What is an Occupational Therapist?

“Occupational therapists help people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability.

Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Occupational therapy services typically include:

  • an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,
  • customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.

Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings such as private offices, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and for home health services.


Quick Facts: Occupational Therapists
2021 Median Pay $85,570 per year
$41.14 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2021 133,900
Job Outlook, 2021-31 14% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 18,600


From U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm


How do I become an Occupational Therapist?

Finish your BA at Rutgers, major in any subject you enjoy, and take prerequisites for OT school as part of your major and/or elective/core requirements. During your senior year, apply to graduate programs in OT. You may choose to apply to master’s level programs or doctoral programs (OTD). More information on the different levels may be found here: https://www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Considering-OT-Career/FAQs/Planning.aspx

Search accredited programs here: https://www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Find-School.aspx

Information on the centralized application service for OT programs (OTCAS) may be found here: https://www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Find-School/OTCAS.aspx


How long are OT programs?

Master’s programs are typically about 2 years long and doctoral programs around 3.


What prerequisite courses do I need to take to apply to OT programs?

Different schools will have different requirements. Most common courses required are:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Anthropology and/or Sociology
  • Psychology, several courses often required
  • Statistics
  • Some other requirements may include medical terminology and physics or kinesiology.


How much do OT programs cost?

Costs vary, depending on the school and length of the program, ranging from $20,000-$100,000.


What GPA do I need to get accepted into a OT program?

Requirements vary from program to program but the minimum undergraduate GPA for many programs is 3.0


What standardized tests to I need to take to apply to OT programs?

Most require the GRE


What other requirements are there for OT programs?

OT observation. For reference, the 3 master’s level programs in NJ (Stockton, Seton Hall, Kean) require a minimum of between 40 and 60 hours of OT observation, in a variety of settings.

References (letters of recommendation) often require 3, should come from sources that can talk about your potential for graduate work and can be professors or work supervisors.


Where can I find more information?