Occupational Therapy Career Outlook

Occupational Therapy Career Outlook

Written by: Professional Physical Therapy

What Occupational Therapists Do

Occupational therapists make a difference in people’s lives. They treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. OTs take a holistic approach. In addition to improving physical functioning, they work on many kinds of social, emotional, and work-related situations.

OTs can specialize in six core areas:

  • Work and industry
  • Health and wellness
  • Children and youth
  • Mental health
  • Rehabilitation and disability
  • Productive aging

“Occupational therapy is an extremely rewarding profession.  Through science and creativity occupational therapists increase their patient’s independence which ultimately improves their patient’s quality of life.  At Professional PT our patients often arrive with little to no functional use of their extremity.  Our specialized hand therapists develop individualized rehabilitation programs which return our patients to previous functional levels in a significantly shorter amount of time when compared to national averages.”

Robert Wilutis MS, OTR, CHT
Vice President of Clinical Operations of Hand and Occupational Therapy at Professional Physical Therapy


Job Outlook

Occupational Therapy ranks as one of the fastest growing jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 17 percent from 2020 to 2030, 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.

Important Qualities

Every Occupational Therapist share common characteristics that make them successful.

Outstanding Communication Skills – OTs spend a great deal of their day communicating with others. They must be able to listen to their patients and provide professional and clear communication to doctors, co-workers, and all other professionals on a patient’s healthcare team.

Compassion – Most are drawn to this profession by a desire to help people and improve their daily lives.

Lots of Patience – OTs understand that many of their clients are undergoing a variety of disabilities and challenges, making them rude, frustrated, or impatient at times. They must be able to listen with patience, empathy, and a smile throughout their time together.

Adaptability – Often times, treatment plan requires spur of the moment adaptations based on available equipment or a client’s ability or mood. You must be able to think on your feet to make sure each session pushes their clients to their maximum potential.

Work Environment

About half of occupational therapists work in offices of occupational therapy or in hospitals. Others work in schools, nursing homes, and home health services. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the largest employees of OTs were as follows:

  • 29%: Hospitals; state, local, and private
  • 25%: Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists
  • 12%: Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private
  • 8%: Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)
  • 8%: Home healthcare services

Therapists may spend a lot of time on their feet while working with patients. Most OTs work full time. They may also work nights or weekends, as needed to accommodate patients’ schedules.

How to Become an OT or CHT

To become an OT, you’ll need to complete an undergraduate bachelor’s degree program in healthcare and related fields with coursework in biology, physiology, and other sciences – which is typically four years. For 2-3 years after receiving this degree, you will attend an occupational therapy program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, working under the supervision of a licensed clinician.

All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Which state you are planning to practice in plays a major role in obtaining a license. Each state has its own unique requirements for obtaining a license or renewal of a license, and you must obtain a license for the state in which you will practice.

To become a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT), you must have a license for a minimum of three years and a minimum of 4,000 hours of direct practice experience in hand therapy and pass the hand therapy commission exam.

Many occupational therapists enter the occupation with a master’s degree in occupational therapy which takes 2-3 years to complete.

Professional Physical Therapy is actively hiring across multiple departments in all 5 states where we treat. If you are looking to grow your career, visit Professional’s careers page.

For more information on Occupational Therapy in a specialized area, provided at Professional Physical Therapy, visit us at hand therapy.



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