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Career profile Occupational Therapist

Also known as Assistive Technology Trainer, Early Intervention Occupational Therapist, Industrial Rehabilitation Consultant, Occupational Therapist (OT), Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Registered Occupational Therapist, Staff Occupational Therapist, Staff Therapist

Occupational Therapist

Also known as Assistive Technology Trainer, Early Intervention Occupational Therapist, Industrial Rehabilitation Consultant

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Investigative
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$57,330 - $122,670 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Monitoring
  • Service Orientation
Knowledge Areas
  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Psychology
  • Customer and Personal Service
Core tasks
  • Test and evaluate patients' physical and mental abilities and analyze medical data to determine realistic rehabilitation goals for patients.
  • Complete and maintain necessary records.
  • Plan, organize, and conduct occupational therapy programs in hospital, institutional, or community settings to help rehabilitate those impaired because of illness, injury or psychological or developmental problems.
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What does an Occupational Therapist 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.

In addition, Occupational Therapists use therapeutic techniques, adapt the individual's environment, teach skills, and modify specific tasks that present barriers to the individual.

What kind of tasks does an Occupational Therapist perform regularly?

Occupational Therapists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Test and evaluate patients' physical and mental abilities and analyze medical data to determine realistic rehabilitation goals for patients.
  • Complete and maintain necessary records.
  • Plan, organize, and conduct occupational therapy programs in hospital, institutional, or community settings to help rehabilitate those impaired because of illness, injury or psychological or developmental problems.
  • Plan and implement programs and social activities to help patients learn work or school skills and adjust to handicaps.
  • Select activities that will help individuals learn work and life-management skills within limits of their mental or physical capabilities.
  • Evaluate patients' progress and prepare reports that detail progress.
  • Train caregivers in providing for the needs of a patient during and after therapy.
  • Lay out materials such as puzzles, scissors and eating utensils for use in therapy, and clean and repair these tools after therapy sessions.
  • Consult with rehabilitation team to select activity programs or coordinate occupational therapy with other therapeutic activities.
  • Design and create, or requisition, special supplies and equipment, such as splints, braces, and computer-aided adaptive equipment.
  • Recommend changes in patients' work or living environments, consistent with their needs and capabilities.
  • Develop and participate in health promotion programs, group activities, or discussions to promote client health, facilitate social adjustment, alleviate stress, and prevent physical or mental disability.
  • Provide training and supervision in therapy techniques and objectives for students or nurses and other medical staff.
  • Help clients improve decision making, abstract reasoning, memory, sequencing, coordination, and perceptual skills, using computer programs.
  • Conduct research in occupational therapy.
  • Advise on health risks in the workplace or on health-related transition to retirement.

The above responsibilities are specific to Occupational Therapists. More generally, Occupational Therapists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Developing Objectives and Strategies
Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.

What is an Occupational Therapist salary?

The median salary for an Occupational Therapist is $86,280, and the average salary is $87,480. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Occupational Therapist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Occupational Therapists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Occupational Therapists earn less than $57,330 per year, 25% earn less than $70,880, 75% earn less than $103,060, and 90% earn less than $122,670.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Occupational Therapists is expected to change by 17.5%, and there should be roughly 10,100 open positions for Occupational Therapists every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$57,330 - $122,670
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Occupational Therapists?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as an Occupational Therapist are usually higher in their Social and Investigative interests.

Occupational Therapists typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Occupational Therapists typically have moderate Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as an Occupational Therapist tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Working Conditions.

Most importantly, Occupational Therapists very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Occupational Therapists very strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Occupational Therapists very strongly value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Occupational Therapists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, dependability, and concern for others.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Occupational Therapists, ranked by importance:

Job requires being honest and ethical.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.

What education and training do Occupational Therapists need?

Many Occupational Therapists have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Occupational Therapists may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Occupational Therapists

  • 0.4% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 0.6% completed high school or secondary school
  • 0.9% completed some college coursework
  • 4.5% earned a Associate's degree
  • 35.0% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 52.9% earned a Master's degree
  • 5.7% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Occupational Therapists

Occupational Therapists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as therapy and counseling, psychology, or customer and personal service knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Occupational Therapists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Important Abilities needed by Occupational Therapists

Occupational Therapists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Occupational Therapists need abilities such as oral expression, written expression, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Occupational Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

Critical Skills needed by Occupational Therapists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Occupational Therapists frequently use skills like active listening, monitoring, and service orientation to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Occupational Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Service Orientation
Actively looking for ways to help people.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.