What Careers are Available for Occupational Therapists?

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Updated: February 15, 2024, Reading time: 11 minutes

Careers for Occupational Therapists - featured image

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A degree in occupational therapy offers you numerous work experiences to equip you with the knowledge and practical skills needed to help others. If you are contemplating earning your master’s degree in occupational therapy, there’s a good chance that you are planning to become a licensed occupational therapist right after you complete your master’s. 

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While becoming an occupational therapist is a very common career choice for students who have their master’s degree in the field, this career is not the only option available. In fact, there are plenty of career paths in the occupational therapy industry that you might not have considered before.

How Occupational Therapy Works

How Occupational Therapy Works - Image

Occupational therapists work with their patients so they can achieve their common goals through stretching, intervention techniques, and exercises to increase mobility, strength, and flexibility. Here are some of the approaches occupational therapists can use:

In occupational therapy, adaptive equipment is one of the field’s greatest tools. OTs can train and recommend patients to use various equipment like specialized utensils, reachers, splints, or dressing aids. They can even modify the environment to adapt to certain impairments.

What are some occupational therapy goals for adults? 

Best Careers in Occupational Therapy

Salaries within the field of Occupational Therapy can vary greatly, depending on education, experience, and job location.

Occupational Therapist

With a median pay of $93,180 every year, occupational therapists assist patients in identifying their unique needs, developing a treatment plan, and then utilizing various rehabilitation and therapeutic methods to help patients improve their capacity to do their everyday routines associated with life.

Occupational therapists also find ways to improve the daily environment of patients, like widening doorways, adding walkway handrails, or widening doorways so wheelchairs can be accommodated.

These therapists also lead an OT team (usually consisting of OT assistants and aides) and usually play managerial roles on top of their patient-focused work. 

Occupational Therapy Supervisors

Occupational therapy supervisors need a master’s degree to enter into the field. With an average annual salary of $75,594, these healthcare professionals are tasked with supervising occupational therapy teams within their facility. This may include occupational therapists, aides, assistants, and interns (depending on the facility size and team).

These supervisors also interview job applicants, train employees, evaluate performances, manage schedules, address complaints, and resolve any issues that might potentially arise.

Occupational therapy supervisors also perform direct occupation therapy tasks like patient evaluations. These supervisors report directly to the rehabilitation director. Since the job of OT supervisor needs an extensive understanding of the OT field, a lot of supervisors take on the role after they spend time as occupational therapists.

With this, occupational supervisors are normally expected to hold a licensure and a master’s degree in occupational therapy. 

Director of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation directors in the US take home $149,604 annually. With a master’s degree in occupational therapy, rehabilitation directors are responsible for different duties related to coordinating, directing, and planning occupational therapy services.

These duties may also include improving internal processes and workflows, recruiting and training staff, developing organizational/departmental goals, managing finances, and managing work schedules, among others. 

Rehabilitation directors are normally employed by nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, and other facilities that employ large occupational therapy teams. While candidates in this position should hold a bachelor’s degree, those holding graduate degrees are most often preferred. 

OTs who choose to become rehabilitation directors have already spent several years working as occupational therapists. Thus, it’s expected that they hold a master’s degree in the field. Some opt to pursue a health administration master’s degree program to improve their resumes and reinforce their managerial qualifications. 

Rehabilitation Liaison

Also called rehab coordinators or intake coordinators, rehabilitation liaisons are the ones who fill the open beds in their rehabilitation facility for patients. This task usually involves obtaining patient referrals, reading and responding to evaluation orders, assessing patients on a case-to-case basis, admitting patients, and representing their facility at social functions and marketing events. 

Though a degree in occupational therapy is not required, earning a degree can help you find a job as a rehabilitation liaison. Because these liaisons are tasked with evaluating possible patients, they must have a firm understanding of what a potential patient looks like for their OT services.

With that, earning a master’s degree in occupational therapy, nursing, or physical therapy is the best step toward landing a job as a rehabilitation liaison. In fact, a lot of rehabilitation liaisons transition to the field of OT after they spend years doing clinical tasks.

Alternative Career Paths for Occupational Therapists

There are plenty of career opportunities in the occupational therapy industry that are fulfilling for people who are interested in healthcare or those who love to care for and serve their communities and other people.

Aside from the usual careers that you can have after earning an occupational degree, here are some alternative careers you might be interested in. 

Community Health Worker

Community health workers have an extensive understanding of the community they are serving. This relationship will help them work as a solid link between the community and the health services.

These health workers are also the ones who promote the overall well-being of individuals and the community by increasing their sufficiency and knowledge through informal counseling, outreach, social support, and awareness campaigns. 

Rehab Specialist

These specialists are trained to help with patient therapy in rehabilitation facilities and programs. They examine patients before, during, and after admission so they can identify how they can address the rehabilitation needs of these patients and manage them during their entire stay in the rehab facility.

Rehab specialists also make sure that the patient is ready for discharge by continuously monitoring and reviewing their recovery progress. 


With an average base salary of $238,217 per year, podiatrists are trained healthcare professionals who can diagnose and deal with injuries and illnesses of the feet and lower limbs. Podiatrists also correct and prevent deformations, keep people active, improve mobility, treat illnesses, and relieve pain.

For those advanced cases, these health professionals can also perform foot surgeries to correct deformities. 

Occupational Therapy Job Outlook

Occupational Therapy Job Outlook - Image

The field of occupational therapy is expected to have a strong demand and job growth in the coming decade. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of occupational therapists is expected to grow 12% between 2022 and 2032.

Occupational therapy assistants and aides are projected to increase 23% in that same decade. Both these careers can significantly outperform the average growth rate of other occupations.

There are so many factors that possibly influence this demand. One of these factors is the fact that some people live longer than ever and need more supportive services so they can adjust to the trials associated commonly with aging. 

Skills Required in Occupational Therapy Careers

Jobs related to the field of occupational therapy often involve the rehabilitation of patients who are still recovering from injuries and illnesses through the use of daily activities.

Careers in occupational therapy provide the chance to assist patients as they recover, develop, maintain, and improve the skills needed to have active and successful lifestyles.

Occupational therapy careers usually involve skills like: 

How Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy Work Together

Both occupational and physical play major roles inpatient rehabilitation and recovery. While the process of occupational therapy overlaps with the process of physical therapy (helping patients improve their flexibility and strength), both are very distinct disciplines. 

Some patients need both occupational therapy and physical therapy. Both these types of therapies will help patients successfully recover from surgery, medical conditions, or injuries as safely and quickly as possible. 

Occupational and physical therapy has many things in common, including the types of patients they are treating or the settings where the therapy occurs. Plus, they also share the qualities below:

Occupational and physical therapists are both working toward a common goal: to help patients recognize their goals and then use definite treatment protocols so patients will get where they wish to be. 

In a nutshell, occupational therapy is more about the practical applications of patients being able to walk, while physical therapy is more about the biomechanical aspects of walking. However, keep in mind that these types of therapies have different agendas.

Experts suggest that occupational therapy is aimed at helping people manage and live with their limitations, while physical therapy aims to rectify limitations and impairments.

Careers for Occupational Therapists - fact

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy vs. Speech Therapy

Focusing on helping patients engage in their daily routines, occupation therapy takes a broader view of the patient’s daily habits, whereas physical therapy is more on focusing on the patient’s capacity to move their body. 

Physical therapy will improve the patient’s “gross motor skills,” like how they can move the large muscles of their legs, arms, or torso. People struggling with whole-body movements, like walking, standing up, jumping, climbing, or running, can use physical therapies to regain their coordination, balance, and strength.

By contrast, occupational therapists focus more on the ability of the patient to perform self-care tasks and other important functions like living or working independently. These activities will center on the patient’s fine motor skills, using the smaller muscles of the body, like the mouth, feet, or hands, and cognitive abilities.

Patients recovering from a stroke need both types of therapies: physical therapy to help them relearn how to walk, stand, or climb stairs and occupational therapy to teach them how they can feed themselves. These same patients also require extensive speech therapies to recover from their stroke. 

In most cases, holistic treatments of patients usually require all three: occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. All three of these are related disciplines in the field of rehabilitation, and they work together to treat patients as a whole.

For those with medical conditions and injuries that lessen their physical activities, these three therapies are very beneficial to help them restore their life. 

Physical therapy is designed to help patients move by involving physical activities like:

Occupation therapy focuses on specific activities that are paramount for survival and well-being, as well as more complex tasks that are critical to daily life, called Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), including:

Occupational therapists can also train patients on Instrumental Activities of Daily Living—activities that support day-to-day life, such as:

Speech therapy, on the other hand, is more focused on areas of function: cognition and swallowing. Speech therapists are trained to help patients better swallow their food or drink water, ensuring that the water will go into the stomach and not toward the lungs.

These therapists also identify whether a patient is capable of drinking fluids or if they are better with fluids with a nectar consistency.

In addition, Audiologists and ENT Specialists help others with various disabilities. And for the ambitious, the field of Occupational Therapy also offers Doctorate degree options, too!

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