California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Occupational Therapists in San Diego County

May also be called: Independent Living Specialists; Industrial Therapists; Job Trainers; Life Coaches; Rehabilitation Engineers; Staff Therapists; Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists

What Would I Do?

Occupational Therapists assist individuals or groups of people in all age groups, from infants and toddlers to the elderly. They help mentally, emotionally, and physically disabled patients become self-sufficient in leading independent, productive, and satisfying lives. They frequently work with other health care professionals to develop therapy plans that include educational, vocational, and rehabilitative activities. Therapists must consider the type of developmental delay, injury, or mental deficiency so that rehabilitation goals are realistic and meet the patient’s physical and psychological needs. The goal of occupational therapy is to enable patients to gain confidence, to adapt to or overcome their particular handicap, and to use their time in rewarding ways.

Occupational Therapists assist patients with all types of activities, from operating a computer to taking care of daily needs, such as bathing, dressing, cooking, and eating. Physical exercises may be used to increase strength and dexterity, while other activities may be chosen to improve vision or increase the ability to recognize patterns. Occupational Therapists also use computer programs to help patients improve their decision-making, abstract-reasoning, problem-solving, and perceptual skills. Memory and coordination exercises may also be taught. Therapists also instruct those with permanent disabilities to use adaptive equipment, such as wheelchairs and aids for eating and dressing.

Some Occupational Therapists assist individuals who have difficulty functioning in their work environment. Therapists help their clients seek or maintain employment or plan work activities. They evaluate the client's workspace and collaborate with employers to modify the work environment so that the client can successfully work.

Therapists use computer or word processing software to write evaluations and progress reports. They typically use medical software to track the client’s progress and to update the treating physician. Therapists attend meetings, mentor students, and give presentations to health care providers and the general public. They may teach occupational therapy in college or university programs or conduct research. Some supervise other Occupational Therapists, certified occupational assistants, occupational therapy aides, or activity leaders. Occupational Therapists may also manage their own non-profit agency or own their own private practice.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Plan, organize, and conduct occupational therapy programs in hospital, institutional, or community settings to help rehabilitate those impaired because of illness, injury or psychological or developmental problems.Therapy and Counseling
Test and evaluate patients' physical and mental abilities and analyze medical data to determine realistic rehabilitation goals for patients.Psychology
Select activities that will help individuals learn work and life-management skills within limits of their mental and physical capabilities.Learning Strategies
Evaluate patients' progress and prepare reports that detail progress.Inductive Reasoning
Train caregivers how to provide for the needs of a patient during and after therapy.Instructing
Recommend changes in patients' work or living environments, consistent with their needs and capabilities.Customer and Personal Service
Consult with rehabilitation team to select activity programs and coordinate occupational therapy with other therapeutic activities.Oral Expression
Develop and participate in health promotion programs, group activities, or discussions to promote client health, facilitate social adjustment, alleviate stress, and prevent physical or mental disability.Social Perceptiveness
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Occupational Therapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, public schools, mental health facilities, convalescent homes, home health agencies, physician offices, and in private practice settings. They may work with specific therapeutic machines and tools or at the patient’s bedside. Therapists may travel to clients' homes.

Occupational Therapists usually work a 40-hour week; however, many jobs are part-time, per diem (per day), or on-call. Overtime work may also be required depending on the employer.

The work of a Therapist can be tiring because they spend most of their workday on their feet. They need physical strength and stamina and should follow safety measures to avoid risk of injury when lifting and moving patients or equipment. Therapists must be able to cope with human suffering and frequent emergencies.

There has been little or no unionization of Occupational Therapists. However, those who work for the State of California may join the Service Employees International Union. Occupational Therapists may belong to professional organizations, such as the Occupational Therapy Association of California, the American Occupational Therapy Association, or any of the numerous specialized groups, such as those for hand therapists.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Occupational Therapist will appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve assisting others and promoting learning and personal development. This occupation often involves teaching, offering advice, and being of service to people.

Occupational Therapists must have respect for individual differences and the ability to work closely with others. Ingenuity and imagination in adapting activities to individual needs are assets. Therapists must be able to communicate, inspire trust and confidence, and motivate their patients. They also need to be patient because many clients may not show rapid improvement. In addition, treatment may be extensive, intense, and even painful, so Therapists need to be compassionate and have a good understanding of their client's needs.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Occupational Therapists in California is $92,999 annually, or $44.71 hourly. The median wage for Occupational Therapists in San Diego County is $96,438 annually, or $46.36 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$76,097$92,999$109,514
San Diego County$80,003$96,438$115,206
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits generally include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Occupational Therapists who are self-employed must provide for their own benefits and retirement.

What is the Job Outlook?

The overall outlook for Occupational Therapists in California is good. The increase in the aging population will mean greater demand for Therapists. These people are at a greater risk for disease or injury-related disabilities that can often be helped by therapeutic intervention. Innovative health care and surgeries that are more sophisticated will result in patients surviving what was formerly fatal trauma. These patients are in greater need of rehabilitation after they are released from the hospital.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Occupational Therapists is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Occupational Therapists are expected to increase by 22.3 percent, or 2,300 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Occupational Therapists is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Occupational Therapists are expected to increase by 18.0 percent, or 160 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Occupational Therapists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
10,30012,6002,30022.32,000
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
8901,05016018.0120
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 230 new job openings per year is expected for Occupational Therapists, plus an additional 200 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 430 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 16 new job openings per year is expected for Occupational Therapists, plus an additional 12 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 28 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Occupational Therapists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
230200430
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
161228
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Occupational Therapists must be licensed to practice in California by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Board of Occupational Therapy. To meet licensure requirements, the applicant must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.

  • Have no felony convictions.

  • Have completed a master's or a doctorate degree in occupational therapy from an institution accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

  • Have completed a minimum of 960 hours of supervised fieldwork experience.

  • Have successfully passed an entry-level certification examination administered by National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

  • Have passed a fingerprint background check.

Coursework in occupational therapy programs include the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences as well as the application of occupational therapy theory and skills.

Experience

Recent graduates who have a limited permit, and who are waiting to take the NBCOT certification examination for licensure, may work under the supervision of a licensed Occupational Therapist. To qualify for a limited permit, the graduate must apply for the NBCOT certification examination within four months of completing their education and fieldwork requirements. They must also have an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter from NBCOT for licensure/certification and have passed their fingerprint background check.

Early Career Planning

High school preparation courses in biology, physics, chemistry, health, art, social science, psychology, industrial arts, and consumer science are recommended. Gaining exposure to the occupational therapy profession can help a student become a competitive applicant. Therefore, students are encouraged to volunteer, intern, or take a summer job in a health care setting.

Work Study Programs

California may offer Regional Occupational Program (ROP) classes for students interested in occupational therapy. One such class is titled Hospital Careers. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Occupational Therapists must renew their licenses every two years by certifying that they have completed 24 professional development units (PDU) of continuing education. There are a variety of ways Therapists can earn PDUs. For instance, they can participate in a special interest, mentoring, or study group. They can supervise the fieldwork of other students. Therapists can also publish an article in a professional publication, a chapter in a textbook, or conduct presentations at seminars, workshops, or conferences.

Licensing and Certification

The California Department of Consumer Affairs, Board of Occupational Therapy licenses this occupation. Licenses must be renewed every two years. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Occupational Therapists may hold one or several certificates, such as Certified Hand Therapist, Credentialed Pain Practitioner, Gerontology, or Mental Health. Some employers may require them to have certificates in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and Basic or Advanced Life Support. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Occupational Therapists are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 23.7%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 21.3%
Nursing Care Facilities 13.3%
Elementary and Secondary Schools 7.8%
Home Health Care Services 7.2%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Applicants can also find employment opportunities through placement offices at colleges and universities. Those working within the industry may recommend an interested candidate for jobs. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Occupational Therapists.

  • Clinics
  • Community Care Facilities
  • Counseling Services
  • Hospitals
  • Mental Health Services
  • Nursing and Convalescent Homes
  • Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals
  • Psychotherapists
  • Residential Care Facilities

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

With additional education and experience, Occupational Therapists may advance to supervisory or administrative positions. They can also advance by specializing in a clinical area, such as gerontology, mental health, pediatrics, or physical rehabilitation. Therapists may teach occupational therapy in colleges and universities, conduct research, or consult for health or social services agencies. Some may go into private practice.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Occupational Therapists with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Child, Family, and School Social WorkersGuide
Directors, Religious Activities and EducationProfile
Occupational Therapy AssistantsProfile
Physical TherapistsGuide
Recreational TherapistsGuide
Rehabilitation CounselorsProfile
Social and Human Service AssistantsGuide

Other Sources

  • California Board of Occupational Therapy
         www.bot.ca.gov
  • California Foundation for Occupational Therapy
         www.cfot.org
  • Occupational Therapy Association of California
         www.otaconline.org
  • American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
         www.aota.org
  • National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc.
         www.nbcot.org

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-1122
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Occupational Therapists29-1122.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SIC
   Low Vision Therapists, Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists29-1122.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SIR