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How to Become an Occupational Therapist

November 18, 2022

Occupational therapy is a health profession concerned with the promotion, maintenance, and restoration of the highest possible level of independence and optimal functioning of individuals. Through the use of occupation, occupational therapists promote health, wellness, and recovery. Occupational therapists work with individuals who have environmental barriers that can limit participation in daily life activities or interfere with their ability to adapt to changes in their environment.

What is an Occupational Therapist's Job?

As an occupational therapist, you'll help patients with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses to improve their functioning in daily life. You'll work with people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. Occupational therapists typically work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and private practices.

Occupational Therapist Job Description

Occupational therapists are healthcare professionals who help people with physical and mental disabilities lead more independent lives. They work with patients of all ages to help them improve their performance in everyday activities such as dressing, bathing, cooking, and doing laundry. Occupational therapists also help patients improve their ability to function in school or at work.

You might find yourself assisting clients with daily living skills, or helping them to recover from an injury or illness. Occupational therapists often work closely with patients in hospitals or nursing homes, teaching them how to perform everyday activities such as eating and dressing while recovering from a medical condition.

Occupational therapists also help people who have suffered brain injuries or strokes by providing rehabilitation services such as physical therapy and education on how to use assistive devices like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. Some occupational therapists also provide counseling for people suffering from mental illness as well as those with substance addictions.

Occupational Therapist Salary in Canada

The average occupational therapist income in Canada is $76,975 per year or $39.47 per hour, according to 2922 employers that advertise the position on Most experienced workers earn up to $88,698 per year, while entry-level roles start at $70,120.

Physiotherapy vs Occupational Therapy Salary 

The average salary for a physiotherapist is $84,000 per year, while the average salary for an occupational therapist is $62,000 per year. Why do physiotherapists make more money than occupational therapists? It’s simple: they work with patients who are sicker and have more severe injuries. Physiotherapists also have to complete their Master’s degree in order to be licensed and registered in Ontario, whereas most OTs only need a diploma or certificate.

Occupational Therapists Education, Certification and License Requirements

In order to become an occupational therapist in Canada, one must meet somewhat varying educational and licensing criteria throughout the country's provinces and territories. However, there are standard educational routes and certification procedures that the vast majority of people who want to work as occupational therapists take. This is a rundown of the usual criteria, which are as follows:


  1. Obtain a Bachelor's degree: Most provinces in Canada require a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in Occupational Therapy or a related field. Some universities offer specific Bachelor's programs in Occupational Therapy, while others offer general health sciences or rehabilitation sciences degrees that can serve as a foundation for further studies in Occupational Therapy.
  2. Master's degree: In recent years, many Canadian provinces have transitioned to a Master's degree as the entry-level requirement for occupational therapy practice. It is becoming increasingly common for universities to offer a Master's in Occupational Therapy (MOT) program, which typically takes two years to complete. Some provinces may accept equivalent programs from other countries.

Fieldwork and Clinical Placements

  1. During your educational program, you will typically need to complete supervised fieldwork or clinical placements. These placements provide hands-on experience in a variety of practice settings under the guidance of licensed occupational therapists.

Certification and Licensing

  1. National Certification Examination: After completing your education, you must pass the national certification examination administered by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT). Successful completion of this exam is required for eligibility to practice occupational therapy in Canada.
  2. Provincial or Territorial Licensing: Once you have obtained national certification, you need to apply for a license to practice in the province or territory where you wish to work. Each province or territory has its own regulatory body responsible for granting licenses. These regulatory bodies ensure that occupational therapists meet the required standards of practice and adhere to ethical guidelines.
  3. Language Proficiency and Criminal Record Check: Some provinces or territories may also require applicants to demonstrate English or French language proficiency and undergo a criminal record check.

Steps for Becoming an Occupational Therapist

Generally, here are the general steps for becoming an Occupational Therapist:

Step 1: Research and Self-Assessment

Start by researching the profession of Occupational Therapy. Learn about the scope of practice, work settings, and the skills and qualities required to be successful in this field. Reflect on your own interests, strengths, and values to determine if Occupational Therapy aligns with your career goals.

Step 2: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Most Occupational Therapy programs in Canada require a Bachelor's degree as a prerequisite. Choose a program that offers relevant coursework in areas such as health sciences, rehabilitation sciences, psychology, or sociology. Ensure that you complete any prerequisite courses required by the Occupational Therapy programs you plan to apply to.

Step 3: Gain Volunteer or Work Experience

While not always mandatory, gaining volunteer or work experience in occupational therapy or related healthcare settings can strengthen your application. Seek opportunities to observe or assist Occupational Therapists to gain firsthand experience of the profession and develop an understanding of the field.

Step 4: Research Occupational Therapy Programs

Research and identify the Occupational Therapy programs in Canada that align with your interests and career goals. Consider factors such as program curriculum, location, admission requirements, faculty, and facilities. Review the prerequisites, application deadlines, and admission criteria for each program.

Step 5: Complete a Master's in Occupational Therapy Program

In Canada, most Occupational Therapy programs have transitioned to a Master's degree as the entry-level requirement. Apply to the Masters in Occupational Therapy (MOT) programs of your choice. Successfully complete the program, which typically takes two years, including both academic coursework and fieldwork placements.

Step 6: Prepare for the National Certification Examination

Upon graduation from an accredited Occupational Therapy program, you will be eligible to write the national certification examination. This exam is administered by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT). Prepare for the exam by reviewing relevant study materials and resources. Successful completion of this exam is required to become a certified Occupational Therapist.

Step 7: Apply for Licensure

After passing the national certification exam, you will need to apply for licensure to practice as an Occupational Therapist in the province or territory where you wish to work. Each province or territory has its own regulatory body responsible for granting licenses. Complete the application process, which may include providing documentation, paying fees, demonstrating language proficiency, and undergoing a criminal record check.

Step 8: Continuing Education and Professional Development

As a licensed Occupational Therapist, engage in ongoing professional development activities to stay updated with advancements in the field. Participate in continuing education courses, attend conferences, and join professional organizations. These opportunities will help you enhance your knowledge and skills and maintain your professional competence.

It is essential to keep in mind that the particular stages and criteria may be somewhat different from one province or territory to another.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist in Canada?

You can become an occupational therapist by completing the following qualifications:

  1. a bachelor's degree or master's degree in occupational therapy.
  2. a bachelor's degree in science, followed by a postgraduate certificate in occupational therapy.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist in Toronto? 

In general, the processes that were stated are what you will need to do in order to become an occupational therapist in Toronto. Research Occupational Therapy programs in Toronto while earning a Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline, completing prerequisite classes, gaining a job or volunteer experience, and completing required coursework. You should submit an application and enroll in a master's degree program in occupational therapy at a reputable institution in Toronto. After receiving your degree, you will need to be ready for the national certification test that will be given by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT). If you want to work as an occupational therapist in Toronto once you have received your certification, you will need to apply for a license via the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO).

How to Become an Occupational Therapist in Ottawa?

Ottawa and Toronto have identical Occupational Therapist training programs. Start with a Bachelor's degree, prerequisites, and experience. Apply to Ottawa Occupational Therapy programs that match your objectives. Take the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) certification test after earning a Master's in Occupational Therapy. Finally, apply for COTO licensing to practice occupational therapy in Ottawa. Everything You Need To Know About Ottawa Healthcare Jobs

How to Become an Occupational Therapist in Vancouver?

Start with a Bachelor's degree and prerequisites to become an occupational therapist in Vancouver. Volunteer or work in the field to improve your application. Find approved Vancouver Occupational Therapy programs and apply. You may take the CAOT's national certification test after earning a Master's in Occupational Therapy. To practice in Vancouver, apply for COTBC licensing after completing the test.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist in Calgary?

The same goes for occupational therapists in Calgary, acquiring a Bachelor's degree, taking necessary courses, and getting experience. Apply to Calgary-accredited Occupational Therapy programs that match your professional aspirations. You may take the CAOT's national certification test after earning a Master's in Occupational Therapy. Apply for Calgary ACOT licensing after certification.

Where do Occupational Therapists Work

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings. Some examples include hospitals, clinics, schools, private practice, and even the home. Occupational therapists use their skills to help people with conditions such as:

  1. Learning disabilities
  2. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  3. Developmental disorders that affect gross motor skills (such as cerebral palsy) or fine motor skills (such as dystonia).

Occupational therapists ask the patient what activities they enjoy doing and what difficulties they have with those activities. They then develop a plan based on these findings to help improve function in daily life.

Occupational Therapist in Canada

Are Occupational Therapists in High Demand?

Yes, occupational therapists are in high demand. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. They provide assistance and treatment for patients who have disabilities or injuries that affect their ability to perform daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating. They may also help people recover after surgery or illness by teaching them how to use adaptive equipment so they can regain their independence at home or in other settings such as hospitals or long-term care facilities.

Occupational therapists who specialize in pediatrics treat children with developmental delays and other health problems; those who specialize in geriatrics work with elderly adults experiencing physical limitations or functional decline due to aging.

What is Occupational Therapy Assistant Job?

As an occupational therapy assistant, your job duties will include:

  1. Assisting the occupational therapist in delivering services.
  2. Preparing the patient for treatment and keeping a record of the treatment provided by the OT.
  3. Evaluating a patient's condition and formulating a plan for treatment with the OT's guidance.

Roles of Occupational Therapists in Hospitals

Occupational therapists are important members of the hospital staff. They assess patients and create treatment plans that help patients regain the skills they need to perform daily activities. Occupational therapists can also serve as patient advocates, making sure that patients are receiving the care they need. This section will explore some of the most common roles occupational therapists have in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

An occupational therapist's responsibilities in a hospital setting include assessing patients and creating treatment plans. Occupational therapists work with patients to determine their capabilities and limitations, then help them set goals for achieving independence. The therapeutic treatments they provide will be designed to address the specific needs of the individual patient, such as restoring function after surgery or strengthening muscles following an injury. In addition to this individualized approach, the occupational therapist will work with other members of the health care team to create a comprehensive treatment plan that can be integrated into daily activities outside of the hospital bedside so that patients can continue making progress at home after discharge from their medical stay.

An occupational therapist can also serve as a patient advocate. As an advocate, the occupational therapist works with other healthcare professionals to promote:

  1. Patient safety
  2. Patient comfort and independence
  3. Patient participation in treatment

Additionally, the role of an occupational therapist in a hospital is to provide therapy to patients who have suffered injuries or illnesses. These therapists help people recover the skills they need to perform daily activities, such as bathing and dressing. They also work with patients who are recovering from surgery, have chronic conditions like arthritis or heart disease, or have psychiatric disorders like depression. Occupational therapists work in many different settings including:

  1. Hospitals
  2. Senior care facilities
  3. Home health agencies

Role of Occupational Therapist in Mental Health

It may surprise you to learn that occupational therapists are often the first point of call for mental health services. This is because of the nature of the training involved in becoming an occupational therapist, and how this prepares us to interact with patients who have mental health concerns.


When looking for a job, you need to consider the things that are most important to you. If you want an occupation that will allow you to work with people and help them improve their lives, then it may be beneficial for you to consider becoming an occupational therapist. I hope this in-depth information on working as an occupational therapist benefited you throughout your search. If you want to continue your education in this field, you can visit our website, Caring Support.

If you are an occupational therapist already, make sure to create your free Caring Support account to find your next dream occupational therapist job!

About The Author
Denson Natividad
Sales & Marketing Assistant

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