What is an Occupational Therapist?

What is an Occupational Therapist?

An Occupational Therapist is a licensed professional who helps people of all ages improve their abilities to accomplish their everyday tasks.

This article will explore what occupational therapists do, the types of occupational therapy, and occupational therapist salary information.

Occupational therapy is a profession that focuses on getting individuals back to completing their everyday occupations. For adults, these occupations can be tasks such as cooking and cleaning. For toddlers and young children, these occupations can include learning to develop skills that will help them succeed in school, at home, and in social settings.

What Do Occupational Therapists Do?
Types of Occupational Therapy
Where Do Occupational Therapists Work?
Occupational Therapist Education and Career Requirements
Occupational Therapist Salary Information
Your GMercyU Path to a Career in Occupational Therapy

What Do Occupational Therapists Do?

Occupational Therapists help individuals of all ages develop or recover their ability to perform meaningful daily activities, called occupations. While we typically think of occupations as careers, occupations can also include the everyday activities that we take for granted, including getting dressed or interacting with our peers. Occupational evaluate the skills and abilities of their clients, develop goals, and implement a plan of intervention to help their clients achieve those goals.

Occupational therapists also understand the influence of the client’s environment that may support or hinder the client’s ability to regain independence. Occupational therapists can also assist in modifying environments and/or providing necessary tools or adaptive equipment that can make performing life activities much easier.

Types of Occupational Therapy

There are many career options for Occupational Therapists. Finding the right career for you depends on where your interests lie. Below are some options for Occupational Therapy careers:

Geriatrics: An Occupational Therapist working with older adults may assist them in increasing their safety and independence in activities of daily living to remain in their home or return to their home from a hospital or skilled nursing facility. Occupational Therapists may also work on areas such as driving, fall prevention, home safety, and monitoring chronic conditions, including cognitive impairments like dementia.  

Pediatrics: Pediatric Occupational Therapy helps children to develop and refine the skills they’ll need to be successful in school, at home, and in social settings. Occupational Therapists may work with children with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, or other conditions that may impact their abilities to perform developmentally appropriate occupations. School-based therapy, early intervention in the home, and outpatient clinics are common settings that employ Occupational Therapists who with children and youth.

Rehabilitation: While doctors or surgeons might reset broken bones, it’s the Occupational Therapist who helps clients re-learn or re-gain the skills needed to complete everyday activities, including toileting, cooking a meal, or managing finances. Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and outpatient clinics are common settings that employ Occupational Therapist who work with adults.

Mental Health: Occupational Therapists who work in the field of mental health can help clients to develop the social and practical skills needed to gain employment, return to school, socially participate in their community, or live independently.

Where Do Occupational Therapists Work?

Occupational Therapists can work with people in many settings. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) Salary and Workforce study, the top five settings that employ Occupational Therapists include:

  • Hospitals (26.6%)
  • School Settings (19.2%)
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (19.2%)
  • Outpatient Facilities (10.7%)
  • Home Health (6.8%)

Occupational Therapist Education and Career Requirements

After you graduate from an accredited institution, you will be eligible to sit for the national certification exam, administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®). After successful completion of this exam, you’ll be an Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR®). All states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the passing of the NBCOT® certification exam.

Occupational Therapist Salary Information

Occupational Therapists earn a median salary of $81,910, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here is some other occupational therapist salary information, according to the BLS:

Setting Media Salary (2016)
Geriatrics (skilled nursing facility) $90,230
Mental Health $85,840
Pediatrics (home health care) $94,160
Rehabilitation (hospital) $83,000

Your GMercyU Path to a Career in Occupational Therapy

Gwynedd Mercy University offers two paths to a career in Occupational Therapy.

GMercyU’s Bachelor of Health Science (BHS) in Occupational Science (OS) offers three years of pre-professional liberal arts courses that include Occupational Science and Health Science. Students in the program can enter into the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) program in their senior year and complete both a BHS in Occupational Science and an MSOT in just 5 ½ years.

Students who already hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution can apply to the proposed Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program for the anticipated start date of May 2018. This two-year program gives students the eligibility to sit for the NBCOT® certification exam once the program achieves accreditation.