Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy – How do They Differ?


Okay, so they both have the word “therapy” in them, but what’s the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy? Generally speaking, both types of therapists provide rehabilitative care to patients with injuries or disabilities, but they’re actually quite different. If you’re wondering how these two specialties differ, keep reading. Below we’ll provide an overview of how occupational therapy and physical therapy are different in terms of job duties and skills, education, and salary. It’s time to diagnose those differences!

Differences Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

OT vs. PT – An Overview

Let’s start with the basics. In a general sense, how are these two specialties different? St. Catherine University discusses one main difference in a blog post: “the main difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy is that OT focuses on improving a client’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL) and PT focuses on improving a client’s ability to perform movement of the human body.” Essentially, occupational therapists focus on how an impairment affects the body as a whole, while physical therapists focus on the impairment itself. For instance, let’s say a patient just had knee replacement surgery. An occupational therapist would help the patient adjust to performing daily functions like climbing the stairs or bathing. Meanwhile, a physical therapist would work to increase the patient’s mobility with their new knee. They would most likely assign exercises aimed at easing pain and stiffness.

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Job Duties and Skills

Occupational therapy and physical therapy both require very similar skills, but their job duties are a bit different. Physical therapists focus primarily on bodily injuries, and they work with each patient to develop an exercise and therapy routine. The main goal of the exercises is to increase mobility and regain strength in a patient’s affected area. While occupational therapists do focus on some of the same things as physical therapists, their concentration goes beyond anatomical injuries. Occupational therapists also take mental health into account when treating a patient. They take note of a patient’s mental health and use their findings to develop proper strategies for life and work management.

Education and Licensing

Now that we’ve covered the basic differences between occupational therapy and physical therapy, let’s get into some specifics. In terms of required education, it takes a little more schooling to be a physical therapist than an occupational therapist. The majority of physical therapists have their doctorate. In fact, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), a doctoral degree will be a requirement for PTs by the year 2020. For occupational therapists, while a doctorate isn’t usually required, the education is still quite rigorous. OTs need a Master’s degree at the very least in order to practice. When it comes to licensing, both specialties require therapists to be graduates from accredited OT/PT schools, as well as complete a national certification exam.

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Salary and Job Outlook

Since a career as a physical therapist tends to require more education, their pay is a bit higher than that of an occupational therapist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, as of May 2017, the mean salary of a physical therapist was $88,080 annually. However, the salary of an occupational therapist isn’t much less. The BLS reports that an OT’s mean annual wage was $84,640 as of May 2017. Both specialties are anticipated to have a better than average job outlook for the next few years. According to the BLS, most jobs, on average, will grow by 12 percent by 2020. For physical and occupational therapy, however, the BLS predicts growth rates of 36 and 29 percent, respectively.

There you have it! Hopefully we cleared things up for you regarding the differences between physical therapists and occupational therapists. The specialties may seem very similar on a surface level, but their job duties and responsibilites are quite different. If you’re interested in a travel career as a physical therapist or occupational therapist, be sure to check out AlliedTravelCareers.com! There, you can browse open positions and fill out an online application. Apply today!

Author: Allied Travel Careers

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