Definition of Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a holistic, client-centered, occupation-based approach to life skill development. This dynamic health profession helps people whose lives have been altered by physical or mental disease, injury, or other health problems. People of any age can benefit from occupational therapy to prevent injury and improve skills needed to perform everyday tasks or "occupations" at home, work, school, and the community.

Occupational Therapy education, training and licensure requirements

Current occupational therapy practitioners are certified and/or licensed. Practitioners include Occupational therapists (OTR/L or OT/L) and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA/L or OTA/L).

Since the year 2007, the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), requires all accredited educational institutions to offer either an entry-level master’s or doctoral degree program in occupational therapy.  Occupational therapy assistant educational programs require an associate’s degree.

Students enrolled in their last year of occupational therapy education must complete a supervised fieldwork internship through their college or university program.  Additionally, occupational therapy graduates must initially pass a national certification exam administered by the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Upon successful completion and passing of the NBCOT certification examination, the occupational therapy graduate will also need to obtain an Illinois Occupational Therapy License under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulations.

The Occupational Therapy Illinois Practice Act is critical legal licensure document. Licensure is important because it defines the scope of practice for occupational therapy practitioners and provides guidance to facilities and health care providers on the appropriate application of occupational therapy services.

Outlook of Occupational Therapy Profession in the Future

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (2010), the occupational therapy field is expected to grow at a much faster than average rate or an employment outlook of an increase of 26 percent or more through 2018. These gains are expected because of the following factors:

  1. The aging of the baby boomers will require the expertise of occupational therapy practitioners addressing the decreased independence of clients in their activities of daily living (ADL) examples of ADL are feeding, dressing, playing (for children), driving, cooking, and homemaking tasks.
  2. Advancement in medical technology continues to allow people to live longer, despite serious illness and disability, and occupational therapists can facilitate their independence in daily living and working.
  3. Expanding occupational therapy practice areas in ergonomics, older driver rehabilitation, community prevention programs, vision treatment, home modification and assistive technology have created exciting opportunities for occupational therapy practitioner.

Prospective students will find occupational therapy a fulfilling and dynamic human service profession. If you want to learn more about the occupational therapy profession, please refer to the link provided at the end of this page.

The Suggested Links provided below will assist you further: - for consumers - for consumers and students for consumers and students – for prospective students - for prospective students - for prospective occupational therapy students - for prospective occupational therapy assistant students


Illinois Occupational Therapy Practice Act (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2006.
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (n.d.). Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 ed. Retrieved on June 7, 2010