Career Development

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Find out what an occupational therapist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an occupational therapist.

Occupational therapists help people with physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities to live as independently as possible. They work with a wide range of patients—from infants who are just beginning to crawl to elderly adults who have lost the ability to dress themselves due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Occupational therapists use a variety of techniques to help their patients achieve this goal. These may include exercises, equipment, and other interventions designed to improve motor skills, coordination, balance, strength, endurance, etc.

Occupational Therapist Job Duties

Occupational therapists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Creating treatment plans based on assessments of patients’ needs and goals for treatment
  • Conducting evaluations to determine an individual’s physical, mental, emotional, or social capabilities and needs
  • Coordinating with physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, school staff, and parents to ensure that treatment plans are carried out effectively
  • Developing programs and treatment plans to help patients improve their functional abilities
  • Observing patients performing daily activities to identify opportunities for improving function
  • Identifying environmental factors that may be affecting a patient’s ability to recover from an injury or illness
  • Performing clinical assessments of patients’ abilities to determine whether they are ready to begin physical therapy treatment
  • Providing advice and instruction on topics such as posture, range of motion, and lifting techniques
  • Suggesting home exercises and other strategies to help patients maintain their progress

Occupational Therapist Salary & Outlook

Occupational therapists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location.

  • Median Annual Salary: $92,500 ($44.47/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $145,000 ($69.71/hour)

The employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

The number of older people is increasing, and many of these individuals will require rehabilitation services. Occupational therapy can help older adults maintain their independence by teaching them adaptive techniques that allow them to continue doing tasks of daily living, such as bathing and preparing meals.

Occupational Therapist Job Requirements

There are a number of qualifications required to obtain a position as an occupational therapist. They include:

Education: Most occupational therapists have at least a master’s degree. Master’s programs in occupational therapy typically take two years to complete and include coursework and supervised clinical experience. Coursework typically includes kinesiology, anatomy, physiology, psychology, research methods and statistics.

Training & Experience: Most occupational therapists complete their training while obtaining their bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. During their education, they receive hands-on training in the form of clinical internships. These internships allow students to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist.

Certifications & Licenses: All states require licenses for occupational therapists. Requirements vary from state to state, but typically candidates must pass the NBCOT exam before applying for a license.

Many occupational therapists opt to pursue additional certifications from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

Occupational Therapist Skills

Occupational therapists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Communication skills are necessary for occupational therapists to have, as they often work with patients, other medical professionals and patients’ families. These professionals often need to explain treatment plans and procedures to patients and their families, as well as explain the results of tests and other assessments. They also need to be able to explain to patients and their families how to best perform exercises and other treatment procedures.

Technical skills: Occupational therapists use technical skills to use various equipment and tools in their work. They may use various types of equipment to assess and treat patients, including tools to measure body temperature, blood pressure and other vital signs. They may also use equipment to help patients improve their motor skills, such as tools to measure the speed and accuracy of a patient’s hand movements.

Physical stamina: Physical stamina refers to the ability to sustain physical activity for long periods of time. Occupational therapists often spend their days on their feet, moving from one patient to the next. They may also perform physical assessments, which can involve lifting and moving patients.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Occupational therapists use empathy to help patients understand their diagnoses and treatment plans. They also use empathy to understand the challenges their patients face and how to overcome them.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills allow you to identify challenges and develop solutions to overcome them. As an occupational therapist, you may need to solve issues related to a patient’s health, their work environment or their ability to perform certain tasks. For example, you may need to find ways to help a patient with a physical disability continue working or find ways to make a patient’s work environment more accessible.

Occupational Therapist Work Environment

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and private practices. They may also work in schools, daycare centers, or in patients’ homes. They typically work full time, although some therapists may work part time or on a per-visit basis. Many occupational therapists work evenings or weekends to accommodate their patients’ schedules. Some therapists may be on call to provide services after normal working hours. The work can be physically demanding, as therapists may have to lift or move patients or equipment. The work can also be emotionally demanding, as therapists work with patients who have a wide range of disabilities or who are coping with the effects of a serious illness or injury.

Occupational Therapist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how occupational therapists work. Occupational therapists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity in the Occupational Therapy Profession

The occupational therapy profession is becoming increasingly diverse, as more and more people from different backgrounds are entering the field. This is a positive trend that will help to expand the scope of services offered by occupational therapists, as they will be able to better understand the needs of their clients from different cultural backgrounds.

Occupational therapists can capitalize on this trend by becoming more familiar with the cultural norms of different communities and learning how to best communicate with them. They can also work to create a more inclusive environment within their workplace and community.

More Use of Technology in Healthcare

As technology advances, it is being used more and more in the healthcare industry. This is because technology can help to improve patient care and reduce costs.

Occupational therapists can take advantage of this trend by becoming experts in using technology in their practice. This includes using software to track patient progress, designing apps to help patients learn new skills, and using robots to assist with rehabilitation.

Greater Focus on Prevention

The focus on prevention in occupational therapy is growing as more and more people realize the importance of early intervention.

Occupational therapists can capitalize on this trend by becoming experts in early detection and intervention. This means that they need to be able to identify signs of potential problems early on and provide the necessary support to help children develop properly. In addition, they need to be able to work with parents and teachers to create a supportive environment that promotes learning and development.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist career can be incredibly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and help them reach their full potential. However, it’s important to consider all aspects of this profession before embarking on an occupational therapy career.

One of the most important things to think about is where you want to work. Do you want to work in a hospital, clinic, or private practice? Or do you want to work with a specific population, such as veterans, seniors, or children? There are many different options available, so it’s important to find one that matches your interests and skills.

Another important consideration is how you want to practice. Do you want to focus on direct patient care or do you want to specialize in a certain area, such as ergonomics or mental health? There are many different ways to practice occupational therapy, so it’s important to find one that fits your personality and goals.

Related: How to Write an Occupational Therapist Resume

Advancement Prospects

As an occupational therapist, you will have the opportunity to work with patients of all ages who have a wide range of conditions. You may work in a hospital, a nursing home, an outpatient clinic, or a private practice. You may also work in schools, early intervention programs, or home health agencies.

There are many opportunities for advancement in occupational therapy. You may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or mental health. You may also choose to open your own private practice or become a manager or administrator in a health care facility. With experience, you may have the opportunity to teach at a university or conduct research.

Occupational Therapist Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide high-quality occupational therapy services to help our patients regain independence and improve their quality of life. We are currently seeking a licensed occupational therapist to join our team. The ideal candidate will have experience working with patients of all ages and abilities, and be able to create individualized treatment plans to address each patient’s specific needs. He or she will be compassionate and patient, with excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

As an occupational therapist at [CompanyX], you will be responsible for conducting initial evaluations, developing and implementing treatment plans, and documenting patient progress. You will also be responsible for communicating with patients, families, and other members of the healthcare team to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Help patients improve their quality of life by teaching them how to better manage their physical, mental, and emotional limitations
  • Work with patients of all ages who have been injured, have chronic health conditions, or are recovering from surgery
  • Develop individualized treatment plans based on each patient’s unique needs and goals
  • Help patients regain skills they need for daily living, such as dressing, eating, and using the restroom
  • Improve patients’ cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving
  • Teach patients how to use adaptive equipment, such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs
  • Promote patients’ independence by helping them find ways to do things for themselves
  • Collaborate with other members of the healthcare team, such as physicians, nurses, and physical therapists
  • Keep detailed records of patients’ progress and communicate updates to patients’ families
  • Conduct research to develop new and improved occupational therapy treatments
  • Advocate for patients’ rights and ensure that they receive the best possible care
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest developments in occupational therapy

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from an accredited program
  • Master’s degree in occupational therapy preferred
  • Licensed to practice occupational therapy in the state of employment
  • Minimum two years clinical experience as an occupational therapist
  • Demonstrated understanding of current occupational therapy theories, practices, and techniques
  • Excellent communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Experience working with children and families
  • Experience in early intervention or school-based settings
  • Certification in sensory integration
  • Bilingual (Spanish/English)

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