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Occupational Therapist Career Guide

A career in occupational therapy is a career that involve passion, empathy and strong communication. Employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. However, occupational therapists need to achieve at least a masters degree and then pass a national examination in order to be licensed.

Probably the strongest reason anybody decides to pursue a healthcare career is because they want to help people. So, what sets occupational therapy apart from other careers? All healthcare providers work to help people get better, but I work to help people regain their independence, and often their dignity, in the face of serious impairment, injury, or disease.

Renee Leuschke

Occupational Therapist Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Occupational Therapist Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Occupational Therapist field.
IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33216Occupational TherapistMale44 $58,000Clinton, MA01/01/2010

Overview

What a occupational therapist actually does

An occupational therapists helps patients, who have injuries or disease, to develop, regain, or improve the skills that are required for daily living and employment. Occupational therapists work in schools, senior centers, hospitals or therapy clinics and they can specialize in working with children, elderly patients, those with mental health issues, disabled patients or trauma patients. Regardless of where occupational therapists work or who they work with, their typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Conducting physical and psychological assessments of patients
  • Developing treatment plans to help patients cope with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities, regain their skills and to prepare them to return to work.
  • Create treatment plans that help patient develop or regain physical or mental functioning or adjust to disabilities.
  • Assessing the home and work environments of patients to decide what adjustments are needed to help make their lives easier
  • Advising on adaptive equipment to help clients with daily activities
  • Educating and advising caregivers and family members of clients on patient care
  • Evaluating the progress of occupational therapy on patients and making adjustments or modifications where necessary
  • Maintaining professional knowledge and technical progress in order to provide clients with the best treatment program available
  • Determining potential difficulties for the client when they return to work and contacting the employer to help them to understand the necessary physical and job accommodations
  • Keeping documents of patient care services and ensuring patient confidentiality is maintained

Why they are needed

Occupational therapists play an important part of patient care. They help hundreds of people, who have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses, to get back on their feet and find everyday life more enjoyable. In return, this will have a positive impact on their mental health and their self-esteem.

Pros and cons of a career as a police officer:

Pros:

  • A career as an occupational therapist offers incredibly high job satisfaction. This is because their work makes a huge differences to the lives of many
  • There are lots of different fields to work in and occupational therapists can chose the one that seems the most interesting to them, This gives them lots of career scope and flexibility
  • Occupational therapists get to meet new people every day. So, if you love working with all sorts of people then it is the perfect job for you
  • Occupational therapists are in high demand and there are plenty of opportunities to make good money

Cons:

  • To become fully qualified, lots of studying is required
  • Being an occupational therapist is a physically demanding job as it often requires you to lift patients, to set up things and to be walking around/standing up all day
  • It is an incredibly emotionally challenging career as occupational therapists work closely with the patient and their family.  They therefore see their distress and worry. On top of this, occupational therapists might not see any progress in their patients, which can be emotionally draining
  • Occupational therapists may have to work long hours. This is because some clients need around the clock support and others may have an unexpected need that has to be addressed imminently

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 18 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

This employment growth is predicted as it is expected that occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of treatment for people with various illnesses, chronic conditions and disabilities. It is also thought that these patients will continue to seek treatment for long-term disabilities and illnesses, and this will need to be assisted by occupational therapists.

Furthermore, people are wanting to remain active into later in their life, and therefore occupational therapists can help senior citizens maintain their independence by recommending home modifications and strategies that make daily activities easier.

Demand for occupational therapy services will also increase as therapists will continue to be needed in schools to assist children with autism in improving their social skills and accomplishing a variety of daily tasks.

Career paths

To become an occupational therapists, you will firstly need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology and physiology. You will then most likely need a master’s degree in occupational therapy, which should be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, part of the American Occupational Therapy Association. To get a place on a masters programme, you should aim to have experience working in an occupational setting.

A master’s in occupational therapy usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. Some occupational therapist take doctoral programs, which take about 3 and a half years. Both the master’s and doctoral degrees require at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork, in which aspiring occupational therapists gain clinical work experience. In addition, doctoral programs require a 16-week capstone experience.

Once the relevant education is completed, 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).

Once fully trained to be a general occupation therapist, occupational therapists can specialize. The American Occupational Therapy Association offers a number of 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.

Job opportunities should be good for licensed occupational therapists in all settings, particularly acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings where the elderly receive treatment. On top of this, occupational therapists with specialized knowledge in a treatment area also will have better job prospects.

Example Job Titles for Occupational Therapist

Below is a list of common job titles in the Occupational Therapist field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for occupational therapists was $84,950 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $56,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,490.

The top paying industries were nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities), where the average annual salary was $90,830. This is followed by home healthcare services, where the average annual salary was $89,220. Next was offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists ($87,190), hospitals ($85,510) and elementary and secondary schools ($74,670).

Autonomy and Flexibility

As occupational therapists are highly qualified and often get to make decisions, there is a lot of autonomy. Working hours can also be flexible in some settings, such as schools.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an occupational therapist, based on salary and total number of jobs, were:

  1. Alaska, where the average annual salary is $84,689
  2. California, where the average annual salary is $93,849
  3. Mississippi, where the average annual salary is $74,281
  4. Nevada, where the average annual salary is $81,556
  5. Oregon, where the average annual salary is $78,805

The worst states for occupational therapists were New York, Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota and Hawaii.

Work environment

Occupational therapists tend to work full time and they may have to work nights or weekends to accommodate to their patients schedule. They may spend time travelling from one job to another and spend a lot of their day on their feet, lifting and moving patients or heavy equipment.

The largest employer of occupational therapist were hospitals, which employed 27% of all occupational therapist in the United States. In close second are offices of physical, occupational and speech therapist and audiologists, who employ 26% of occupational therapists. Elementary and secondary schools employ 11%, home healthcare services employer 9% and nursing care facilities employe 9%.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Occupational Therapist careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Occupational Therapist career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Occupational Therapist.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

Occupational therapists are likely to be a Myers-Briggs INFP personality type. The INFP, also called the ‘Healer’, is empathetic, understanding, caring and compassionate. These are the key qualities and skills needed to become a successful occupational therapist.

Accomplishment and mastery

As there is a lot of education required to become an occupational therapist, the sense of accomplishment and mastery is high when occupational therapists qualify and get given responsibility. On top of this, occupational therapists are expected to continue to develop their skills, meaning accomplishment and mastery will continue.

Meaning and contribution

Occupational therapists play an essential role in ensuring that the lives of patients are improved after they suffer life changing injuries or disease. This means that their work is incredibly meaningful and makes a valuable contribution to patient care.

Life fit

Occupational therapists tend to work full time and may sometimes have to work evenings of weekends. However, a lot of occupational therapists have flexible working hours, meaning that it is a career that can provide great life fit.

Who will thrive in this career?

You will thrive as an occupational therapist if you enjoy helping others, as improving the lives of others is at the forefront of what an occupational therapist does. You will also thrive if you have the natural ability to communicate and empathize with lots of different people. Those who have the ability to solve problems will also have an advantage, as occupational therapists will often have to help patients solve their problems and solve problems with the treatment plan.

On top of all this, it will help to be physically fit, as you will struggle if you cannot deal with lifting heavy objects and being on your feet all day!

Who will struggle in this career?

Those who are seeking a desk job that doesn’t involve interacting with or helping lots of people are likely to struggle. Similarly, those who prefer to work in the one place and not travel from job to job may struggle, especially if you can’t drive and will have to rely on public transport. If you are not physically fit, you may struggle to keep up with the demands of job, which involves lifting heavy things and standing up all day.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as being able to endure standing up all day, occupational therapists need to have skills such as:

  • Problem solving skills, as occupational therapists will have to help clients solve the problems they will face and solve problems in treatment programmes
  • Patience, as working with illness and disease can be a slow and frustrating process. Sometimes, results will not be seen and there is no quick fix and patience is needed to keep working towards a goal
  • Compassion and empathy, as occupational therapists need to help people improve their lives and therefore must understand their needs and concerns
  • Communication skills, both written and verbal, as occupational therapists will need to communicate their ideas to patients and keep written documents up to date
  • Adaptability, as occupational therapists need to be flexible when treating patients because not every type of therapy will work for each patient

Education

To become an occupational therapists, you will firstly need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology and physiology. You will then most likely need a master’s degree in occupational therapy, which should be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, part of the American Occupational Therapy Association. To get a place on a masters programme, you should aim to have experience working in an occupational setting.

A master’s in occupational therapy usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. Some occupational therapist take doctoral programs, which take about 3 and a half years. Both the master’s and doctoral degrees require at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork, in which prospective occupational therapists gain clinical work experience. In addition, doctoral programs require a 16-week capstone experience.

Certifications

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require candidates to pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

The American Occupational Therapy Association offers a number of 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.

How to Become

Summary

A career in occupational therapy is a career that involve passion, empathy and strong communication. Employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. However, occupational therapists need to achieve at least a masters degree and then pass a national examination in order to be licensed.

Immediate action

To get accepted onto a masters programme, you must have experience working in an occupational therapy setting. Therefore, you can immediately begin looking for voluntary places near you so you can begin to gain some invaluable experience.

Education and learning

Occupational therapists need a bachelor’s degree in a related field. They then need to achieve a master’s degree in occupational therapy, which should be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, part of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Skill development

Occupational therapists develop lots of their skills through their university education and through their supervised fieldwork.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Occupational Therapist careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33216Occupational TherapistMale44 $58,000Clinton, MA01/01/2010

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