There are approximately 133,000 occupational therapists at work in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, home health agencies, mental health centers, adult day care programs, outpatient clinics, and residential care facilities. The profession has seen a growing number of therapists becoming self-employed, in either solo or group practice or in consulting firms.
Your school's career services office is usually the best place to start your job search as a newly graduated occupational therapist. You may also apply directly to government agencies (such as the U.S. Public Health Service), private hospitals, and clinics. In addition, the American Occupational Therapy Association can provide job seekers with assistance through its employment bulletins.
Newly graduated occupational therapists usually begin as staff therapists and may qualify as senior therapists after several years on the job. The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and the U.S. Public Health Service commission occupational therapists; other branches of the federal service give civil service ratings. Experienced therapists may become directors of occupational therapy programs in large hospitals, clinics, or workshops, or they may become teachers. Some positions are available as program coordinators and as consultants with large institutions and agencies.
A few colleges and health agencies offer advanced courses in the treatment of special disabilities, such as those resulting from cerebral palsy. Some institutions provide in-service programs for therapists.
Tips for Entry
Arrange to visit and observe an OT at their workplace to get an idea of which skills and abilities are needed on the job.
If possible, volunteer to help an OT or OTA to learn firsthand what the job entails.
In high school and college, get a broad education that includes biology and the behavioral sciences, as well as English, art, and other subjects that encourage personal expression.