What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Are you wondering what an occupational therapist does? Occupational therapists, also known as OTs, are healthcare professionals who help individuals of all ages improve their ability to perform daily activities and participate in meaningful occupations. They work with people who have physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges that affect their ability to function independently.

To become an occupational therapist, you need to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy. The educational process includes coursework in anatomy, physiology, psychology, and other related fields. In addition to the classroom study, students are required to complete fieldwork experiences, where they apply their knowledge and skills directly with clients under the supervision of licensed therapists.



After completing the educational program, graduates must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam to become a registered occupational therapist. This exam checks their understanding of the scope of practice and their ability to apply occupational therapy principles in various settings.

Occupational therapists work across a wide range of fields, including healthcare, education, and community settings. They help individuals with various conditions, such as autism, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and developmental delays, to improve their motor skills, communication abilities, and overall independence. They may also work with older adults to help them maintain their daily living skills and adapt to age-related changes.

The demand for occupational therapists is projected to increase in the coming years, as the population ages and the need for rehabilitative services grows. Occupational therapy is a rewarding profession that allows therapists to make a positive impact on the lives of others. If you have a passion for helping people and enjoy problem-solving, a career in occupational therapy may be the right path for you.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

An occupational therapist (OT) is a healthcare professional who helps individuals of all ages with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities to improve their ability to perform everyday tasks and activities. This can include anything from dressing and bathing to using a computer or participating in recreational activities.



Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, and private practices. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, to develop and implement treatment plans tailored to each individual’s needs.

Education and Training

To become an occupational therapist, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology, biology, or kinesiology. After completing your undergraduate coursework, you will need to apply to an accredited occupational therapy program.

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These programs typically require a master’s degree in occupational therapy, although some offer doctoral programs. The coursework includes classes in anatomy, physiology, psychology, and occupational therapy theory and practice.



After graduating from an accredited program, you will need to pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam to become a licensed occupational therapist. This exam tests your knowledge and skills in the field and is necessary for practicing as an OT.

Specializations and Career Paths

Occupational therapists can choose to specialize in a particular area of practice, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, or hand therapy. Specializing can help increase job opportunities and earning potential.

There are also opportunities for occupational therapists to work in research, education, and administration. Some OTs may choose to pursue advanced degrees, such as a Ph.D. or Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD), to further their careers.

In terms of job outlook, the demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due to an aging population and increased recognition of the importance of occupational therapy in healthcare.

If you are considering a career as an occupational therapist, it is important to have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as a genuine desire to help others. The work can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding, as you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Job Description and Responsibilities

Occupational therapy is a rewarding and fulfilling career path for those who wish to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Occupational therapists, also known as OTs, work with individuals of all ages who have physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities. They help their clients regain and improve their ability to perform daily activities and tasks.

To become a licensed occupational therapist, there are certain steps and requirements that need to be fulfilled. The first step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field such as psychology, biology, or kinesiology. However, some occupational therapy programs offer a dual bachelor’s and master’s degree path, allowing students to graduate with both degrees in less time.

After completing their undergraduate education, aspiring occupational therapists need to apply for and be accepted into an accredited occupational therapy program. These programs are offered by universities and colleges across the country and typically take about 2-3 years to complete. During this time, students will learn the necessary skills and knowledge needed to practice as occupational therapists.

Once the program is successfully completed, graduates are eligible to take the national certification examination. This examination is required to become a licensed occupational therapist and is administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and assesses the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of occupational therapy principles and practices.

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Passing the certification exam is a crucial step in becoming a licensed occupational therapist. It demonstrates that the individual has the necessary academic background and competency to practice in the field. After passing the exam, therapists can apply for their state license, which allows them to legally practice occupational therapy.

It is important to note that the specific requirements and steps to become a licensed occupational therapist may vary from state to state. Some states may have additional prerequisites or offer different educational paths. For example, in Florida, occupational therapists are required to hold a master’s degree, while in other states, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient.

Certification Process

To become a licensed occupational therapist (OT), there are certain steps and requirements that need to be completed. The certification process ensures that individuals have the necessary knowledge and skills to practice in this field.

The first step towards certification is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Most OT programs require a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite for admission. It is important to choose a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), as this ensures that the program meets the national standards for education in this field.

Once the bachelor’s degree has been obtained, the next step is to enroll in an accredited occupational therapy program. These programs are offered at universities and schools across the country. During the program, students will study a variety of subjects, including anatomy, physiology, psychology, and occupational therapy theory and practice.

After completing the necessary coursework, students must then pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) examination. This examination is a comprehensive test that assesses the knowledge and skills necessary to practice as an occupational therapist. It is important to study and prepare for this examination, as passing it is necessary to obtain a license.

Once the examination has been passed, individuals can then apply for a license to practice in their state. Each state has its own licensing requirements, so it is important to check with the state licensing board to understand what is needed. Some states also require individuals to have a certain amount of supervised work experience before they can obtain a license.

It is worth noting that there are opportunities for those who wish to work in specialized fields or with specific populations, such as children or the elderly. These specializations may require additional coursework or experience beyond the basic certification requirements.

Overall, the certification process for becoming an occupational therapist can be rigorous, but it is necessary to ensure that individuals have the necessary skills and knowledge to provide quality care. With the demand for occupational therapists expected to grow by 18 percent in the coming years, obtaining certification in this field can lead to a rewarding and secure career.

FAQ

What is the role of an occupational therapist?

An occupational therapist helps individuals of all ages with physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities to improve their ability to perform daily activities and tasks.

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What are the responsibilities of an occupational therapist?

An occupational therapist assesses the client’s needs, develops a treatment plan, and implements interventions to help the client improve their functional abilities. They also educate clients and their families on adaptive techniques and equipment.

What is the scope of practice for occupational therapists?

The scope of practice for occupational therapists includes evaluating clients, developing treatment plans, providing therapeutic interventions, and monitoring progress. They also collaborate with other healthcare professionals and may participate in research or advocacy efforts.

Do occupational therapists work with children?

Yes, occupational therapists work with children to help them develop the skills necessary for daily activities such as dressing, eating, and playing. They may also address sensory processing issues and provide support for children with developmental delays or disabilities.

Can occupational therapists work in different settings?

Yes, occupational therapists can work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, schools, rehabilitation centers, and home health agencies. They may also specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, or hand therapy.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.