Career Profile:


Physical and occupational therapists are medical professionals who help people who have physical injuries or impairments heal and recover from those injuries.
As a physical or occupational therapist, your main role is to provide medical treatment to patients who have been injured and aide them in being able to return to the best physical condition possible. As a PT, you work with patients to heal the impaired body part. You evaluate patients and develop a treatment plan that helps reduce pain, tries to lessen the need for surgery, or regain optimal function.  You will also be licensed to apply and remove assistive devices.  As an occupational therapist, you will work with physical therapists to provide intervention activities to help patients recover.  As an OT, you will evaluate your patients’ home and work environments and provide treatment so they are better able to function in those environments.

Where You Work

Physical and occupational therapists can work in a broad variety of settings. You may work in a medical setting such as a hospital, health management organization, or clinic. You can also work in a variety of other settings, such as a physical therapy office or rehabilitation center, nursing home, clinic, home, or halfway house. There are also school-based physical and occupational therapists who work with students who have physical impairments or injuries.

How You Help

Your client range is broad and will depend on your work location. A PT or OT who works in a hospital setting can treat someone from any walk of life while one who works at a nursing home may be more limited to work with the elderly. An OT or PT who works in sports medicine will solely work with athletes.

Helpful High School Courses

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Health Science
  • Physical Education

Skills to Build

  • Empathy and an encouraging personality
  • Sensitivity to others and patience
  • Ability to manage time effectively
  • Knowledge and interest in the human body


  • Flexible hours
  • Hands on work
  • Satisfaction of helping others improve quality of life
  • Can work in a variety of locations and part time work is available


  • Need to dedicate years to education
  • Can become “burned out” by the hours and dedication
  • Paperwork required
  • Changes in health care reform

Education You Need

Both physical and occupational therapists need a Master’s Degree as well as a license in order to practice.

A Day in the Life

  • 8:00
    Review patient records
  • 8:30
    Prepare materials for patient rehabilitation
  • 9:30
    Evaluate patients to create or review treatment plan
  • 11:30
    Perform treatment, such as helping an adult walk with crutches or help an elderly person stand from a wheelchair
  • 2:30
    Document treatments and make revisions, if necessary
  • 4:30
    Attend meetings with other medical professionals

Average Annual Salary Range

  • Physical Therapist is $74,969-$87,047*
  • Occupational Therapist is $75,073-$88,345*

Learn More

Similar Careers

  • Sports Management
  • Physical and Health Education
* Actual salary dependent on education, experience, location, and other variables