What Do Occupational Therapists Do?
Occupational therapists (OTs) treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help people with chronic or new disabilities develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working, and help patients learn or regain the skills they need to live as independently as possible and have productive, satsifying lives.
OTs help patients improve their ability to perform tasks in their living and working environments. They work with individuals of all ages who suffer from a mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling condition. OTs use treatments to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of their patients, from showering, to cooking, to using a computer. The OT helps clients not only to improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also to compensate for permanent loss of function. They may offer special instruction for the use of adaptive equipment, including wheelchairs, orthoses, eating aids, and dressing aids.
OTs focus on restoring and improving physical abilities, promoting behavioral changes, and introducing new skills. They may help people improve their motor skills, dexterity, and strength so they can develop daily living skills, such as dressing, personal hygiene, eating, or house cleaning.
OTs may work with specific populations, such as the elderly or children, or they may specialize in specific types of disabilities, such as mental illness, stroke, accident injuries, or traumatic or severe brain injury.
For more information, go to: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm.
Where Do Occupational Therapists Work?
Almost half of OTs nationwide work in offices with physical and speech therapists, or audiologists, or hospitals. Other OTs work in schools, nursing homes, mental health clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and with home health services. Often, an OT will work with a client in the client’s home.
What Do Occupational Therapists Earn?
According to the 2018 BLS, the average salary for full time, occupational therapists nationwide was $85,350, varying by specialty and geographic region. Average annual salary also varies greatly across New York State, depending on location. The NYSDOL reports that occupational therapists in New York earned an average annual salary of $88,610, (entry level-$60,840, experienced- $102,500).
Supply and Demand
In 2014, there were more than 9,760 OTs in New York, and about 114,600 in the U.S. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS projects that the number of OT jobs will increase by 26.5% nationwide and will increase by 22.3% in New York during the same period.
For more information on projections of occupational therapists by New York State labor regions, click here.
The strong growth of the OT workforce is attributed in part to the rising number of aging and older Americans who will need rehabilitative services for disabling conditions. In addition, technological advances are improving the survival rate for patients with critical or chronic health problems and offering new methods of effective treatment as well, all of which may increase demand for OTs’ rehabilitative services.
Education Program Requirements
OTs need a master’s degree from an education program accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Admission to occupational therapy programs generally requires a bachelor’s degree and specific coursework, including biology and physiology. Many programs also require applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational therapy setting. Master’s programs generally take two years to complete; doctoral programs take longer. Some schools offer a dual degree program in which the student earns a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years. Part-time programs that offer courses on nights and weekends may also available.
Courses in the OT accredited programs will include anatomy and physiology; medical and psychosocial conditions; physical, biological, and behavioral sciences; human development; and the application of occupational therapy theory and skills. Education programs to become an OT will also include supervised internships to help students develop their clinical skills and gain real-world experience.
New York Licensure Requirements
Occupational therapists must be licensed. In order to obtain a license to practice as an OT in New York, applicants must graduate from an accredited educational program, have satisfactorily completed at least six months of supervised experience, and pass a national certification examination administered by the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc. (NBCOT).
For more information on New York licensing requirements, go to: www.op.nysed.gov/prof/ot/.
The AOTA offers scholarships and a variety of financial aid resources for students in OT education programs. For more information, go to: www.aota.org.
Education Programs in New York
710 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032
320 Porter Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14201
(716) 829-8000 or (800) 777-3921
470 Western Highway
Orangeburg, NY 10962
School of Health Sciences and Human Performance
204 Smiddy Hall
953 Danby Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
141 Central Ave.
Keuka Park, NY 14478
|Long Island University
School of Health Professions
One University Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
(914) 674-7600 or 877-MERCY-GO
|New York Institute of Technology
Riland Building, Room 333
Old Westbury, NY 11568
|New York University
The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
35 West 4th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10012
|The Sage Colleges
School of Health Sciences
65 1st Street
Troy, NY 12180
State University of New York
School of Health Technology and Management
Health Sceinces Center
Stony Brook, NY 11794-8200
(631) 444-2363 or (631) 444-2252
|SUNY Downstate Medical Center
450 Clarkson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11203
New York City Campus
27 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
(631) 665-1600 ext. 6505
Long Island Campus
1700 Union Blvd.
Bay Shore, NY 11706
(631) 665-1600 ext.6505
|University at Buffalo
State University of New York
Department of Rehabilitation Sciences
School of Public Health and Health Professions
515 Kimball Tower
Buffalo, NY 14214-8028
1600 Burrstone Road
Utica, NY 13502
(315) 792-3006 or (800) 782-8884
City University of New York
94-20 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard
Jamaica, NY 11451
Additional Web Links
For more information about occupational therapists, go to:
The American Occupational Therapy Association website at: http://www.aota.org; or
The New York State Occupational Therapy Association website at: http://www.nysota.org; or
The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy website at: http://www.nbcot.org.