What is the Job Description of an Occupational Therapist?

If you are applying to get the job of an occupational therapist, then read this job description guide to see the duties and responsibilities you should expect.

An ideal occupational therapist job description includes everything an organisation expects an occupational therapist to do, skills they should possess and the monetary reward for their hard work.

This free guide on the job description of an occupational therapist contains all of that and even more.

It has been carefully written to help aspiring or prospective occupational therapists know what to expect from their employer.

Occupational therapists are individuals who treat sick, injured or disabled patients. 

They help these patients recover, improve or manage health challenges.

An ideal applicant should possess strong communication and interpersonal skills.

You should also be compassionate, flexible and patient.

It is necessary for you to possess these attributes because they make the job more interesting and easy.


What does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapists provide treatment to sick, injured or disabled individuals.

They help their patients, recover, improve or manage their health conditions.

As an occupational therapist, you will be responsible for helping your patients who are disabled and always require help performing day to day activities and develop skills required for performing daily activities independently.

You will teach them how to make use of leg braces, eating aids, wheelchairs and/or any other equipment required to help them live more independent lives.

Occupational therapists also work in the educational sector with children who are disabled.

They assess the children’s disability, then make partial changes to the classroom equipment to meet the needs of the children, and help the children take part in school activities as well.

These occupational therapists who work with children also partner with parents to provide intervention therapy to children who already suffer from or are at potential risk of suffering from developmental delay.

Some occupational therapists also work in mental health institutions, where they help mentally and emotionally sick patients.

They also help individuals suffering from drug abuse, depression, alcohol misuse and disorders.

Occupational therapists are not doctors, but they may work in hospitals as a part of the health care team to assist patients to attain full recovery.

They are also responsible for overseeing the work of assistant occupational therapists.

What are the duties and responsibilities of an occupational therapist?

Here are some of the duties and responsibilities of an occupational therapists commonly featured in an occupational therapist job description;

1. Meet with patients

It is the duty of an occupational therapist to meet with patients.

During these meetings, they evaluate the medical history of patients.

They also observe patients perform certain activities.

By so doing, they are able to evaluate the patient’s condition and needs.

2. Develop treatment plan

After a successful meeting with a patient, they are also saddled with the responsibility for developing an effective treatment plan.

Treatment plans usually feature activities that are targeted at helping the patient achieve a specific goal.

During the treatment process, whenever the occupational therapist sees the need to make adjustments to the treatment plan, he or she does that.

3. Recommend relevant environmental changes

It is also the duty of an occupational therapist to visit the homes and working place of their patients.

They do this in order to evaluate their environment and make necessary changes if the need be.

Such changes could be identifying objects that could cause fall to children with developmental delay and advising the parent to remove it or keep it out of their reach.

4. Updates patient’s records

As treatment progresses and patient’s health status changes, an occupational therapist is expected to make necessary updates to the medical records of their patients.

This is important for future reference by them or another health care provider.

5. Inform patient’s family on how to care for them

Apart from patients, occupational therapists also meet with family and friends of their patients.

During this meetings, they educate them on how to help the patient live a better live.

Other duties and responsibilities of an occupational therapist usually featured in the job description include:

  • Recommend equipment and tools that patients need to help them perform daily tasks independently.
  • Prepare clients to return to the normal life they had before the incident
  • Adhere to all relevant rules, regulations and policies.
  • Stay updated with recent techniques for helping patients in order to give patients the best.

What qualification do I need to become an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapists require a master’s degree in occupational therapy by a school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.

A master’s degree usually takes about 2 years to complete. But, there are some schools who offer dual degree programs.

Where a student can obtain a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in 5 years.

Bachelor’s degree in biology, sociology, psychology, anatomy, physiology and anthropology  could serve as a prerequisite for getting accepted in a master’s degree program in occupational therapy.

Some occupational therapists also enter the occupation with a doctorate degree.

Aside from a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in occupational therapy, occupational therapists also need a license to practice. 

This license is peculiar to different countries and states, therefore the requirements may also differ.

To obtain a license to practice occupational therapy in the United States, you have to successfully sit for and pass an examination by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

To remain a certified occupational therapist, candidates must continue attending educational classes.

What skills should an occupational therapist have?

Employers also look out for certain skills and attributes in an occupational therapist.

Usually, these skills are also featured in an occupational therapist job description.

Here are some of the skills employers look for:

1. Communication skills

A good occupational therapist should be capable of communicating instructions to patients and their caregivers as well.

They should be able to communicate verbally and in writing too.

Communication skills for an occupational therapist should not be limited to speaking only, but to listening as well.

Good occupational therapists should possess good listening ability.

2. Interpersonal skills

These individuals are also expected to possess interpersonal skills.

They should be able to develop good working relationships with their patients, and other caregivers.

3. Compassion

A good occupational therapist is driven by the passion to help others 

They are also sensitive to the emotional and mental needs of their patients.

4. Patients

Oftentimes, it can be very difficult to deal with individuals who are injured or suffering from any mental, physical or emotional challenge.

Therefore, an occupational therapist has to be patient in order to give patients the care the need.

5. Critical thinking

There are usually a variety of methods and techniques to deploy when taking care of patients.

As such, an occupational therapist has to be able to think critically in order to make professional decisions on which technique will be best for each patient.

Ideal individuals for this job are also determined, enthusiastic and have good teamworking skills.

Individuals who possess any of these skills but are sure they do not want to be doctors or nurses will certainly make good occupational therapists.

Where do occupational therapists work?

Here are some of the typical employers of occupational therapists:

  • Nursing homes
  • Schools
  • Prisons
  • GP practices
  • NHS trust
  • Industrial organisations
  • Health and day care centers

Vacancy advertisements are usually placed online by recruitment agencies, or in national newspapers.

How much do occupational therapists make?

On the average, occupational therapists in the United States make up to $84,950 per year.

Although, their salary usually ranges from 

$56,800 per annum to $121,490 per year.

How much an occupational therapist makes depends on the following factors:

  • Location: occupational therapists in more developed environments may earn more than their colleagues who work in less developed areas, also, the economy of a country affects the salary of an occupational therapist.
  • Experience: more experienced occupational therapists are usually paid better
  • Place of work: occupational therapists who work in bigger organisations may be paid better.
  • Qualification: More qualification may mean a better pay.

Occupational therapist work environment and schedule

Occupational therapists regularly travel from one health care facility to another. Sometimes, they also work in offices, but they spend most of their working hours standing with patients.

Typically, an occupational therapist works based on shifts that suit the needs of their patients.

Their working hours vary greatly. They may even work at night and on weekends.

Occupational therapy job outlook?

According to the U.S bureau of labor statistics, job employment for occupational therapists is expected to increase by 24% from 2016 through 2026.

This increase is way better than the estimated increase for most career paths.

Occupational therapists will be needed in health care organisations for the treatment of patients with chronic illnesses such as stroke.

Such patients will need the services of occupational therapists to help them live more independent lives.

Also, occupational therapists will always be relevant in the treatment of disorders and disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and even drug or substance abuse to mention but a few.

However. All of these will be dependent on the ability of patients to afford payments through insurance or directly.

Summary of the job description of an occupational therapist 

When creating an occupational therapist resume, applicants may want to increase all necessary information capable of convincing employers that they are suitable for the job.

During an interview, it is also important to make reference to your experience, qualification and skills.

Applicants should not hesitate to make use of this guide on the job description of an occupational therapist when creating a professional resume.

This article can also be used as an occupational therapist job description template by recruiters.

An organisation that decides to make use of it to create their own occupational therapist job description should also feel free to make necessary adjustments to it, so as to suit the needs of the organisation.

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