A Career In Occupational Therapy

Before we start looking at jobs in occupational healthcare services, let’s talk a little bit about what it is. 

Occupational therapy is the rehabilitation of patients who are no longer able to perform work or daily living activities due to mental illnesses or physical illnesses. Usually, there will be a range of people on the occupational therapy team: 

Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational Therapy Aide

There will, of course, be doctors, nurses and other medical professionals in the mix. To make sure the care is of the best standard and meeting the requirements of the patient. Each level of responsibility and career path will come with an increase in salary. 


The role of an occupational therapy aide is essential in the team. Although overall requiring less education and receiving a lesser salary, the team wouldn’t be complete without this member. The aides will be setting up the rooms, arranging equipment preparing the files and materials too. They will likely be the first person the patient will see. The aide will help them get ready for their session, assist in the walking from the waiting room to the therapy room and anywhere else required. There is a high probability of clerical work too. 

To be successful in gaining a job role, you will need a high school diploma or some previous experience in such a position. Most employers will provide training on the job too. Learning this way means you will have a better indication of the patients seen, how the business runs. It lays the foundations to move into other areas of occupational therapy if that is something that you want to do. 


If you don’t love the idea of 6 years of post-secondary school education, then you might consider OTA as the best career option for you. This career option sits somewhere in between the responsibilities of the OT and the occupational therapy aide. You’ll be working closely with the OT, and they will be overseeing your work. You will be looking after patients in a very hands-on way. Making sure that they are meeting the goals on their treatment plans, and performing activities to standard. In some cases, the OTA will work with the OT to create a plan for each patient. 

Educational wise you are going to need an associate degree. When looking for a course type, you should ensure that it is accredited by ACOTE. You can find a list of the courses that are acceptable on their website. 

Your degree with take two years to complete as a fulltime course, and during that time you will have clinic hours. You should also be aware that after you pass your course, you will still be required to pass further examinations. Many states and countries require this before you will have your license. 


The OT is the team leader. They have the most significant amount of responsibilities and more education. They will need to evaluate patients to determine where the issues lie and what the need to live a life as they would like to. They need to be strategic thinkers in order to get their patient from A to B while making consistent, trackable improvements. The treatment plans need to be both manageable and goal-driven. There is a clear link between lack of goal-reaching and lower self-esteem and confidence. Their patients need to feel like they are meeting those goals to continue with a positive outlook. 

As well as the physical and mental aspect of the work, they may recommend ways in which the patient and their family can accommodate and improve their lives. Widening door frames, adding handrails, stairlifts and other adjustments. These may also be recommended in a work capacity. 

On average, an OT will have a Master’s or Doctorate Degree in Occupational Therapy, again this will need to be from an ACOTE (or your own country's version of) accredited course. To be able to complete the graduate program, you will need to have a bachelor's degree first. One that includes physiology and biology. 

You’ll be spending four years in college and then two or three years in post-grad education. There will be plenty of experience required too. You will be volunteering in an OT setting, or if you get lucky, you will get a part-time aide position. After you have completed all of your courses, you will need to sit an exam called an NBCOT to get your license. 


Well as cliche as it might be there isn’t a typical day. That is simply sure to each patient being so very different and needing individual care plans and goals. You’d start the day by checking for new admissions, and which patients will be in the clinic that day. A morning meeting with the other Ots, and your team - updated on anything you should know about. 

The chances are you’ll need to observe a couple of patients for a short while throughout the day to see any improvements that have been made. Depending on the kind of OT you are in, you could be dealing with a post-accident recovery case, or a person who self-harms. The work is wide and varied - which is why it is so exciting. 

There will also be a range of activities undertaken by the residents or patients, depending on where you work. 

Building rapport with both the patients that you already see and the new ones. There is a lot of trust in the OT profession. As well as building rapport, there are reports to tend to as well. The files for each person you see will need to be updated with further recommendations and progress too. 

One of the most vital skills of each of the careers mentioned above is communication. The ability to talk with patients, families and the staff involved. It is a gratifying career that allows making a real impact on the lives of others. Collaboration.