Occupational Therapist

OT in Community

As an Occupational Therapist (OT) you will promote health and well-being to people of all ages through the therapeutic use of daily activities. OTs help people who aren’t able to participate in activities due to physical, affective, or cognitive impairments from a health condition. They also work with those who have been challenged, such as children in foster care, people who are incarcerated, or others affected by their physical, social, cultural, or attitudinal environments. Using a holistic approach, occupational therapists work to enable these individuals to adapt to their environments and enhance their participation in the world around them.

Occupational therapists find ways to make life easier and support people with self-care and household tasks, getting out and about, or even by modifying a person’s home. They also enable people to be successful at work, education, and in social and leisure activities. Some OT’s specialize in working with clients within a specific age group or disability such as those with visual impairment, arthritis, developmental coordination disorder, mental illness, or spinal cord injury. Other OT’s may work with children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations. They may help people recovering from injury to regain skills, and they may provide support for older adults experiencing physical, sensory and/or cognitive changes.

  • Percent Change in Employment, Projected 2018 - 202818% Occupational Therapists

  • 13%Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

  • 5% Total, all occupations

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Outlook and demand

Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 18 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of healthcare for people with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, autism, or the loss of a limb. The need for occupational therapists is expected to increase as the large baby-boom generation ages and people remain active later in life.

Employers look for professionals who can:

  • Work in close contact with people and other healthcare providers.
  • Analyze and evaluate an individual’s circumstances and situation to determine their needs and goals.
  • Provide health and wellness advice to individuals and their family or caregivers, to groups of people and to communities.
  • Prepare reports summarizing a person’s occupational needs and goals.
  • Design and direct public or employee healthcare delivery programs.
  • Collaborate with healthcare professionals to plan or provide evidence-based evaluation and intervention plans.
  • Are creative problem-solvers.

Paths that can lead to this career

Either an entry level Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) or a Master’s degree is required for occupational therapists entering into the profession. All states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Please note, the program at UAB is a highly competitive program that participates in the centralized application service for occupational therapy programs (OTCAS) and requires an interview process for admission, as well as application to the UAB Graduate School.

  • High School

    If you're currently in high school and interested in becoming an Occupational Therapist you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

    • Explore majors based in science or health care, such as UAB's Biomedical Sciences Major and Health Care Management Major.
    • Look into the requirements for the Occupational Therapy Fast-Track program to see if you qualify.
    • Find opportunities to job shadow licensed Occupational Therapists.
  • Undergraduate

    If you're currently an undergraduate and interested in becoming an Occupational Therapist you can take the following steps to prepare for this career:

    • Complete any bachelor degree with the following prerequisite courses:
      • Biology with a lab
      • Human Anatomy with a lab
      • Human Physiology with a lab
      • Kinesiology
      • Abnormal Psychology
      • Developmental Psychology
      • Statistics
      • Sociology or Anthropology Elective
      • Introduction to Professional Writing
    • Find opportunities to shadow licensed occupational therapists in a variety of settings (e.g., hospital, outpatient clinic, schools).
    • Attend a Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy information session.
  • Graduate

    If you already have a bachelor's degree, the following pre-requisite courses will need to be completed:

    • Biology with a lab
    • Human Anatomy with a lab
    • Human Physiology with a lab
    • Kinesiology
    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Developmental Psychology
    • Statistics
    • Sociology or Anthropology Elective
    • Introduction to Professional Writing

    You should contact the admission coordinator at the Department of Occupational Therapy at UAB to have a review of your transcript completed and an individualized plan developed

    Are you an Occupational Therapist who wants to progress their career with advanced degrees and training? You may be interested in the following Occupational Therapy Post-Professional programs:

Job titles and employers

Did you know?

The UAB M.S. in Occupational Therapy program is ranked 3rd in the Southeast in U.S. News & World Report rankings of America's Best Graduate Schools (2020).

Occupational Therapist

Places of work for this career:

  • Hospitals
    • Acute care
    • Intensive care units (ICU)
    • Inpatient rehabilitation
    • Outpatient care
    • Specialty units (ex. spinal cord injury)
    • Pediatric specialty units (ex. oncology, burns, NICU)
    • Outpatient pediatric clinics
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Home health
  • Work rehabilitation
  • Psychiatric facilities – children, adolescents or adults
  • Community mental health programs
  • Memory-care
  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • Private practice clinics
  • Academic and research
  • Hand therapy
  • Driver rehabilitation
  • Low vision rehabilitation
  • Wheelchair seating and mobility
  • Assistive technology
  • Design and accessibility consultation
  • Emerging community sites such as homeless shelters and prisons

To find out detailed salary information and more information on this career, you can explore the Department of Labor's O*Net database.

Organizations to check out for this career:

Next steps


Find out more information about the Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy program.

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Fast Track

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