Career Options as an Occupational Therapist

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Occupational therapy (OT) is a good career choice for people who are interested in helping people improve their quality of life. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages from children to the elderly. They help patients improve the skills needed to perform daily living activities to the best of their ability.

One benefit of working as an OT is all the options that are available. Therapists not only work with various types of people, but they also have the opportunity to work in different settings. The type of conditions you are interested in treating and the patient population you desire to work with may help you decide what setting would work best. Below are a few options for occupational therapists.

Acute Care Hospitals

As an OT working in an acute care setting, you may have the chance to work with patients who are recovering from all types of conditions, such as a stroke, head injury or accident.

After patients are stabilized, occupational therapists may play an important role on the patient’s road to recovery. A big part of what an OT does in a hospital setting is assess patients and determine what occupational therapy services are needed once the patient is discharged. Therapists may also help prevent further debility and assist with early mobilization, such as assisting with range of motion exercises.

One advantage of working in an acute care setting is the variety of patients an OT will get to treat. Therapists who enjoy a lot of diversity may like working in a hospital. The bad news is, many acute care hospitals do not have large occupational therapy departments. The level of therapy they provide may not be extensive, and the number of job openings may be small.

Rehabilitation Facilities

The care in a rehabilitation facility is focused on improving and restoring a patient’s level of functioning. Occupational therapists have the opportunity to get to know their patients and work with them on a daily basis over a period of several weeks. Therapists develop a treatment plan to help patients recover the skills needed for employment and daily living.

Occupational therapists working in a rehab facility treat people recovering from spinal cord and head injuries, strokes, orthopedic injuries, and many other conditions.

OTs who enjoy working in a collaborative environment may enjoy working in a rehab facility, since they often work closely with other types of therapists.

Nursing Homes

A large majority of patients in a nursing home are elderly. Occupational therapists are needed in nursing homes to help patients who have age- related conditions, such as arthritis, memory problems and mobility issues.

Occupational therapists work with patients to help them achieve their highest level of functioning, live independently and improve their quality of life. For instance, therapy may involve improving self-help skills, such as grooming, dressing and cooking. Therapists may also help improve manual dexterity and teach patients how to use assistive devices.

Occupational therapists who like working with the geriatric population and enjoy treating their patients over time may enjoy working in a nursing home.


Occupational therapists who work in schools may treat children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD, and learning delays. Therapists work closely with teachers and parents to develop intervention strategies and address diverse learning needs. For instance, occupational therapists may help children improve eye hand coordination or improve social skills and focus.

Therapists also work with kids to improve fine motor skills, such as handwriting. In addition to working with children, OTs also train teachers and parents on how they can assist students, reduce barriers to learning and socialization, and use adaptive equipment.

Working in a school environment is a good choice for therapists who enjoy working with young people. On the downside, occupational therapists who work in schools tend to earn less money than therapists who work in other settings.

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