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Career Information

Occupational Therapy as a Profession & Career

Occupational Therapy is the use of purposeful activity (unique feature) with individuals who are limited by physical injury or illness, psychosocial dysfunction, developmental or learning disabilities, poverty and cultural differences or the aging process (population) in order to maximize independence, prevent disability and maintain health (outcome). The practice encompasses evaluation, treatment and consultation (processes). Specific services include: teaching daily living skills, developing perceptual-motor skills and sensory integrative functioning; developing play skills and prevocational and leisure capacities; designing, fabricating or applying selected orthotic and prosthetic devices or selective adaptive equipment; using specifically designed crafts and exercises to enhance functional performance; administering and interpreting tests such as manual muscle and range of motion, and adapting the environment of the handicapped (means). The services are provided individually, in groups, or through social service systems (programs).

Career Growth Options

Pediatrics, community health, independent living, hand rehabilitation, substance abuse, infant care, stroke rehabilitation, geriatrics, developmental disabilities, home health, cerebral palsy, work hardening, mental retardation, prevention, rehabilitation technology, case management and mental health. A master's degree opens opportunities for advancement into administration, research or teaching.

Career Outlook

Occupational Therapy Job Market

The 100 Best Jobs US News - Occupational Therapist listed as #23

The median salary for 2017 is $80,150.

Employment Options

Health care centers public and private schools, rehabilitation centers, psychiatric institutions, skilled nursing facilities, private practices, community agencies, independent living centers, home health care and hospitals.

Recruiters - a Student Guide

A publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. As a graduating student, a newcomer to the field of occupational therapy, you surely will come into contact with a group of individuals called RECRUITERS, who will want to assist you in finding the job of your choice. Recruiters, or placement specialists, are companies or individuals who work for both sides of the industry: the employer and the employee. The employers may be hospitals, school systems, nursing homes, private companies, or any facility that employs therapists. The occupational therapy practitioner, or potential employee (possibly you), uses the recruiter to find a suitable job placement. The goal of the recruiter is to make matches between the potential employee and employer.

How Recruiters Work

A recruiter generally secures resumes of potential OTRs and COTAs by a variety of means. For example, by contacting attendees at conferences, calling from licensure lists or graduating class rosters, or calling other health care facilities. Once the recruiter has talked to the applicant and received his or her resume, the recruiter works to find a placement that suits the applicants wants and needs. This may involve contacting facilities with known vacancies, or, if the applicant has specific preferences, calling several facilities in a particular region or specialty. This does not limit the therapist from seeking employment on his or her own, or from using other recruiters from other companies. The recruiter usually receives a facility request to routinely fill vacancies with their recruits or will call facilities to offer placement of actual or anticipated recruits. Once the request is received, the recruiter will send the facility a confirmation of the request and a copy of the fees charged. There is no cost to the therapist for the recruiters services: the potential employer bears the cost. The cost to an employer can be up to 30% of the therapists first-years salary. For example, if XYZ Hospital in Somewhere, USA hires Sally OT for $60,000 from a recruitment company, that recruiter receives up to 30% of $60,000, or $18,000, payable immediately upon Sally's employment. Consider the pros and cons of using a recruiter.


  • They may assist in resume preparation.
  • They can expedite a match between therapists with specific location or specialty requirements.
  • They can save time in looking for positions.
  • They can help with confidential searches.


  • Some recruiters are persistent and use aggressive business tactics, i.e., representation without written permission of the OT practitioner.

Other Options: There are many other options and avenues to follow when seeking employment, such as:

  • Word of mouth
  • Local newspaper advertising
  • State Association job placement listings
  • State Association newsletters and websites
  • University placement services
  • University career days
  • Annual and state conferences
  • Referrals from friends already in the field
  • AOTAs OT Practice

Questions to Ask Recruiters

Seeking a job can be an exciting opportunity, but it is important to be adequately prepared and aware of all that is required before beginning to work. Do not be afraid to ask questions to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the job description, benefit package and stability of the company. Similarly, sometimes seeking legal advice with respect to the terms of the proposed employment agreement is appropriate prior to signing on. All recruiters are not the same. Increase the opportunity for success by exploring answers to the following questions.

Working Conditions

  • What is the type and amount of clinical support that will be received? Who will provide it?
  • What is the staff/patient ratio at the facility? How many and what type of clients are expected on caseload? What happens when patient numbers drop?
  • Will there be a team or accessible network of OTs to consult with?
  • Is there a requirement to supervise support personnel and students?
  • Does the state require licensure in addition to certification?

The Employment Agreement

  • What is the employment term (length of time, start/end date)? Is employment guaranteed by the recruitment facility for this length of time? What occurs if work cannot be found?
  • Are there provisions for you to select your employment setting? Will the company find work that meets your approval? What occurs if you do not approve or refuse the placement setting?
  • What is the process and the terms for repayment if you/the facility/the recruitment company do not honor the contract?

Recruiting Company Credentials

  • What are the terms of the contract between the recruitment company and the employment facility? Is it more than just one placement?
  • What is the company's success rate of placement?
  • Is the company willing to provide references or contact numbers of therapists or facilities that have used their services?


  • What wages and benefits will you receive and how will they be calculated (salary, bonus, medical, dental, holidays, vacation). How often and with what method will you be paid?
  • What provisions are available for professional growth (i.e., education/conference allowance)?
  • Will the recruitment company pay for travel costs (mileage, car, accommodation), if hired as a traveling therapist? Relocation costs?
  • If you fly in for an interview and do not get offered a job, or you do not accept a position, will the company fully reimburse you for your travel expenses?

If Recruiters Call…

  • Interview them regarding their success rate of placements, request references, and explore with them what they plan to do with your resume and what the entire process is.
  • This will help you determine if the recruiter has your best interests in mind.
  • Each recruiter is different, and methods of recruiting and placement differ.
  • Think before you act, and ask lots of questions before deciding to have a recruiter represent you.
  • Be wise in your dealings with recruiters and realize the first point of contact is a business arrangement

The Choice is Yours

As one of the newest occupational therapy practitioners joining our profession, there are many choices to think about. The choice is yours to use a recruiter or not. Be sure you fully understand exactly what the recruiter is going to do for you, and weigh your options before sending a recruiter your resume. Developed by the Administration and Management SIS Standing Committee 1991, revised 1996 with assistance of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy. American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. For detailed information on preemployment arrangements, refer to "Strategies for Negotiating Preemployment Agreements," Perry & Crist, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September 1994, 48, (9).

OT Online Job Sites

Healthcare Therapy Services, Inc. -job listings in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Missouri and Pennsylvania
iHireTherapy-great people, great jobs, nothing else
Occupational Therapy World at RehabWorld.com
OTDirect-career opportunities in the UK
RehabCareer.com-Free jobsite for Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists
RehabOptions.com-health care personnel sourcing service
RehabVisions.com-Offering career opportunities in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.
Saludos.com-Free resume posting, newsletter, online job fairs
SOS-Staffing Options and Solutions, Inc.
Synertx Contract Rehabilitation-contract rehab provider
Therakare Inc.-Creative Staffing for Therapists and Healthcare Providers Throughout the United States

Other Important Career Links

U.S. Dept of Labor Occupational Therapy Career Outlook
TodayinOT-Extensive resource for the OT professional, patients and families
Duquesne Career Services