• Home  / 

Occupational Therapy Job Descriptions – The Ultimate Guide

An occupational therapist plays an important role in helping people of all ages develop or regain motor skills. Patients recovering from illness or injury and children or adults with physical disabilities can all benefit from occupational therapy services. If you are interested in pursuing a career in order to help people recover or develop and maintain the skills needed for daily living, these tips will help you obtain your dream job as an occupational therapist.

Occupational Therapist Key Responsibilities

An occupational therapist can work with individuals in a variety of settings. From infants to the elderly, occupational therapists can work with clients of all ages and need to be prepared with a specific set of skills in order to fulfill all of the responsibilities of the potential roles.

Demonstrate and Understand How to Perform Motor Skills

Since the primary role of an occupational therapist is modeling and instructing the incremental steps for completing a motor pattern, it is important to understand how to convey this information to the individual.

The client’s age, cognitive function, and overall mobility will all impact their needs and abilities when it comes to learning or relearning movement. An occupational therapist needs to be able to use observations and data about the individual in order to develop the steps and supports required for them to increase their motor skills.

Additionally, an occupational therapist needs a strong foundation in anatomy, particularly the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, in order to understand wherein the body and how a disconnect might be occurring in order to know how to treat the client.

Communication with the Client and Family

As an occupational therapist, you will most likely work with a client in just one highly controlled setting. However, they will need to continue practicing what they work on with you in therapy in all of the places in which they go throughout their day.

Communication with the family of the client is essential, especially if they are a minor or someone who is recovering from a serious illness or injury. It is important that everyone who works closely with the individual knows and understands the treatment plan in order to help them safely and consistently work toward skill acquisition.

Additionally, understanding the other environments in which the client spends their day will help you in developing your treatment plan and considering obstacles and additional needs that they may encounter. Strong and open communication with the client and family will help you to be prepared for these scenarios.

Evaluate the Client and Make Adaptive Recommendations

As part of developing a treatment plan for your client, you will need to evaluate their current level of motor function, as well as collect information on their cognitive abilities and current performance in relevant environments (ex. A student’s performance in writing in the classroom if you are working as a school-based occupational therapist).

In order to conduct a thorough and proper evaluation, you will spend time collaborating with other professionals, conducting observations, and perhaps using standardized assessments in order to identify areas of need and determine progress over time.

Additionally, you may need to recommend adaptive materials in order to support the needs of the client as they work toward improving their motor function. A stroke victim might require adaptive eating equipment as they relearn to feed themselves, or a student might need specialized tools in order to write more independently in the classroom. Your evaluations, observations, and communication with the client and their support system will help you determine the need for such equipment.

Occupational Therapy Job Location

Occupational therapists can work nearly anywhere in the world and in a variety of settings. You have the opportunity to secure a job in a hospital, care facility, or school. Some occupational therapists are self-employed and build their own caseload. Additionally, occupational therapists can work as traveling providers, rotating their location and setting as the need arises.

Many occupational therapists work in medical settings. In this type of role, you are often supporting patients who have experienced the loss of motor function due to illness or injury. The need for direct occupational therapy services may be short until the patient leaves the setting, or long-term if the loss of function requires prolonged intervention.

Some jobs in occupational therapy may also be available in a school setting. A job in the education field typically involves supporting children who experience fine motor delays with developing skills needed for school work and independent living. In this role, you would likely follow many of your students for several years and offer support and consultation to both the student’s educational team and family.

Occupational Therapy Experience and Education

To obtain a job in occupational therapy, you need to have knowledge of anatomy, an understanding of evaluative procedures, and experience with creating and implementing treatment plans. Due to the various roles and areas of expertise required of occupational therapists, a certain level of education and on-the-job training is necessary.

Education Requirements

In order to practice as an occupational therapist, you will need to complete a master’s degree. Typically, your undergraduate major will be in the biological sciences in order to build the necessary foundation of anatomy. 

Additionally, working as an occupational therapist requires licensure, the details of which may vary by state. In order to become a registered occupational therapist, it is necessary to take and pass the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists exam. Once licensed, you will be required to complete credits in continuing education in order to maintain your certification.

Experience Requirements

An important element of your preparation involves supervised fieldwork prior to completing your degree and obtaining your license. Often, this intensive practicum will involve a variety of settings and age groups in order to provide sufficient exposure and access to the different types of occupational therapy jobs available.

Occupational Therapy Salary

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm], the median average salary for occupational therapists is more than $84,000 annually.

Median hourly pay is greater than $40 nationwide. Salaries can vary by geographic area and the type of setting in which the therapist is employed.

New York, California, and Texas are the three states that employ the most occupational therapists. These states also have median salaries above the national average.

Occupational Therapy Resume Tips

When preparing your resume and applying for jobs, it is important to remember that proper education and licensure are paramount, as employers will not forward your application if you do not meet the basic requirements.

Once those items are clearly established, it is crucial to outline the skills and experience needed to fulfill the roles required by the job. If the position is in a hospital or care facility, highlight your fieldwork or previous work experience in these settings.

Finally, be sure to specify the soft skills that you have utilized in previous jobs. Coordinating with educational or care teams, collaborating with other professionals, and communicating with the clients and families are universal requirements of nearly any occupational therapy job and something that prospective employers will expect to see listed on your resume.