas Woman's University


Western Michigan University


Temple University


Colorado State University


Eastern Michigan University


Chicago State University


University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee


Eastern Kentucky University


University of the Sciences


University of Indianapolis


Florida International University


University of New England


Thomas Jefferson University


Ohio State University


Mount Mary University


University of Alabama at Birmingham


D'Youville College


Quinnipiac University


University of Louisiana at Monroe

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Occupational Therapy






Health Sciences And Services


Rehabilitation Science






Clinical Psychology


Special Education




Elementary Education


Somatic Bodywork


Physical Therapy


Counseling Psychology








School Counseling


Nursing Assistants


Physiology And Anatomy

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High School Diploma

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Updated May 18, 2020