Occupational Therapists

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About occupational therapists

Occupational therapists (OTs) are regulated health professionals who promote health, well-being and quality of life by enabling individuals, families, organizations and communities to participate in occupations that give meaning and purpose to their lives. The concept of occupation refers to "everything that people do during the course of everyday life,"i such as self-care, play, work, study and leisure. OTs contribute to the productivity of Canadians through client-centred care.

OTs work in homes, schools, hospitals, workplaces, community health care or rehabilitation centres, residential homes and private practices. They also work in industry, First Nations and Inuit communities and federal government departments.

Data availability

CIHI's Health Workforce Database (HWDB) collects standardized, comparative data on the supply, demographics, geographic and distribution characteristics, and education and employment details of OTs in Canada.

  • Data from 2006 to 2014 is available on request by completing this form or emailing us at hhr@cihi.ca.
  • For more information on CIHI's OT data, visit the HWDB metadata page.

Reports and analyses

Regulatory environment

In Canada, OTs are regulated in all 10 provinces. They are not currently regulated in the territories.

Practice criteria

To practise as an OT in Canada, an individual must obtain a licence from one of the occupational therapy regulatory authorities in Canada. The requirements to obtain a licence are similar across the country but can vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another.

Common requirements

  • Hold a master's degree in occupational therapy (as of 2008) or academic equivalent
  • Successfully pass the National Occupational Therapy Certification Examination (except in Quebec)
  • Successfully complete 1,000 hours of field education
  • Register with a provincial regulatory organization and maintain competency to practise based on provincial regulatory requirements

Scope of practice

OTs are highly trained professionals who help individuals determine and address their personal and professional occupational goals so that they may lead productive and satisfying lives with minimal dependence on family and society at large.

The scope of practice for OTs is articulated in provincial regulatory legislation, which outlines the range of responsibilities that define the boundaries of professional practice. Some of the main functions performed by OTs include

  • Training, education and counselling
  • Evaluating and modifying the home, school or work environment
  • Obtaining aids and specialized equipment
  • Working in groups and communities by assuming the role of researcher, educator, manager, consultant, advocate and program plannerii

i. Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. Occupational therapy — definition. Accessed October 5, 2015.
ii. College of Occupational Therapists of British Columbia. What occupational therapists do. Accessed October 5, 2015.