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Discover a Career in Occupational Therapy

What does an Occupational Therapist do?

Occupational therapists and their assistants help people of all ages with physical, psychological or developmental disabilities achieve independence to lead productive and satisfying lives. People who need OT may include adolescents and/or adults with work-related injuries; individuals with arthritis, multiple sclerosis or similar diseases; and those with substance abuse, eating or other mental health disorders. People who have had a stroke or heart attack, a spinal cord or brain injury, or other serious accidents would also benefit from OT.

In addition, children with birth injury or trauma, or learning or developmental disabilities often receive OT services, as do older adults experiencing Alzheimer’s disease or other aging-related cognitive or sensory decline.

What might an Occupational Therapist do in a workday?

Occupational therapists:

  • consult with treatment teams to develop individualized treatment programs.
  • work with clients and their families or significant others to evaluate clients’ physical and mental abilities.
  • plan and provide intervention to clients.
  • evaluate each client’s progress, attitude and behavior.
  • design or provide special equipment to aid clients with disabilities.
  • teach clients and their families how to adjust to home, work and social environments.
  • educate others about occupational therapy.

Developing a Career in Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists may work in community settings, hospitals, schools or early intervention programs, or in their clients’ home. They may chose to be a “generalist,” or specialize in areas such as pediatrics, gerontology, hand management or work/vocational programs. They may work as staff therapists, supervisors, clinical directors, administrators, consultants, researchers or educators.

Occupational therapy assistants help occupational therapists evaluate patients’ daily living skills, instruct patients in self-care skills, order supplies and maintain records.

Occupational therapy aides transport patients, assemble equipment and prepare and maintain patient work areas.

How much salary do Occupational Therapists make?

Average Salary Range
$35,000-$60,000 (therapists)
$25,000-$30,000 (assistants)
$15,000-$20,000 (aides)

How do I become an Occupational Therapist?

Students interested in becoming occupational therapists should take the most challenging high school courses available in science, English and psychology.

Occupational therapists enter the field with a master’s or doctoral degree in occupational therapy. The academic course work includes six months of clinical training.

Certified occupational therapy assistants must complete an accredited program, which includes clinical experience. All must pass a national certification examination and meet state requirements to practice occupational therapy. Occupational therapy aides receive most of their training on the job. A high school diploma is required and volunteer experiences are beneficial.

Where else can I learn about becoming an Occupational Therapist?

Professional Associations:

Virginia Occupational Therapy Association
2231 Oak Bay Lane
Richmond, VA 23233
(804) 754-4120
www.vaota.org

American Occupational Therapy Association Inc.
4720 Montgomery Lane
P.O. Box 31220
Bethesda, MD 20824-1220
(301) 652-2682
www.aota.org

State License Requirements for Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants

A license is required to practice as an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant in the state of Virginia. For more information on licensure, applications and forms, visit www.dhp.virginia.gov/medicine.

Virginia Board of Medicine
Perimeter Center
9960 Mayland Drive
Suite 300
Henrico, VA  23233
Phone: (804) 786-0370
Email: medbd@dhp.virginia.gov

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