Occupational Therapy Career Opportunities

Occupational therapy is a relatively new field, especially within the context of the history of medicine. Since the first educational program was developed in the early 1900s, the responsibilities of an occupational therapist have evolved significantly and play an important role in the rehabilitation of people with physical disabilities and illnesses. 

Currently, occupational therapy services are now provided in hospitals, care facilities, schools, and a variety of other settings. Jobs in occupational therapy offer a chance to help individuals gain or recoup physical strength and skill in order to lead a more fulfilling and independent life. This line of work can be very rewarding and offers a variety of career opportunities to fit the needs and interests of any applicant.

What Does Someone do in an Occupational Therapy Career?

An occupational therapist can provide both long-term and acute care to individuals of any age in order to develop or rehabilitate delayed or lost motor function. Additionally, occupational therapists can support individuals with sensory regulation and provide strategies to support children and adults with physical needs related to other neurological disorders, such as ADHD. 

There are many different roles that an occupational therapist might fill. From infants to the elderly, a therapist in this field might serve clients in:

  • School settings
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Home-based care
  • Prisons
  • Industrial organizations

Regardless of your employer and the location in which you deliver services, the responsibilities of a job in occupational therapy remain fairly consistent. Here are the primary roles that you will need to fill in any occupational therapy job you accept:

  • Assess the client in order to determine current levels of skills and function
  • Create an appropriate course of treatment and activities that work toward the identified goals for the client
  • Liaise with the families and medical/educational teams in order to provide comprehensive care and treatment to the client
  • Take notes, collect and organize progress data, and write reports
  • Share progress with the family and team and adjust treatment as necessary
  • Support the individual and family/team in adapting strategies from the therapy setting to other settings, as needed

Level of Education for Occupational Therapy Career

A career in occupational therapy requires a strong foundation in anatomy, evaluative procedures, and regular professional development with regards to the best methods for creating and implementing treatment plans. As a result, national standards for education and on-the-job training have been established to ensure that occupational therapists are well prepared for any job they take.

In order to become licensed and to practice as an occupational therapist, you will need to obtain a master’s degree in the field. It is additionally recommended that you have an undergraduate degree in one of the biological sciences in order to develop a strong understanding of anatomy, which is essential to planning appropriate treatment. 

Once you obtain your degrees, working as an occupational therapist will require licensure. Though the requirements of licensing may vary by state, you must take and pass the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists exam in order to become a registered occupational therapist. After obtaining your license, you may need to continue your education through professional development in order to maintain it.

A final, crucial part of educational preparation is a supervised practicum. Typically, fieldwork will involve internships in different settings and with different age groups in order to provide exposure and experience with all potential career options.

Occupational Therapy Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm], the median yearly salary for occupational therapists exceeds $84,000. For those who are not salaried, the median hourly pay is over $40 nationwide. Salary information and ranges vary by geographic area and can also fluctuate based on the type of setting in which the therapist works. The largest states, including New York, California, and Texas, are among the states that employ the most occupational therapists and pay the highest salaries in the field.

A career in occupational therapy can provide flexibility and a variety of job opportunities. Occupational therapists can choose to work in a school, hospital, or care facility. These positions offer consistent salaries, caseloads, and at times the opportunity to work with clients over long periods of time. Some occupational therapists choose to work for themselves, contracting with clients or facilities and setting their own hours.

The outlook for those searching for jobs in occupational therapy is very good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the increase in employment for this field is well above average growth across all industries. While this data varies by state and setting, it is encouraging for those looking to get started or change jobs within the field of occupational therapy.