Occupational TherapistJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

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.

Sample job description

We are looking for an occupational therapist to join our team at [Your Company Name]. The occupational therapist will be in charge of consulting with patients and assisting patients in the recovery of normal conditions. As an occupational therapist, you must have a beyond excellent communication ability as well as the ability to empathize and be understanding with difficult patients. You will be in charge of developing a treatment plan for your patients, setting goals and deadlines, and assisting the patient to reach these deadlines to the best of your ability. You must also be able to competently demonstrate exercises and therapy in order to educate a patient on the best method to follow their schedules and tasks. You may also need to occasionally recommend equipment that can assist the patient in daily activities as well as special diets and exercises the patient may find useful. If you are interested in joining our team and becoming an occupational therapist, please apply. Relevant certifications will be required.

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 experience

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.

Required skills and qualifications

  • 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

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in occupational therapy
  • Experience working with young children
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Patience

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for an occupational therapist is $92,500 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$92,000$124,450
Los Angeles, California$103,800$140,400
Denver, Colorado$86,500$117,000
Washington, DC$105,350$142,550
Miami, Florida$86,100$116,500
Orlando, Florida$79,400$107,450
Tampa, Florida$80,200$108,500
Atlanta, Georgia$84,150$113,800
Chicago, Illinois$96,700$130,850
Boston, Massachusetts$104,550$141,500
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$83,350$112,750
New York City, New York$110,100$148,950
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$89,650$121,250
Dallas, Texas$87,250$118,100
Houston, Texas$86,500$117,000
Seattle, Washington$100,650$136,150
National Average$78,650$106,400

Typical work environment

Occupational therapists will often work in healthcare clinics. An occupational therapist will be in charge of assisting injured, sick, or disabled patients with their daily activities as well as recovery in these categories. An occupational therapist will be in charge of assisting these patients to recover and deal with their illness or disability in order to regain a functioning daily routine. An occupational therapist will be required to develop a treatment plan for patients in order to assist those patients in full recovery by creating deadlines and daily routines to further that goal. Occupational therapists will likely work full-time or on a client-to-client basis, assisting the office when needed as well.

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.

Available certifications

An occupational therapist may find use in a multitude of different certifications that allow the therapist to specialize in different aspects of occupational therapy. Because there is a large amount, the specific certifications an occupational therapist may look to acquire can vary greatly. Some of the more common certifications are: 

  • Assistive Technology Professional. Becoming a certified assistive technology professional will allow an occupational therapist to better consult and educate patients on assistive technology such as walkers or wheelchairs. This certification can be immensely useful for any occupational therapist and should be considered as a potential certification when going into occupational therapy as a career.
  • Board Certification in Mental Health. Having a board certification in mental health as an occupational therapist will assist the therapist in counseling patients on their mental stability and health. This certification can improve the care an occupational therapist may provide to clients and patients, and can be immensely beneficial due to this.
  • Certified Autism Specialist (CAS). Becoming a certified autism specialist can be beneficial to an occupational therapist when providing frequent care for a patient on the spectrum. This certification can provide and assist the therapist with a proper understanding of care and expertise in specific care for these patients.

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. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-1122

2020 Employment131,600
Projected Employment in 2030154,600
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 17% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift23,000 increase

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. 

Sample interview questions

  • What skills do you have that you believe will assist you in being an occupational therapist?
  • Do you have any relevant or useful certifications, and how will these help you with occupational therapy?
  • How should you go about establishing goals for a patient?
  • What is your opinion on how occupational therapy should be administered for the best results?
  • What is an effective method you use in order to ensure patient recovery and rehabilitation?

Occupational Therapist Jobs in Ashburn

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