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Occupational Therapists picture    Occupational Therapists image

Occupational therapists (OTs) are responsible for helping patients improve their ability to function to their highest possible degree of independence. The OT's general mission is to help people be able to perform day-to-day tasks and/or sustain themselves. This type of therapist typically works with individuals who suffer from some type of physically, mentally, developmentally, or emotionally disabling condition. They work closely with their patients to develop, recover, or maintain daily living and work skills so that the patient can strive to lead an independent, productive, and satisfying life. Depending on the client, the therapist may try to improve basic motor functions and reasoning abilities or to compensate for permanent loss of function.

The areas encompassed by occupational therapists are so far-reaching that they can find themselves working with a wide range of clients of varying limitations who need to be cared for in any number of settings. Clients with coordination problems might be assigned exercises to improve hand-eye coordination whereas those with short-term memory loss might be taught to make lists to aid recollection skills. Patients with permanent disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy often require instruction in the use of adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, orthoses, eating aids, and dressing aids. Some occupational therapists deal with clients who are not fully able to function in a particular work environment. These therapists may need to collaborate with both the client and employer to modify the work environment so that the client can successfully function.

Responsibilities

Working with the patient and his/her physician, the occupational therapist decides on a therapy plan which takes into account the patient's specific type of impairment, injury, or deficiency. The plan is constructed in such a way that the rehabilitation goals are realistic and the patient's psychological needs are adequately addressed. The therapist then uses any of a wide variety of tools and methods in conducting the treatment. Physical exercises may be used to increase strength and dexterity, while computer programs are often used to help clients improve decision-making, abstract-reasoning, memory, sequencing, and/or coordination. Therapists often design or build special equipment for their clients and then teach the client how to use the equipment. As an important part of the therapy, the therapist needs to regularly assess and record the client�s activities and progress. Accurate records are essential not only for evaluating the client, but also for billing and for reporting to physicians and other health care providers.

A partial list of the things an occupation therapist is required to do as part of the job might include the following:

  • Choose activities that best help individuals learn life-management skills within the limits of their specific capabilities
  • Consult with other rehabilitation and therapeutic experts
  • Recommend changes in patients' work or living environments as needed
  • Help patients re-learn daily living routines
  • Design special equipment (e.g., feeding devices, clothing adaptations, or splints)
  • Direct activities to help patients with balance and coordination problems
  • Supervise coordination exercises
  • Teach manual skills to restore physical mobility
  • Evaluate patients' progress
  • Complete and maintain necessary records
  • Prepare reports that detail progress

Job Characteristics

Most occupational therapists, including those who work in hospitals and other health care settings, normally work a standard 40-hour week. The environment in these settings is typically pleasant, with well-lit, heated, and clean rooms. In large rehabilitation centers, therapists sometimes work in large rooms which tend to be noisy due to the presence of machines, tools, and other noise-generating devices. Therapists who provide home health care tend to spend a significant amount of time driving from one appointment to another. In general, the job can be tiring, due to the need for therapists to be on their feet a good deal of the time. Therapists can also be susceptible to back strain caused by lifting and moving of both equipment and clients.

In a profession where interaction with people is a daily occurrence, it is not surprising that occupational therapists need strong interpersonal skills. Patience is an important character trait required for this occupation because many clients improve very slowly. Social perceptiveness, the awareness of others' reactions and an understanding of why they react as they do, is an invaluable skill for an occupational therapist to possess. Other important character abilities include ingenuity, imagination, and an ability to solve problems. Therapists who work in home health care services also need to be adaptable to a variety of work settings.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average profession over the next decade. The demand for occupational therapists will be driven largely by an increasing elderly population and by the increasing number of individuals with disabilities or limited function who require therapy services. Also, modern technology will enable more patients with critical problems to survive and many of these patients will need extensive therapy.

Job prospects for licensed occupational therapists are expected to be robust in mostly all settings. Those who work in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic venues can look forward to particularly abundant work due to the fact that the elderly receive most of their treatment in these settings. Hospitals will continue to employ a large number of occupational therapists to provide services to inpatients. Schools will employ an increasing amount of occupational therapists to treat an expanding school-age population, to deal with an increase in services for disabled students, and to address a growing prevalence of sensory disorders in children. Therapists with specialized knowledge in a particular area of treatment (e.g., driver rehabilitation and fall-prevention training for the elderly) can also anticipate an enhancement in job opportunities.

Occupational Therapy Schools, Certification, and Licensing

The minimum educational requirement for entry into the field of occupational therapy is a master's degree. There are many colleges and universities which offer occupational therapy programs. In addition to straight master's degree programs, these include some which offer a combined bachelor�s and master�s degree and others which offer an entry-level doctoral degree. Typical programs include coursework in the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences and courses which focus on the application of occupational therapy theory and skills. Most of these programs also include six months of supervised fieldwork.

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Requirements for obtaining a license include graduation from an accredited educational program and six months of supervised fieldwork. Accreditation can come from the American Occupational Therapy Association or the World Federation of Occupational Therapy. Candidates are also required to take and pass a national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Those who pass the exam are awarded the title "Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR)". Some states impose additional requirements for therapists who work in certain specialized work settings, including schools and early intervention programs. These requirements may include additional classwork and/or certification in education or early intervention. Many states require periodic renewal of licenses and conditions for renewal usually include the accrual of continuing education credits.

Resources

Major Employers

The largest employers of occupational therapists are hospitals. Other major employers include offices of physicians or other health care professionals, nursing care facilities, school systems, rehabilitation centers, public and private educational services, home health care services, outpatient care centers, government agencies, and community care facilities for the elderly. A relatively small percentage of occupational therapists are self-employed. These therapists typically treat clients referred by other health professionals and/or provided contract or consulting services to health care agencies.

Schools for Occupational Therapists are listed in the column to the left.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Occupational Therapists

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Occupational Therapists jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Birmingham 450 $81,730
Hoover 450 $81,730
Mobile 160 $68,230
Huntsville 90 $66,120
Dothan 60 $88,830
Montgomery 50 $78,980
Gadsden 50 $97,150
Tuscaloosa 40 $93,700
Opelika 30 $73,900
Auburn 30 $73,900
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 150 $81,840
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Scottsdale 900 $85,750
Mesa 900 $85,750
Phoenix 900 $85,750
Tucson 250 $78,350
Flagstaff 40 $66,150
Prescott 40 $85,140
Kingman 30 $67,660
Lake Havasu City 30 $67,660
Yuma 30 $73,170
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 410 $82,080
North Little Rock 410 $82,080
Little Rock 410 $82,080
Jonesboro 30 $77,070
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 4020 $90,820
Long Beach 4020 $90,820
Los Angeles 4020 $90,820
Oakland 1190 $93,070
Hayward 1190 $93,070
San Francisco 1190 $93,070
Carlsbad 1100 $95,060
San Diego 1100 $95,060
Ontario 650 $93,960
San Bernardino 650 $93,960
Riverside 650 $93,960
San Jose 480 $97,450
Sunnyvale 480 $97,450
Santa Clara 480 $97,450
Arden 470 $97,430
Arcade 470 $97,430
Sacramento 470 $97,430
Roseville 470 $97,430
Stockton 320 $52,260
Lodi 320 $52,260
Fresno 300 $87,290
Oxnard 220 $95,080
Thousand Oaks 220 $95,080
Ventura 220 $95,080
Santa Cruz 110 $96,970
Watsonville 110 $96,970
Bakersfield 100 $100,590
Vallejo 100 $102,600
Fairfield 100 $102,600
Santa Rosa 90 $88,380
Salinas 90 $111,320
Santa Barbara 70 $92,630
Santa Maria 70 $92,630
Redding 50 $81,580
Napa 40 $91,260
Visalia 40 $100,330
Porterville 40 $100,330
Modesto N/A $42,430
Arroyo Grande N/A $72,650
San Luis Obispo N/A $72,650
Paso Robles N/A $72,650
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Aurora 1470 $80,830
Lakewood 1470 $80,830
Denver 1470 $80,830
Colorado Springs 310 $82,890
Fort Collins 200 $75,850
Boulder 180 $72,050
Grand Junction 100 $86,310
Pueblo 100 $104,110
Greeley 90 $80,190
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hartford 720 $81,880
East Hartford 720 $81,880
West Hartford 720 $81,880
Bridgeport 420 $96,560
Norwalk 420 $96,560
Stamford 420 $96,560
New Haven 310 $88,130
Waterbury 80 $77,360
Danbury 60 $86,320
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Palm Beach 1530 $88,410
Miami 1530 $88,410
Fort Lauderdale 1530 $88,410
Clearwater 820 $77,840
St. Petersburg 820 $77,840
Tampa 820 $77,840
Jacksonville 570 $85,240
Kissimmee 410 $79,840
Orlando 410 $79,840
Sanford 410 $79,840
North Port 370 $77,500
Bradenton 370 $77,500
Sarasota 370 $77,500
Gainesville 310 $66,370
Titusville 260 $84,260
Melbourne 260 $84,260
Palm Bay 260 $84,260
Port St. Lucie 170 $94,870
Cape Coral 160 $86,270
Fort Myers 160 $86,270
Tallahassee 140 $86,700
Brent 130 $87,040
Pensacola 130 $87,040
Ferry Pass 130 $87,040
Deltona 130 $105,500
Daytona Beach 130 $105,500
Ormond Beach 130 $105,500
Ocala 110 $82,660
Lakeland 100 $84,760
Winter Haven 100 $84,760
Homosassa Springs 100 $87,400
Naples 90 $93,200
Marco Island 90 $93,200
Immokalee 90 $93,200
Fort Walton Beach 80 $85,610
Crestview 80 $85,610
Destin 80 $85,610
Panama City 60 $71,650
Punta Gorda 50 $87,870
Sebastian 40 $83,380
Vero Beach 40 $83,380
Sebring 30 $73,900
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Atlanta 1750 $81,320
Roswell 1750 $81,320
Sandy Springs 1750 $81,320
Savannah 120 $77,380
Macon 110 $93,070
Rome 60 $77,680
Gainesville 40 $84,670
Valdosta N/A $77,760
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 300 $81,120
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 180 $69,540
Idaho Falls 60 $73,740
Coeur d'Alene 40 $74,430
Pocatello N/A $75,590
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Peoria 150 $87,370
Rockford 120 $75,700
Urbana 50 $68,950
Champaign 50 $68,950
Carbondale 40 $66,990
Marion 40 $66,990
Bloomington 40 $79,450
Springfield 40 $84,160
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 1090 $77,050
Indianapolis 1090 $77,050
Carmel 1090 $77,050
Fort Wayne 180 $82,910
Lafayette 70 $89,790
West Lafayette 70 $89,790
Terre Haute 60 $78,500
Elkhart 50 $76,030
Goshen 50 $76,030
Bloomington 40 $62,620
Muncie N/A $75,260
Kokomo N/A $81,960
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 260 $76,370
Des Moines 260 $76,370
Cedar Falls 90 $68,920
Waterloo 90 $68,920
Iowa City 90 $73,830
Cedar Rapids 80 $70,220
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 150 $82,580
Topeka 150 $87,770
Manhattan 30 N/A
Lawrence 30 $68,980
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fayette 340 $80,130
Lexington 340 $80,130
Fort Knox 60 $79,810
Elizabethtown 60 $79,810
Bowling Green 40 $88,070
Owensboro 30 $71,480
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Baton Rouge 380 $82,680
New Orleans 340 $74,150
Metairie 340 $74,150
Bossier City 120 $76,950
Shreveport 120 $76,950
Lafayette 90 $70,680
Alexandria 80 $76,140
Monroe 80 $83,530
Lake Charles 70 $81,150
Hammond 60 $70,060
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Portland 320 $64,040
Portland 320 $64,040
Lewiston 110 $58,630
Auburn 110 $58,630
Bangor 80 $73,330
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 1400 $80,220
Columbia 1400 $80,220
Baltimore 1400 $80,220
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 160 $85,600
Leominster 100 $79,580
Gardner 100 $79,580
Pittsfield 90 $82,550
New Bedford 90 $86,340
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Warren 2010 $74,460
Detroit 2010 $74,460
Dearborn 2010 $74,460
Grand Rapids 880 $68,810
Wyoming 880 $68,810
Ann Arbor 400 $67,650
Lansing 240 $68,370
East Lansing 240 $68,370
Portage 180 $66,820
Kalamazoo 180 $66,820
Flint 170 $72,770
Saginaw 140 $68,090
Jackson 130 $82,730
Battle Creek 120 $70,330
Muskegon 70 $62,540
Bay City 50 $67,670
Midland 50 $68,570
Benton Harbor 40 $72,910
Niles 40 $72,910
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 160 $75,410
St. Cloud 80 $74,640
North Mankato 40 $58,630
Mankato 40 $58,630
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 320 $84,200
Gulfport 60 $76,670
Pascagoula 60 $76,670
Biloxi 60 $76,670
Hattiesburg N/A $72,850
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 210 $88,140
Columbia 90 $67,670
Joplin 60 $71,300
Jefferson City 50 $61,380
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Billings 70 $66,770
Missoula 50 $66,330
Great Falls 30 $61,410
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 100 $76,030
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 440 $92,170
Henderson 440 $92,170
Las Vegas 440 $92,170
Reno 110 $86,590
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 240 $79,350
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Trenton 170 $89,930
Hammonton 90 $79,360
Atlantic City 90 $79,360
Bridgeton 70 $77,650
Vineland 70 $77,650
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 400 $80,700
Las Cruces 90 $76,360
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 660 $74,360
Niagara Falls 580 $66,760
Cheektowaga 580 $66,760
Buffalo 580 $66,760
Albany 480 $71,530
Schenectady 480 $71,530
Troy 480 $71,530
Syracuse 310 $66,320
Utica 140 $71,390
Rome 140 $71,390
Binghamton 110 $61,630
Kingston 80 $90,770
Elmira 60 $72,790
Glens Falls 50 $64,600
Watertown 40 $59,050
Fort Drum 40 $59,050
Ithaca 30 $53,920
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Raleigh 350 $83,320
Durham 320 $73,860
Chapel Hill 320 $73,860
Asheville 230 $77,480
Salem 220 $71,050
Winston 220 $71,050
High Point 220 $77,310
Greensboro 220 $77,310
Morganton 150 $72,670
Hickory 150 $72,670
Lenoir 150 $72,670
Rocky Mount 110 $88,740
New Bern 100 $82,230
Wilmington 90 $79,670
Fayetteville 80 $70,390
Greenville 80 $70,990
Burlington 60 $93,910
     
Metro Area (North Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bismarck 120 $57,490
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbus 780 $71,290
Cleveland 770 $83,790
Elyria 770 $83,790
Dayton 340 $88,890
Toledo 300 $62,510
Akron 250 $81,510
Massillon 160 $87,700
Canton 160 $87,700
Lima 40 $75,620
Mansfield 30 $86,040
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 420 $86,890
Tulsa 370 $72,930
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Eugene 110 $85,460
Salem 100 $74,930
Medford 60 $80,950
Bend 50 $87,240
Redmond 50 $87,240
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 1570 $67,910
Wilkes 470 $67,600
Scranton 470 $67,600
Barre 470 $67,600
Hazleton 470 $67,600
Carlisle 330 $77,760
Harrisburg 330 $77,760
Hanover 220 $89,010
York 220 $89,010
Lancaster 170 $84,940
Reading 160 $81,280
Erie 140 $80,600
Altoona 110 $73,440
Lebanon 80 $79,530
Berwick 60 $73,890
Bloomsburg 60 $73,890
Chambersburg 60 $89,180
Waynesboro 60 $89,180
Johnstown 50 $70,180
Williamsport 30 $78,240
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 240 $45,330
Carolina 240 $45,330
San Juan 240 $45,330
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 310 $71,580
Mauldin 310 $71,580
Greenville 310 $71,580
Columbia 250 $72,290
Charleston 160 $80,920
North Charleston 160 $80,920
Spartanburg 120 $84,780
Florence 90 $93,280
Bluffton 40 $63,320
Hilton Head Island 40 $63,320
Beaufort 40 $63,320
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 150 $61,320
Rapid City 50 $66,330
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Davidson 610 $82,310
Murfreesboro 610 $82,310
Franklin 610 $82,310
Nashville 610 $82,310
Knoxville 200 $72,550
Cleveland 70 $59,100
Jackson 60 $76,870
Johnson City 60 $80,120
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Worth 3160 $94,400
Dallas 3160 $94,400
Arlington 3160 $94,400
Sugar Land 1610 $84,170
The Woodlands 1610 $84,170
Houston 1610 $84,170
New Braunfels 920 $86,650
San Antonio 920 $86,650
Round Rock 530 $75,750
Austin 530 $75,750
El Paso 220 $93,950
Mission 130 $92,090
Edinburg 130 $92,090
McAllen 130 $92,090
Corpus Christi 120 $93,310
Tyler 110 $94,380
Killeen 100 $83,790
Temple 100 $83,790
Lubbock 100 $83,940
Harlingen 100 $93,700
Brownsville 100 $93,700
Abilene 60 $98,160
Laredo 60 $101,630
Denison 50 $85,580
Sherman 50 $85,580
Amarillo 50 $85,700
Victoria 50 $91,830
Beaumont 50 $123,620
Port Arthur 50 $123,620
Wichita Falls 40 $90,600
Bryan 40 $96,290
College Station 40 $96,290
Waco 40 $100,940
Longview 40 $101,690
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 370 $82,640
Clearfield 150 $75,000
Ogden 150 $75,000
Provo 60 $84,610
Orem 60 $84,610
St. George 40 $82,200
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 50 $72,280
Burlington 50 $72,280
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 430 $74,740
Roanoke 130 $80,060
Charlottesville 110 $84,620
Lynchburg 70 $77,820
Waynesboro 60 $76,640
Staunton 60 $76,640
Harrisonburg 40 $91,480
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Seattle 1600 $83,020
Tacoma 1600 $83,020
Bellevue 1600 $83,020
Spokane 230 $76,330
Spokane Valley 230 $76,330
Tumwater 80 $81,380
Olympia 80 $81,380
Silverdale 80 $82,310
Bremerton 80 $82,310
Kennewick 60 $86,440
Richland 60 $86,440
Bellingham 50 $91,730
Yakima 40 $71,820
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 180 $85,380
Morgantown 90 $74,530
Beckley 40 $74,250
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Milwaukee 1140 $66,990
Waukesha 1140 $66,990
West Allis 1140 $66,990
Madison 410 $70,400
Green Bay 130 $69,820
Appleton 90 $65,280
Eau Claire 60 $65,680
Neenah 60 $69,910
Oshkosh 60 $69,910
Wausau 50 $63,940
Racine 50 $70,310
Janesville 50 $82,280
Beloit 50 $82,280
Sheboygan 40 $68,310
Fond du Lac 40 $74,010
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Casper 60 $68,650
Cheyenne 50 $84,230

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Occupational Therapists

To find out more about building a career as Occupational Therapists, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Occupational Therapists

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 29,860 31% $69,870
Hospital 28,540 30% $67,790
Education 13,090 13% $60,150
Nursing And Residential Care 10,670 11% $71,350
Social Service 5,630 5% $54,610
Government 4,270 4% $58,830
Office Services And Staffing 1,480 1% $76,890
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
 
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CityTownInfo Career and College Resources

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Occupational Therapists.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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