The healthcare field is booming – and not just for doctors and nurses. Skilled occupational therapists are in high demand. In fact, a study published by the National Institutes of Health found that many states will encounter a shortage of trained occupational therapists before 2030. If your ideal career allows you to make a difference in patients' lives without ever having to worry about job security, you've come to the right place.
So how do you capitalize on the myriad of open occupational therapist positions in hospitals, outpatient centers and private clinics? Your resume is the key that will open all of these doors. With Resume.io's samples, layouts and resume builder, you've got all the tools you need to impress hiring managers and land your next OT dream job.
This occupational therapist resume example will teach you how to:
- Clear Application Tracking Systems and get your resume into recruiter's hands
- Put your highest-level abilities at the forefront
- Use your summary to paint a picture of a well-rounded applicant
- Format your resume to catch a hiring manager's attention and land an interview
How to write an occupational therapist resume
As much of the recovery work traditionally done in hospitals shifts towards outpatient centers and private practices, occupational therapists have even more workplaces to consider. A resume that conveys mastery of the field along with a passion for helping others should have no problem catching a hiring manager's eye. In this section, we'll cover the job market for occupational therapists in order to help guide you in your job search.
Your skill as an occupational therapist can make a huge difference in the lives of your clients. You are teaching them how to increase their functioning as they perform their daily tasks, which can lead them to a happier and healthier life. This differs from the role of a physical therapist who works to restore function to injured or weakened parts of the body, although you may work in conjunction with these and other healthcare professionals.
One factor driving the demand for occupational therapists is the aging population. The number of people over the age of 65 in the United States will double by 2060 and diagnoses of memory-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s are expected to triple by 2050, according to Hofstra University.
An occupational therapist resume needs to have the right balance of technical abilities and interpersonal skills. In addition to the specific knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology you need to perform your job, you will be working closely with people who may not be feeling their best. You are likely a caring and empathic worker who knows how to listen to your clients.
The job market for OTs
As the population ages but wants to remain independent for as long as possible, geriatric occupational therapy becomes more of a must because you can help in two important ways:
- Helping people manage routine tasks and functions (also known as ADLs or activities for daily living) by breaking them down and teaching them how to do them safely giving physical limitations
- Practice alternate methods of performing tasks in a safe environment with assistance.
Your role differs from physical therapy because you are taking into consideration the places your clients will function in.
The occupational therapy field is expected to grow 16 percent by 2029, much faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
More than a quarter of OTs work in hospitals, but an equal number work in the offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists. Another 12 percent work in schools, at all grade levels. Home healthcare services employ 9 percent of occupational therapists and nursing care facilities employ 8 percent, according to U.S. labor statistics.
Occupational therapists may also specialize in a number of areas after receiving their initial certification. These additional skills can only add to your desirability in this growing field. The four broad areas listed by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) are gerontology, mental health, pediatrics, and physical rehabilitation, but you can get more specialized within each area.
If you’re flexible in where you live and are just looking for the best pay and most opportunity, here are Zippia’s top five states to find occupational therapy jobs from entry-level and up:
Now that you have the overview of your opportunities, let’s get started on your occupational therapy resume.
First up, your profile.
What does an occupational therapist do?
Occupational therapists are responsible for helping patients resume the activities of daily life after injury or illness. Some of their duties include:
- Evaluate patients' medical history and current limitations to develop personalized treatment plans
- Assist patients with relearning everyday skills like walking, eating or getting dressed
- Prescribe stretches and exercises for people recovering from injuries
- Help cognitively-impaired patients to learn new technologies and skills
If you work with families struggling with a memory-loss patient you may help caregivers:
- Cope with unexpected behaviors
- Create a safer home environment
- Develop interventions that families and caregivers can do with their loved one
- Teach adaptive therapies and plans to maintain a routine for daily life.
There are many roles for occupational therapists that do not involve the elderly. You may work in pediatric occupational therapy in a school or or clinic. You may work in a hospital with accident victims or any other inpatients who have lost some physical function. Other OTs work with clients with mental illnesses. Occupational therapists may have caseloads that range from small children to the elderly, or they may specialize in one age group because of the disparate needs of those groups. Your environment may also change depending on the demographics of your caseload. You may need distinct skills and strategies for assisting people with different types of deficits or needs.
Choosing the best format for an occupational therapy resume
Those who have followed a traditional career path have one obvious option for a resume format: reverse chronological order. This format is by far the favored format among recruiters and the Applicant Tracking Systems that will be scanning and sorting your resume.
If you’re new to the job market or have had a more winding career path, you can check out the resume formats we suggest as chronological alternatives or hybrids.
Resume summary example: play up your strengths
Your profile or summary answers the questions “Who are you as an OT?” and “What have you achieved?”
You are more than your work experience. That is why your profile section is so important. It tells recruiters a bit about your philosophy in dealing with clients and it highlights your biggest achievements. In your field, who you are is as important as what you know since you are dealing with people at their most vulnerable.
Think of this as the “How will you fit into the team and what will you bring?” section. Your years of experience are invaluable, but you won’t be working in a vacuum, so potential employers will want to know how you will integrate into the team. Here is the only space on your resume where your personality can shine through.
This formula can help you make the most of the 3-5 sentences in your resume summary section:
- Sentence 1: Introduce yourself and explain your philosophy of patient care
- Sentence 2: Give a little background on your career
- Sentence 3-4: Tout one or two of your greatest career achievements in as much detail as possible
- Sentence 5: Offer an idea of what you will bring to the job.
Because this section is a summary of your career, you may want to write this section once you've finished crafting all the others. After you have refreshed your memory on all your previous jobs for your employment history section and created a “Master List” of your job skills and attributes, you may find it easier to pull out the accomplishments that elevate your candidacy.
Understanding Applicant Tracking Systems
One of the biggest mistakes that candidates for occupational therapist and other medical positions make is that they fail to realize that the hiring manager won't receive your resume directly. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are algorithms embedded into many of today's online application portals. ATS software uses systems of algorithms to scan and sort resumes. In addition to transferring your data into the human resources system, ATS will look for keywords and phrases linked to the job.
Although there is no one simple formula for ensuring your resume will rank high enough to reach human eyes, here are three tips to help your resume beat the ATS:
- Understand the hiring processes and job market for occupational therapists
- Include the right keywords from the job description on your resume
- Create clean resume formatting that's easier for the algorithm to scan
When inserting keywords into your resume, make sure you're using the exact spelling and wording from the job description to increase your chances of getting noticed by the ATS. And while you may have heard it's possible to “trick” the ATS by hiding white keywords under your resume text, this cheating strategy will quickly become apparent when they are highlighted on the hiring manager's end, according to HR experts.
ATS software makes it all important for you to customize your resume for each position. Of course, you should never put skills on your resume that you don’t have, but you should be making sure you have added all the ones you have that your potential employer seeks.
Here's an resume example text to help you get started:
Dedicated occupational therapist adept in thoroughly assessing the condition of patients and creating powerful and innovative rehabilitation plans to meet their needs. Experienced in working with children ages 1-17, addressing a variety of different issues and working to help each patient overcome obstacles. Committed to providing patients with accurate and effective evaluations, interventions, educational resources, and individualized therapy plans.
Employment history example: building blocks of resume success
Your employment history section takes up the bulk of your resume which is one great reason to invest time in making it look professional. Unless there is a compelling reason not to (you've recently had a career change or have a gap in your work history), you should stick with the reverse chronological order format by listing your most recent place of employment first and working backwards from there.
Under each previous role, you'll want to include 3-4 bullet points. Here are some tips to formulate them:
- Use strong action verbs that paint a picture in the hiring manager's mind
- Incorporate numbers, statistics and percentages to quantify your achievements
- Choose tasks that most closely align with the responsibilities of your potential position
Don’t let those conventions lull you into thinking this is a mere listing of responsibilities. No, your work experience section should be a step-by-step guide to how you have reached the success you now have. List your most impressive achievements under each position. Use data and details to highlight your successes and show off the skills you used to achieve them. If you need to save space (your resume should be no more than two pages), start by eliminating responsibilities you have listed under more than one job description.
Here is an example of a strong work history bullet point as compared to a weaker one:
Successfully managed rotating caseload of 25 clients at a time, and made recommendations for release from therapy when client was ready.
Responsible for caseload of 25 clients.
If you began your career as a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA), remember that the skills you used are valuable. Make sure you list all positions of importance and those that have transferable duties and/or required skills necessary for an occupational therapist position.
Here’s an example of an occupational therapist’s resume employment history:
- Provided optimal therapy services to 100+ children in a private school setting.
- Accurately evaluated the rehabilitative needs of acute-care patients, enabling the implementation of appropriate therapy interventions.
- Worked closely with teachers and school staff to educate them about OT services and findings.
- Effectively managed a full caseload while effectively communicating and working with the families of students..
Education example: an occupational therapist's launching point
The education section of your occupational therapist resume can be broken down into three main components:
- Organizations and publications
Occupational therapists need at least a bachelor of science degree in order to earn their OT certification, but most occupational therapists enter the job market with a master’s degree. If you do have a master’s, you do not need to list your high school diploma. There is also no reason to include your GPA. If you graduated with any honors, you may list those.
All states also require OTs to be certified and to pass the national exam administered by the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) for licensure. The AOTA also offers advanced and specialized certifications. You can list certifications here, or create a separate section highlighting them.
You may also list any continuing education credits you have taken that will enhance your desirability as an employee.
If you are an active member of any professional organizations or have professionally published work related to occupational therapy, you can add them here or create a Professional Affiliations and Publications section.
Below is a resume sample that illustrates how to format your education section.
- 2003-2007 UCLA, Doctor of Occupational Therapy Los Angeles, CA
- 1999-2003 Pacific State University, Bachelor of Biology Los Angeles CA
Skills example section: fine-tune your resume
The skills section may be short, but getting it right can be trickier than it seems. In this section, you'll need to display your top attributes, narrowing down all your abilities to just those most relevant to the job description. As an occupational therapist, you'll also need a good mix of hard and soft skills.
We have already discussed creating a list of all your skills and attributes. Now that you have it, you will have to pare it down to your top 5-10. It’s not an easy task. You need to balance the knowledge you need of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology with a whole host of other qualities like empathy, attention to detail and even stamina.
So how do you craft a section that will get you noticed?
Start by going back to that job listing. What does your prospective employer find most important? Which of those skills are you most adept at? The analysis you did to help you with the ATS should come in handy here and so should your Master Skill list.
When ATS programs scan your resume for keywords, they focus heavily on the summary and skills sections. Make sure your summary contains a few essential keywords (like specializations or can't-miss hard skills) while still being easy to read for the human hiring manager. Your skills section, on the other hand, is a great place to add in many of the other keywords the robots (and hiring managers!) are looking for.
Depending on what environment and demographic you work with, those skills may vary so make sure you are targeting the exact job for which you are applying. Customize your resume every time you apply for a different job to show your potential employer that you really want to be a part of the team. Consider skills that may distinguish you and wow recruiters. Think about how you perform your job. Here are some soft skills that may not come to mind immediately when you consider what you do on a daily basis:
- Supervision of COTAs, clients and their caregivers as they learn new routines
Here are some that are more common:
- Excellent communication
Make sure you also list any expert knowledge you have in your field such as:
- Assessment, analysis, and treatment of individuals
- Setting client goals
- Accurately assessing client situation
- Individualized program development
- Understand of how to enhance motor skills
You also need physical strength and stamina, patience, and accurate and detailed report-writing skills.
Here is a sample of skills for an occupational therapist that you may be able to adapt for your own resume.
- Acute Rehabilitation
- Neuromuscular Knowledge
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
- Individualized Planning
- Interpersonal Communication Skills
- Stress and Pain Management
Resume layout and design: highlight your personality
Along with your summary section, your CV format is also a great place to show off a bit of personality. Since the medical field is fairly formal, you'll want to make sure that your format is professionally appropriate. When it doubt, a template with a neutral color scheme and clean lines can still be interesting without coming across as eclectic.
A study by Simply Hired found that almost 40 percent of hiring managers check candidates' social media during the application process. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are especially important. Make sure there are no discrepancies between what your resume and your online presence say about your work history.
If graphic design isn't your thing, resume templates might be a better option. Resume.io's sample designs come with pre-written example sentences allowing you to quickly build a resume from scratch. Our professional template samples are expertly-designed for the medical field with muted colors and timeless style. Remember, your job here is to make it as easy as possible for hiring managers to quickly scan your resume. Keep in mind the following rules when laying out your resume:
- Use standard section headings to provide continuity across the page
- Leave enough white space to give reader's eyes a break
- Proofread your resume before submitting
- Include more than two fonts on your resume
- Exceed one page length
- Use a variety of bright colors
Key takeaways for an occupational therapy resume
- Occupational therapy is a rapidly growing industry in need of highly-trained professionals
- Use your summary section to add a touch of personality and explain why you're the right choice
- Customize your resume using keywords to beat the ATS and show employers you want their job
- Make sure your formatting is both eye-catching and easy-to-read while maintaining a polished image
- Resume.io’s online resume maker will smooth the path to your next great job!