menu box


Physical Therapist
Occupational Therapist
Speech-Language Pathologist
Radiation Therapist

Health Care Career Discovery Summer Medical Institute


OT art

Occupational Therapist

The Science of Healing, The Art of Functioning

What is the Role of a Occupational Therapist?

Occupational Therapists teach patients with injuries, disabilities, and illnesses techniques that make their daily lives easier. They first observe patients doing everyday activities, and then they create a plan with specific activity goals, set exercises and tasks, evaluate a person’s home or workplace and implement changes to make it better suited for the person’s needs, and recommend special equipment (wheelchair, eating aid) if needed. Their therapy involves using real life activities to help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

What Types of Occupational Therapist Are There?

There are different types of occupational therapists. Some occupational therapists work in educational settings with children one on one or in small groups. They evaluate disabled children’s abilities, modify classroom equipment to accommodate certain disabilities, and help children participate in school activities. Some therapists provide early intervention therapy to infants and toddlers who have, or are at risk of having, developmental delays. Some therapists work with the elderly to help their patients lead more independent and active lives. They assess the patient’s abilities and environment and make recommendations, such as using adaptive equipment or identifying and removing potential fall hazards in the home.

In some cases, occupational therapists help patients create functional work environments. They evaluate the work space, plan work activities, 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. They help these patients cope with and engage in daily life by teaching skills such as time management, budgeting, using public transportation, and doing household chores. Additionally, therapists may work with individuals who have problems with drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, or suffer from other disorders.

What is the Work Environment?

Most Occupational Therapists work in offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, offices of audiologists, nursing homes or in hospitals or other healthcare settings. Others work in schools, nursing homes, or patients’ homes.

What Are the Educational and Licensing Requirements?

Most occupational therapists enter the occupation with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. A small number of programs offer doctoral degrees in occupational therapy.

Admission to occupational therapy programs 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.

Certification is voluntary, but many occupational therapists choose to become certified. They must pass the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT) exam to become certified. Certification allows therapists to use the title of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR). They must also take continuing education classes to maintain certification.

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensure requires a degree from an accredited educational program and passing the NBCOT certification exam. Other requirements, such as continuing education and fees, vary by state.

Required Degrees:

Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy

What are Important Qualities for a Occupational Therapist?

Which Are the Top 10 Occupational Therapy Schools in the US?

#1 University of Southern California - Division of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy
#2 Boston University (Sargent) - College of Health & Rehabilitation: Sargent College
#3 Washington University in St. Louis - School of Medicine
#4 University of Illinois--Chicago - College of Applied Health Sciences
#5 University of Kansas Medical Center - School of Health Professionals
#6 Colorado State University - Department of Occupational Therapy
#7 Thomas Jefferson University - Jefferson College of Health Professions
#8 Tufts University-Boston School of Occupational Therapy - Occupational Therapy Program
#9 University of Pittsburgh - School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
#10 New York University - Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

What is the Average Annual Salary?

The median annual wage of occupational therapists is around $72,320. Pay may vary for therapists in different work environments: Home health care services $79,570, Nursing care facilities $78,410, Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists and audiologists $73,770, Hospitals; state, local, and private $72,450, Individual and family services $64,520.

What is the Employment Outlook for Occupational Therapist?

Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of treatment for people with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, autism, or the loss of a limb. The need for occupational therapists will increase as the large baby-boom population ages and people remain active later in life. Specifically, occupational therapists help senior citizens maintain their independence by recommending home modifications and strategies that make daily activities easier.


OT photo