Career Facts

Investigate MORE INFO on all professions that sound interesting. Take your time. Don't skip a step.

Job Outlook: 18% (Much faster than average)

  1. Is WHAT YOU DO enjoyable?
  2. Does the WORK ENVIRONMENT feel comfortable?
  3. Are you ok with THE REQUIREMENTS?
  4. Is the PAY ENOUGH?
  5. Is the JOB OUTLOOK positive- more than 7%?
  6. Still interested? WATCH THE VIDEO
  7. RELATED OCCUPATIONS Click here to view similar jobs.
FIND A JOB and more.

What Occupational Therapists Do About this section

Occupational therapists
Occupational therapists help people, such as those with disabilities, live independently.

Occupational therapists evaluate and treat people who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities. They help clients meet goals to develop, recover, improve, and maintain skills needed for daily living and working.


Occupational therapists typically do the following:

  • Evaluate clients' conditions by reviewing their medical history, interviewing them, and observing them perform various tasks
  • Develop and implement treatment plans that have specific activities to help clients work toward their goals
  • Help clients relearn and perform daily living tasks, such as teaching a person who has had a stroke how to get dressed
  • Demonstrate exercises—for example, stretching the joints for arthritis relief—to help relieve clients’ pain
  • Evaluate a client’s home, school, or workplace to identify potential accessibility improvements, such as labeling kitchen cabinets for an older person with poor memory
  • Educate a client’s family about how to accommodate and care for them
  • Recommend special equipment, such as mobility aids and eating aids, and instruct clients and families on how to use it
  • Assess and record clients’ activities and progress for client evaluations, billing, and other purposes

Occupational therapists work with people who have permanent disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, and may need help with daily tasks. They recommend options and show clients how to use appropriate adaptive equipment, such as leg braces, wheelchairs, and eating aids. These devices help clients live their lives more independently.

Some occupational therapists work with children in inpatient, outpatient, or educational settings. They may provide early intervention therapy to infants and toddlers or work with school-aged children to encourage engagement, such as participating in academic activities.

Therapists who work with older adults help clients live independently and improve their quality of life. They assess clients’ abilities and environment and make recommendations to improve the clients’ everyday lives. For example, therapists may identify potential fall hazards in a client’s home and recommend their removal or help clients attend social outings.

Occupational therapists help clients create functional work environments. They evaluate the workspace, recommend modifications, and meet with the client’s employer to collaborate on changes to the client’s work environment or schedule.

Occupational therapists also may work in mental health settings, where they help clients who have developmental disabilities or mental health conditions. Therapists assist and educate clients on improving skills such as managing time, using public transportation, and doing household chores. In addition, therapists may work with individuals who have problems related to drug or alcohol abuse, depression, or trauma.

Some occupational therapists, such as those employed in hospitals, work as part of a healthcare team along with doctors, registered nurses, and other types of therapists, including physical therapists. They may work with patients who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis, or help rehabilitate a patient recovering from a stroke or spinal cord injury. Occupational therapists also oversee the work of occupational therapy assistants and aides.

Work Environment About this section

Occupational therapists
Occupational therapists may spend a lot of time on their feet working with clients.

Occupational therapists held about 133,900 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of occupational therapists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 30%
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 26
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 12
Home healthcare services 8
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 7

Occupational therapists may spend a lot of time standing while working with clients. They may be required to lift and move clients or heavy equipment, which can cause injuries. To limit the risk of injury, occupational therapists must use proper body mechanics and lifting techniques.

Therapists sometimes travel between multiple locations, such as between a hospital and a client’s home.

Work Schedules

Most occupational therapists work full time, but part-time work is common. They may work nights or weekends, as needed, to accommodate clients’ schedules.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist About this section

Occupational therapists
Occupational therapists must be sympathetic to clients' needs and concerns.

To enter the occupation, occupational therapists typically need a master’s degree in occupational therapy. All states require occupational therapists to be licensed.


Occupational therapists typically need a master’s degree in occupational therapy to enter the occupation. Occupational therapy programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.

Admission to graduate programs in occupational therapy requires a bachelor’s degree, although it may not need to be in a particular subject. However, master’s degree programs frequently require applicants to have completed coursework in biology, psychology, and other sciences. Some programs also require applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational therapy setting. To learn about specific requirements, applicants should contact the program in which they are interested in enrolling.

Master’s degree programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete and typically include courses such as kinesiology, neuroscience, and anatomy. Additionally, these programs require a specified number of hours of supervised fieldwork during which prospective occupational therapists gain clinical experience.

Some schools offer a dual-degree program in which the student earns a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree upon completion.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but at a minimum, candidates must pass the national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). To sit for the NBCOT exam, candidates must have earned a degree from an accredited occupational therapy program that includes fieldwork.

Therapists must pass the NBCOT exam to use the title “Occupational Therapist Registered” (OTR). They also must complete a specified number of hours of continuing education to maintain state licensure and NBCOT certification.

The American Occupational Therapy Association offers board and specialty certifications in a number of areas, such as gerontology, pediatrics, and physical rehabilitation.

Some employers require candidates to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS) certification.

Important Qualities

Adaptability. Occupational therapists must be accommodating when working with clients. They must be able to change treatment plans based on clients’ needs.

Communication skills. Occupational therapists must listen closely to clients. They also must be able to explain treatment plans and goals to clients, clients’ families, and other members of the healthcare team.

Compassion. Occupational therapists work with patients who may struggle with life’s daily activities. Because of this, they must be empathetic and sensitive to a client’s needs and concerns.

Interpersonal skills. Occupational therapists spend much of their time interacting with clients and explaining treatment. They must be able to develop a rapport with clients.

Patience. Occupational therapists work with clients who have problems with everyday activities. Therapists must remain calm in order to provide quality care.

Pay About this section

Occupational Therapists

Median annual wages, May 2021

Occupational therapists


Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners


Total, all occupations



The median annual wage for occupational therapists was $85,570 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $60,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,840.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for occupational therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Home healthcare services $98,700
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 98,390
Hospitals; state, local, and private 95,590
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 80,450
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 77,290

Most occupational therapists work full time. They may work nights or weekends, as needed, to accommodate clients’ schedules.

Job Outlook About this section

Occupational Therapists

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Occupational therapists


Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners


Total, all occupations



Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 10,100 openings for occupational therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of treatment for people with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, autism, or the loss of a limb.

The need for occupational therapists is expected to increase as the large baby-boom generation ages and people remain active later in life. Occupational therapists help older adults maintain their independence by recommending home modifications and strategies that make daily activities easier.

People will continue to seek noninvasive outpatient treatment for long-term disabilities and illnesses, and they may need occupational therapy to become more independent. Therapists will continue to be needed to assist people with autism spectrum disorder in improving their social skills and accomplishing a variety of daily tasks.

Employment projections data for occupational therapists, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational therapists

29-1122 133,900 152,500 14 18,600 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about occupational therapists, visit

American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

For more information about the certification exam for Occupational Therapist, Registered, visit

National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy

For information regarding the requirements for practice as an occupational therapist in schools, contact state occupational therapy regulatory agencies.


Low Vision Therapists, Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists

Occupational Therapists


WordPress Image Lightbox Plugin