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Occupational Therapist Duties and Responsibilities

In order to help patients recover from trauma, overcome specific challenges, or simply improve their overall quality of life, occupational therapists perform an array of tasks. Based on the job listings we analyzed, they usually take on these duties and responsibilities:

Evaluate Patients Before they begin treating a patient, occupational therapists must first administer a variety of tests to evaluate the patient's needs, limitations, and capabilities. The information they gather from those tests must also be shared with the patient, the patient's family (if necessary), physicians, and members of allied health groups.

Analyze Evaluation Results Once an occupational therapist has fully evaluated their patient, they must then analyze the results of that evaluation to form realistic treatment goals along a proposed timeline. They also use their analysis to create a comprehensive treatment program.

Select and Implement Treatment Techniques Before the treatment program begins, it's important that occupational therapists select treatment techniques that not only accomplish the desired goals, but also fit the capabilities and deficits of each specific patient.


Treatment If an occupational therapist's patient is going to be treated by other medical professionals, such as physicians and nurses, the occupational therapist will need to supervise those appointments to ensure that the patient receives complete and total treatment.

Provide Documentation Over the course of each patient's treatment program, it's essential that occupational therapists thoroughly document test results, goals, techniques used, and results achieved. Those records help form a comprehensive health history for the patient that can be used in the future.


Occupational Therapist Skills and Qualifications

Occupational therapists should be analytical thinkers with a love for both research and helping other people. Depending on where they're employed, occupational therapists may also need knowledge and experience in specific areas, such as pediatric or geriatric care. Employers typically favor occupational therapists with the following skills and qualifications:
  • Analytical thinking - as discussed earlier, occupational therapists evaluate patients before beginning treatment. Because of this, it's essential that they possess strong analytical skills
  • Problem-solving skills - when developing and modifying treatment programs, occupational therapists must use problem-solving skills to address and adapt to new or changing problems
  • Communication skills - since occupational therapists are required to share their findings as well as their patients' progress with family members and other healthcare professionals, they need excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Attention to detail - when working with a patient, even the smallest detail can have a huge impact on overall health. So, it's crucial that occupational therapists have a keen eye for detail
  • Bedside manner - a warm and compassionate bedside manner can go a long way in terms of making patients feel comfortable and optimistic, so it's important for occupational therapists to have an outstanding bedside manner

Occupational Therapist Education and Training

Occupational therapists are required to have a master's degree in occupational therapy, as well as a bachelor's degree, typically in a field such as biology or physiology. Some occupational therapists may also choose to obtain a doctoral degree. In order to become a practicing occupational therapist, all occupational therapists must pass a national exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapists. Additional optional certifications may also be obtained through the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Occupational Therapist Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapists earn a yearly median salary of $83,200, with the lowest paid earning $54,560 per year and the highest paid earning $120,440. Employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow 24 percent by 2026, a rate that's much faster than that of all other occupations. This means that 31,000 new occupational therapist positions will become available during that time period.

Helpful Resources

If you want to become an occupational therapist, take a look at this list of resources we assembled to help you achieve that goal:

American Occupational Therapy Association - AOTA, as mentioned earlier, provides occupational therapists with a variety of certifications. It also offers job resources, student resources, an annual conference, events, and more

Quick Reference to Occupational Therapy - this book serves as a handy reference guide for students, practitioners, and researchers alike. It's particularly useful for students who are working to become occupational therapists

Occupational Therapist Networking Group - with more than 16,000 members, this LinkedIn group is the perfect place to discuss, connect, and network with fellow occupational therapists and occupational therapy students

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