Occupational therapists (NOC 3143)

High demand occupation

About this job

Occupational therapists help people whose capabilities have been impaired by illness, injury, developmental disorders, emotional or psychological disorders or the aging process.

See what a day in the life of this job is like—watch WorkBC’s Career Trek video about this occupation.

Source: WorkBC’s Career Trek

People in this occupation:

  • develop individual and group programs to promote, develop, restore and maintain participation in all aspects of a person's life
  • help people care for themselves, return to work and resume community activities
  • develop and implement health promotion programs with individuals, community groups and employers
  • may be self-employed
  • work for health care facilities, in schools, and by private and social services agencies
  • need advanced critical thinking, communication and interpersonal skills
  • must be empathetic, creative and have good judgment
  • must be able to analyze and apply research to everyday practise
  • must be self-sufficient and work as part of a team
Common job titles
  • consultant, occupational therapy rehab.
  • occupational therapy specialist, clinical
  • OT (occupational therapist)
  • rehabilitation consultant
  • specialist, clinical
  • vocational evaluator
  • consultant, occupational therapy rehab.
  • occupational therapy specialist, clinical
  • OT (occupational therapist)
  • rehabilitation consultant
  • specialist, clinical
  • vocational evaluator

Duties

Occupational therapists:

  • Analyse clients' capabilities and expectations related to life activities through observation, interviews and formal assessments
  • Develop intervention programs to address clients' needs related to self-care, work and leisure activities
  • Maintain clients' records
  • Establish personalized care plans working as a member of an interdisciplinary team Consult and advise on health promotion programs to prevent disabilities and to maximize independent function in all activities of life
  •  May supervise support personnel and students and provide training.

Special duties

Occupational therapists may specialize in working with specific populations such as children or adults, or persons with distinct problems such as dementia, traumatic brain injury and chronic pain. They may also provide special interventions such as return-to-work programs.

Work environment

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, day programs, home-care programs, schools and industry. They also work in settings where clients live or work or in community settings (where clients participate in leisure activities).

Employees generally work 40 hours per week during standard office hours, however, evening, weekend and shift work may also be required.

Work in this field can be both physically and emotionally demanding since it involves helping people through rehabilitation. Therapists may have to do considerable lifting, carrying, walking, standing and crouching. In some practices, therapists may also have to use a computer for extended periods of time during report preparation.

Insights from industry

Job growth will be due to an aging population, increased life expectancy, technological advancements, greater social health awareness and a shift toward ambulatory care (for patients who do not need to stay in a health-care facility overnight). The majority of job openings will result from new job creation. Further, since women make up a high share of these workers, there are many openings from maternity leave.

Occupational therapists are in high demand throughout the province. At present, the number of new graduates is insufficient to meet demand. This shortage has provided expanded opportunities for new graduates to practise in areas that typically would have required a higher level of experience. More opportunities for on-the-job training and mentorship will also likely become available as a result of shortages.

Industry reports that the trend for workers moving to community practice (private practice) is expected to continue, as privatization and insurance coverage for occupational therapy services becomes more common.
Some practices have adopted technologies for consultations provincewide. The move to electronic health records requires computer skills and basic office software knowledge. Occupational therapists may also work more often on teams delivering services through tele-health technologies.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

In hospital settings, most occupational therapists begin at an Occupational Therapist Grade I level. Advancement into managerial positions is possible with additional training and experience.

Opportunities to move into consultant positions or specializations within occupational therapy (i.e., quality assurance and research) are increasingly becoming available. Occupational therapists may also become teachers in their field.

Additional resources