Occupational Therapist

Job Description

Occupational Therapists use everyday activities to help people who have injuries or disabilities to improve their quality of life. They evaluate a patient’s needs, develop a treatment plan, and help them with daily tasks such as getting dressed and making meals. Occupational Therapists spend a lot of time on their feet, interacting with clients. They must have a master’s degree, and states require them to be licensed.

Typical Duties and Responsibilities

  • Evaluate a patient’s condition and needs
  • Develop treatment plans, goals, and activities
  • Help patients with daily tasks such as getting dressed and making meals
  • Teach exercises that relieve pain and increase mobility
  • Evaluate a client’s home and workspace and suggest improvements
  • Advise patient’s family and employer about needs and care
  • Recommend helpful devices and equipment and teach a client how to use them
  • Monitor progress and adjust treatment as needed

Education and Background

Occupational Therapists need a master’s degree from an accredited program. This coursework includes supervised clinical experience and usually takes two to three years to complete. All states require Occupational Therapists to pass an exam and be licensed. Some students decide to specialize in a particular field or earn a doctoral degree, although that is not required.

Skills and Competencies

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Compassion, empathy, and a desire to help people
  • Strong analytical and observational skills
  • Flexibility and creativity to develop individualized treatment plans
  • Patience in working with people who may be frustrated or upset
  • Time-management skills
  • Keen attention to detail

Compensation

According to Payscale the median annual salary of an Occupational Therapist with

1 year of experience:

  • Orlando, Florida: $50,000
  • Tampa, Florida: $59,000
  • Jacksonville, Florida: $62,000
  • Miami, Florida: $60,000
  • Atlanta, Georgia: $60,000
  • Chicago, Illinois: $60,000
  • Houston, Texas: $70,000
  • Los Angeles, California: $75,000
  • New York, New York: $68,000
  • Seattle, Washington: $70,000
  • Overall: $60,000

5 years of experience:

  • Orlando, Florida: $60,000
  • Tampa, Florida: $76,000
  • Jacksonville, Florida: $70,000
  • Miami, Florida: $78,000
  • Atlanta, Georgia: $70,000
  • Chicago, Illinois: $80,000
  • Houston, Texas: $81,000
  • Los Angeles, California: $88,000
  • New York, New York: $85,000
  • Seattle, Washington: $80,000
  • Overall: $73,000

Similar Job Titles

Career Path

The first step to becoming an Occupational Therapist is to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. A bachelor’s degree is required, with classes in biology and physiology. Candidates then need to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy from a program accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association. These programs typically last two or three years and include hands-on work in the field. Graduates are required to pass an exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. They also must be licensed and complete continuing education on the latest developments in the field. 

Position Trends

Aging baby boomers who want to remain active will increase the demand for Occupational Therapists. Seniors who have suffered a stroke or are struggling with arthritis, for example, would benefit from occupational therapy. People with disabilities or chronic conditions, and children with autism are prime candidates for occupational therapy.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, Occupational Therapist consistently ranks among the top jobs and is also a recession-proof career. 

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for Occupational Therapists is expected to grow by 18 percent for the next several years, which is much faster than average. As baby boomers grow older, the need for therapy will rise. Students who choose to earn a doctorate or to specialize in a particular field, such as pediatrics or mental health, will boost their career opportunities.

Typical Hours

Occupational Therapists work a variety of schedules, including nights and weekends, to accommodate the needs of patients. They also frequently travel from one place to another and might work in an office setting or a client’s home.

Where You Can Find Jobs

  • 4 Corner Resources
  • Career Builder
  • Glassdoor
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • Zip Recruiter
  • Explore Health Careers
  • American Occupational Therapy Association

Are You Interested in Becoming an Occupational Therapist?

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