Careers – Occupational Therapist

Consider a Career as an Occupational Therapist

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is an allied health profession that helps individuals achieve their maximum independence with the problems that interfere with their ability to participate in meaningful activities. OT can also reduce or avert a problem and its effects. The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) is the national body representing occupational therapists and their interests in Canada. According to the CAOT, therapists are involved in everything people do during the course of their daily life.

Education and Training

Occupational therapists (OT) are university-trained, regulated health professionals that are required to register with a provincial college in order to practice. Graduates come from an accredited university program with either a baccalaureate degree or a master’s degree in occupational therapy.

In order to be eligible for the national certification examination, therapists must successfully complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of fieldwork education in accredited fieldwork settings (i.e., hospitals, long-term facilities, community centers, etc.). In 2001, CAOT decided to accredit only OT educational programs that lead to a master’s degree in occupational therapy as the entry credential (starting in 2008), with all new graduates holding a master’s by 2010.

Occupational therapists? training allows graduates to understand not only the medical and physical limitations of a disability or injury, but also the psychosocial factors that affect an individual’s ability to function independently.

Occupational therapists subscribe to a holistic framework that considers the interaction of the person with their occupation and environment. The occupational therapist’s approach is based on research that proves that an individual’s ability to engage in occupation increases health and well-being. Like other health care professionals, occupational therapists are evidence-based practitioners that deliver their services and treatments based on research.

Admission information and requirements

There are 13 occupational therapy schools across Canada. While individual program requirements vary, the CAOT recommends that prospective applicants contact the schools directly. Students enter the program with a variety of backgrounds and life experience. A combination of biological and health-related courses and social sciences/humanities courses may be beneficial to prospective applicants.

Where occupational therapists work

Occupational therapists work in many different areas including in hospitals, as part of health or school boards, in the community, halfway houses, and with workers? compensation boards. They may also work with rehabilitation or insurance companies, and in government on accessibility and vocational or public health planning issues.

In a hospital setting, occupational therapists help individuals to perform all types of activities, from daily tasks including their activities of daily living (i.e., eating, dressing, toileting) to using a computer. In a hand-therapy practice, occupational therapists may prescribe physical exercises that may be used to increase strength and dexterity.

In a rehabilitation clinic, therapists may propose a treatment plan that includes improving visual acuity or the ability to discern patterns. For instance, a client with short-term memory loss might be encouraged to make lists to aid recall, and a person with coordination problems might be assigned exercises to improve hand-eye coordination.

Therapists in mental health settings work with individuals who suffer from mental illness, are developmentally challenged, or emotionally disturbed. Occupational therapists select activities that are meaningful and also allow individuals to increase their functioning and participation.


Like many health professions, therapists? educational background serves as the starting point for launching a career in many directions with a wide range of salary expectations. In general, therapists working in private settings earn more than those in public settings that face more frequent financial limitations.

The CAOT reports that OTs can also vary from one province to another but a newly qualified occupational therapist can earn from $40,000 to $45,000.

Services provided by therapists in public settings are covered under provincial medical plans. In private practice, services may be covered through private health insurance offered by an employer (extended health care benefits, disability insurance), under workers compensation, auto insurance plans, or Veterans Affairs.

For more information regarding occupational therapy, please visit the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapist’s website.