Occupational Therapist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Assesses, plans, organizes, and participates in rehabilitative programs that help build or restore vocational, homemaking, and daily living skills, as well as general independence, to persons with disabilities or developmental delays.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Completes and maintains necessary records.
  • Tests and evaluates patients' physical and mental abilities and analyzes medical data to determine realistic rehabilitation goals for patients.
  • Trains caregivers how to provide for the needs of a patient during and after therapy.
  • Evaluates patients' progress and prepares reports that detail progress.
  • Plans, organizes, and conducts occupational therapy programs in hospital, institutional, or community settings to help rehabilitate those impaired because of illness, injury or psychological or developmental problems.
  • Selects activities that will help individuals learn work and life-management skills within limits of their mental or physical capabilities.
  • Recommends changes in patients' work or living environments, consistent with their needs and capabilities.
  • Designs and creates, or requisitions, special supplies and equipment, such as splints, braces, and computer-aided adaptive equipment.
  • Develops and participates in health promotion programs, group activities, or discussions to promote client health, facilitate social adjustment, alleviate stress, and prevent physical or mental disability.
  • Consults with rehabilitation team to select activity programs or coordinates occupational therapy with other therapeutic activities.

Insider Info

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Occupational Therapists

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Industrial Therapist -- Arranges salaried, productive employment in actual work environment for mentally ill patients, to enable patients to perform medically prescribed work activities, and to motivate and prepare patients to resume employment outside hospital environment.
  • Manual Arts Therapist --