Where Do Occupational Therapists Work?

OTA working outside with a child

Occupational therapists work in a wide spectrum of settings. Whether it’s helping an elderly person continue to live at home through modified living situations and skills, or helping a child develop muscular strength to hold a pencil, occupational therapists determine treatment plans that occupational therapy assistants can get creative with and help to implement.

For those in the occupational therapy field, treatment is tailored to every single individual client, meaning OTAs must bring inventiveness to the table.

Due to the many needs served by occupational therapy, you can find OTAs in a number of work environments, including hospitals, rehab centers, schools, nursing homes, retirement communities and more.

It’s also this demand for services that make occupational therapy one of the fastest-growing areas in healthcare. In fact, the overall employment of occupational therapy assistants is projected to grow 32 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While job outlook and a comfortable salary are absolutely benefits of a career as an OTA, one of the best things about being an OTA is that every day is different, bringing with it new challenges and opportunities. 

While OTAs can work nearly anywhere their patients need them, we’ve put together a list of 7 common places OTAs work.

1. Assisted-living facilities and retirement communities

Assisted living is long-term care that includes housing, support, and healthcare, as needed.

It is designed for individuals who require limited assistance with instrumental activities of daily living such as meals, transportation and medication management as well as daily living tasks such as bathing and dressing.

OT in fieldwork with elderly woman

Occupational therapy can provide support to clients residing in assisted living facilities, helping them to continue with activities that make them happy and in their efforts to remain independent and to successfully age in place.

The American Occupational Therapy Association also notes that occupational therapists can be instrumental in “giving recommendations for environmental modifications and can create programs to address community mobility, dementia management, low-vision needs, falls prevention and psychosocial well-being.”

2. Elementary and secondary schools

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants also work in schools, where they use meaningful activities to help children participate in tasks that promote physical and mental health and well-being.

With a focus on academics, play and leisure, social participation, self-care skills, and transition/work skills, OTs and OTAs employ activity and environmental analysis and modification with a goal of “reducing the barriers to participation.

3. Home healthcare services

OTAs can even work in their patient’s homes to help them live independently. OTAs provide a host of home services, including:

  • Addressing obstacles in diabetes management and establishing daily routines such as blood sugar monitoring, hygiene and foot care, meal planning and preparation, healthy coping strategies and physical activity.
  • Helping to assist patients in mastering new activities like daily weights, healthy diets and integrating these activities into regular routines. OTs and OTAs also help to define strategies for their clients to conserve energy and introduce physical activity and self-monitoring.
  • Helping to create daily routines for medication adherence, self-management skills and stress management strategies.

Occupational therapists can also help with behavioral health conditions as well as train other caregivers to provide assistance to patients who have cognitive limitations in order to perform better and decrease agitation or confusion.

OT professional helping a patient walk down stairs

4. Hospitals

While patients recover from traumatic injuries or surgery in hospitals, OTAs can provide special assistance to complete daily tasks such as:

  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Getting around
  • Brushing teeth
  • Eating meals
  • Personal hygiene

These services are vital to patients as they recover and heal in the hospital setting.

5. Rehabilitation centers

There are many different types of rehab centers, and OTAs can work in many of them. Often, OTAs may work in drug and alcohol rehab centers where they will help patients who have medical issues stemming from a substance abuse problem.

Substance abuse can cause chronic short-term memory loss and abstract thinking problems, similar to Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.

As a result, OTAs work with substance abuse patients on their daily living and recovery efforts.

OTAs do everything from helping patients make adaptations for everyday life skills to implementing routine exercises to improve their memory and cognitive thinking abilities.

6. Therapists’ offices

The knowledge and skill base of occupational therapy, which you’ll master through the Online OTA program at St. Catherine University, can also help treat individuals working toward mental health recovery. The AOTA says that occupational therapy can be beneficial in a lot of different ways, including:

  • Creating coping strategies to help manage the impact of symptoms of illness on a patient’s life, including being more organized and able to engage in activities
  • Addressing obstacles and building on existing abilities in order to form healthy habits and routines to support a healthy lifestyle
  • Helping patients to identify personal values, needs, and goals to enable informed, realistic decision making
  • Providing community-based resources, peer-facilitated groups, and other support options
  • Developing strategies to control chronic symptoms and recognize and respond to changes in mental health status
  • Supporting budgeting, planning, and facilitating other long-term goals for patients

7. Workplaces

Occupational therapy also plays a key role in promoting success in the workplace. OTs and OTAs can help by improving the communication, accommodations and overall fit between the individual, the job tasks and the environment.

“They work with employers and employees to adapt or modify the environment or task, facilitate a successful return to work after illness or injury and help prevent illness or injury from promoting participation, health, productivity and satisfaction in the workplace.”

They can also help adults and teens who have developmental and intellectual disabilities prepare for work and enter the workforce.

Earn Your Associate of Applied Science in OTA from St. Catherine University in as Few as 16 Months

OTAs are a crucial component within the healthcare industry. If you enjoy helping others, want a fast-paced career that doesn’t get boring, and are looking to begin a career in healthcare, the OTA program at St. Kate’s might be right for you.

Interested in finding out how you can pursue an exciting career as an occupational therapy assistant? With three start dates each year and spots available now, you can start working toward becoming an OTA sooner than you might think.

Additionally, unlike many OTA programs, we take care of finding fieldwork opportunities for our students. If you have somewhere in mind you’d like to gain fieldwork experience, talk to your admissions counselor during enrollment. We may be able to arrange for you to complete fieldwork there if it meets our requirements.

Call us at 877.223.2677 or request that an admissions counselor reach out to you to learn more about our Online OTA program.

outside shot of st. kate campus

The Ultimate Guide to Occupational Therapy and OTA

Get answers to your questions about the field, about the OTA career path, and about St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program.

book with cover title: Occupational Therapy Assistant Explained