What Does An Occupational Therapist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Stan T.Career, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Occupational Therapists

Occupational Therapists assess, plan, and organize rehabilitative programs that help build or restore vocational, homemaking, and daily living skills, as well as general independence, to persons with disabilities or developmental delays. Use therapeutic techniques, adapt the individual's environment, teach skills, and modify specific tasks that present barriers to the individual.

Salary
$87480
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Master's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Occupational Therapists assess, plan, and organize rehabilitative programs that help build or restore vocational, homemaking, and daily living skills, as well as general independence, to persons with disabilities or developmental delays. Use therapeutic techniques, adapt the individual's environment, teach skills, and modify specific tasks that present barriers to the individual.

  • Complete and maintain necessary records.
  • Test and evaluate patients’ physical and mental abilities and analyze medical data to determine realistic rehabilitation goals for patients.
  • Train caregivers in providing for the needs of a patient during and after therapy.
  • Evaluate patients’ progress and prepare reports that detail progress.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Occupational Therapists complete and maintain necessary records. They recommend changes in patients’ work or living environments, consistent with their needs and capabilities.

A typical day for an Occupational Therapist will also include:

  • Test and evaluate patients’ physical and mental abilities and analyze medical data to determine realistic rehabilitation goals for patients.
  • Select activities that will help individuals learn work and life-management skills within limits of their mental or physical capabilities.
  • Train caregivers in providing for the needs of a patient during and after therapy.
  • Evaluate patients’ progress and prepare reports that detail progress.
  • Lay out materials such as puzzles, scissors, and eating utensils for use in therapy, and clean and repair these tools after therapy sessions.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Occupational Therapists also consult with the rehabilitation team to select activity programs or coordinate occupational therapy with other therapeutic activities. They may also help clients improve decision making, abstract reasoning, memory, sequencing, coordination, and perceptual skills, using computer programs.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Occupational Therapists provide training and supervision in therapy techniques and objectives for students or nurses and other medical staff. They might also design and create, or requisition, special supplies and equipment, such as splints, braces, and computer-aided adaptive equipment.

In addition, they advise on health risks in the workplace or on health-related transition to retirement.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them provide patients with assistance in locating or holding jobs.

To some Occupational Therapists, it is also their responsibility to evaluate patients’ progress and prepare reports that detail progress.

Featured Schools


What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

77% said they were satisfied with their job and 91% said they found their job meaningful.


Victoria Priganc, Ph.D., OTR, CHT, CLT, is the Interim Program Director of the University of Vermont Occupational Therapy Doctorate. She is an occupational therapist and a certified hand therapist, and most of her clinical work has been focused on hand rehabilitation. She serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Hand Therapy, the premier … Read More


A private practice treating children in my sensory gym

I am an occupational therapist. I am currently in private practice treating children in my sensory gym. My days are very busy treating kids mostly after school from about 3-7 pm. Mornings and afternoons are dedicated to business/practice management and instructing OT students in their level two fieldwork experience. The tasks involved in running a … Read More


A large Level I Trauma hospital in Denver, CO

I am an acute care occupational therapist at a large Level I Trauma hospital in Denver, CO. My typical day consists of evaluating and treating 7-8 medically complex patients per day who are admitted to the hospital with a trauma, illness, or surgery. My goal as an occupational therapist is to help the person mobilize … Read More


Pros

Suitable for people who like to help and teach others.

Suitable for people who value relationships between co-workers and customers and want to work in a friendly non-competitive environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

One of the fastest-growing careers.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to start and carry out projects.

It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skills, knowledge, and experience are required for this career.

How much do they make

Average salary

$87480 per year

Average hourly wage

$42 per hour

Entry-level Occupational Therapists with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $57,330 to $70,880 per year or $28 to $34 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $122,670 $59
Senior (Top 25%) $103,060 $50
Median $86,280 $41
Junior (Bottom 25%) $70,880 $34
No experience (Bottom 10%) $57,330 $28

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Occupational Therapists based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Child Day Care Services $106070 $51.00
Management of Companies and Enterprises $99850 $48.00
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly $94360 $45.36
Home Health Care Services $94270 $45.32
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) $91810 $44.14
Federal Executive Branch $91140 $43.82
Outpatient Care Centers $90760 $43.63
Offices of Physicians $88650 $42.62
Specialty Hospitals $88330 $42.46
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $88220 $42.41

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Occupational Therapists work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Occupational Therapists including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 33830 $88220 $42.41
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 28300 $88200 $42.40
Elementary and Secondary Schools 15560 $78890 $37.93
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) 11370 $91810 $44.14
Home Health Care Services 10620 $94270 $45.32
Specialty Hospitals 6850 $88330 $42.46
Offices of Physicians 3230 $88650 $42.62
Individual and Family Services 3170 $79420 $38.18
Outpatient Care Centers 2120 $90760 $43.63
Employment Services 1780 $85760 $41.23

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
14%

40 hours
62%

More than 40 hours
24%

Working schedule

90%

10%

0%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
19%

Every day
76%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
33%

Every day
62%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
5%

Every day
95%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
10%

Once a year
48%

Once a month
24%

Once a week
14%

Every day
5%

Frequency of conflict situations

How often are there conflict situations in this job?

Never
0%

Once a year
14%

Once a month
48%

Once a week
29%

Every day
10%

Dealing with angry people

How often do you have to deal with angry, unpleasant, or discourteous individuals in this job?

Never
0%

Once a year
5%

Once a month
38%

Once a week
52%

Every day
5%

Dealing with physically aggressive people

How often do you have to deal with physically aggressive people in this job?

Never
5%

Once a year
29%

Once a month
52%

Once a week
14%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
19%

Slightly competitive
14%

Moderately competitive
57%

Highly competitive
5%

Extremely competitive
5%

Impact of decisions on co-workers or company results

What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the reputation or financial resources of your employer?

No impact
0%

Minor impact
5%

Moderate impact
14%

Important impact
52%

Very important impact
29%

Frequency of decision making

How frequently do you have to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the reputation of the company?

Never
0%

Once a year
5%

Once a month
10%

Once a week
29%

Every day
57%

Responsibility for others’ health and safety

How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?

No responsibility
0%

Limited responsibility
0%

Moderate responsibility
19%

High responsibility
48%

Very high responsibility
33%

Responsibility for outcomes and results

How much responsibility is there for the work outcomes and results of other workers?

No responsibility
0%

Limited responsibility
10%

Moderate responsibility
62%

High responsibility
19%

Very high responsibility
10%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
5%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
5%

Every day
90%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
52%

Once a year or more
29%

Once a month or more
14%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
5%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
57%

Once a year or more
24%

Once a month or more
14%

Once a week or more
5%

Every day
0%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
67%

Once a year or more
24%

Once a month or more
10%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Very Hard
You will need an extensive amount of skill, knowledge, and experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require graduate school and more than five years of experience. These careers usually involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Similar careers include Pharmacists, Lawyers, Astronomers, Neurologists, and Veterinarians.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
0%

Associate’s Degree or similar
0%

Bachelor’s Degree
19%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
71%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
5%

Doctoral Degree
5%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

Occupational Therapy/Therapist

A program that prepares individuals to assist patients limited by physical, cognitive, psychosocial, mental, developmental, and learning disabilities, as well as adverse environmental conditions, to maximize their independence and maintain optimum health through a planned mix of acquired skills, performance motivation, environmental adaptations, assistive technologies, and physical agents. Includes instruction in the basic medical sciences, psychology, sociology, patient assessment and evaluation, standardized and non-standardized tests and measurements, assistive and rehabilitative technologies, ergonomics, environmental health, special education, vocational counseling, health education and promotion, and professional standards and ethics.

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
38%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
19%

6 months to 1 year
14%

1 to 2 years
10%

2 to 4 years
10%

4 to 6 years
5%

6 to 8 years
5%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
10%

1 month
38%

1 to 3 months
5%

3 to 6 months
24%

6 months to 1 year
10%

1 to 2 years
14%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Helper

People with this personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.

The Builder
43%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
62%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
48%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
100%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
43%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
52%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with, communicating with, and teaching people. They like helping or providing service to others.

They also like working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. They like searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
86%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
83%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
62%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
100%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
71%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
81%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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