A career in occupational therapy

If you are considering occupational therapy as a career, by becoming an occupational therapist or an occupational therapist assistant, you are looking at a challenging and rewarding health care profession that can develop in many directions in a variety of workplaces. Occupational therapy offers a lot of choice in terms of areas of practice and, for those who are lifelong learners, there are always new areas and specialties evolving and being recognized. 

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is a type of health care that helps to solve the problems that interfere with a person’s ability to do the things that are important to them – everyday things like:
  • Self-care - getting dressed, eating, moving around the house,
  • Being productive -  going to work or school, participating in the community, and
  • Leisure activities – sports, gardening, social activities. 

Occupational therapy can also prevent a problem or minimize its effects.

Who are occupational therapists and where do they work?

Occupational therapists are the primary service providers for occupational therapy. Occupational therapists, often called OTs, assess an individual’s situation by drawing upon evidence-based approaches and applying their specialized knowledge and skills to recommend a course of preventive or corrective action that will help people lead more productive and satisfying lives.

Occupational therapists work in diverse settings including:

Home and Community Home and Community: Home care, private practices, health boards, community mental health centres, clinics, halfway houses, groups homes, vocational programs, community action groups, and workers compensation boards.

Institutions: Hospitals, intermediate and long term care facilities, rehabilitation centres, nursing homes, mental health centres, correctional institutions, recreation centres, schools, universities and colleges, research centers.

Industry and business: Corporations, rehabilitation companies, insurance companies, and architectural firms.

Government: All levels of government advising in the areas of health promotion, disability prevention/management, accessibility, vocational/health planning and international rehabilitation program development.

How does occupational therapy help?

Find out how a day in the life of an Occupationl Therapist here.

Becoming an occupational therapist

Occupational therapists are a regulated health profession and, as such, must meet the registration requirements of a provincial regulatory organization in Canada. Occupational therapists are university educated and complete a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised fieldwork experience (on-the-job training). The accreditation standards set by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) accepts the master’s degree in occupational therapy as the minimal educational requirement for entry-level education in Canada. In choosing among different occupational therapy education programs CAOT recommends that you contact the individual university for admission requirements, course descriptions and curriculum.

Applicants to every province other than Quebec must successfully complete the National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam (NOTCE), as a requirement of registration. In the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, occupational therapists are not currently a regulated health profession and, as such, do not need to complete the NOTCE to practice in the Territories.

Universities in Canada that offer an occupational therapist program   

Provincial regulatory organizations in Canada  

National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam (NOTCE)  

International students looking for fieldwork in Canada  

Entry level occupational Therapy education in Canada

Becoming an occupational therapist assistant (OTA)

Occupational therapy support personnel, or assistants, are individuals who have the job-related competencies to support occupational therapists in delivering occupational therapy services. The work of an occupational therapist assistant is supervised by an occupational therapist.  Occupational therapist assistants are not a regulated profession and, as such, the educational requirements are more generalized and there is no entrance exam like the NOTCE.  Occupational therapist assistant programs, many of which are accredited, exist at colleges across Canada.

Accredited educational programs for occupational therapist assistants

Video: Three stories of occupational therapist assistants 

Other resources for students

The Profile of Occupational Therapy Practice in Canada   (2012)

The Practice Profile for Occupational Therapist Assistants (2018)

International graduates who have completed their occupational therapy education outside of Canada  


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