Occupational Therapists

You, like many healthcare professionals, may be challenged to find work in your profession when you first arrive in Canada.  The healthcare job market is very competitive and you must hold a valid license to practise in a regulated profession before you can work. The application process to assess your credentials, work experience and language proficiency can be expensive and lengthy.  It is especially so if you require additional language training or academic upgrading.  Consider a related career or “career option”.

If you decide that your skills do not align with your primary career of choice, the Health Career Options Guide provides information about career alternatives.

These career options may allow you to find meaningful employment in Canada.

*Note: Healthcare professions are not static.  They evolve as new technology, research findings and care models affect the delivery of healthcare.  The scope of practice of each professional is subject to change.  Changes may demand further education, certification and possible licensure for assistive levels.  Users of this guide should know that the qualifications listed for some of these career options may change.

Who are Occupational Therapists and what do they do?

Occupational therapists (OTs) belong to a regulated profession in Canada and must hold a license to practise.  They work with clients of all ages to improve their clients’ quality of life. OTs help individuals regain their abilities, or develop new skills and abilities, so their clients can participate in their everyday activities. Occupational therapists also develop and implement health promotion programs with individuals, community groups and employers.  They work in a variety of publically or privately funded settings such as general and rehabilitation hospitals, return to work programs, community and inpatient mental health centers, adult and child day-care centers, assistive technology programs, and correction facilities. OTs may be self- employed, as well. OTs could work with physical, cognitive or mental health issues.

What are the minimum or “entry to practice” requirements for this profession in Canada?

For most regions in Canada, candidates must register for a license with the provincial regulatory body before they can work in the province.  Licensing requirements differ by province or territory.  Canadian candidates complete a two-year Master of Science degree program in occupational therapy and, except for Quebec, must pass the national occupational therapy certification exam (NOTCE). Visit the Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy Regulatory Organizations site to learn more about the registration process. 

Can I work if I was trained outside of Canada?

All internationally trained OTs must apply for assessment through ACOTRO's Substantial Equivalency Assessment System portal. This site offers full details of the process for application. Note that fees apply for this assessment and the application process may be lengthy. You will be asked to prove your English or French language proficiency if your training was completed in another language.

Can I plan for my professional life in Canada before I arrive?

Before you decide to come, view the Self Assessment Readiness Tool™ for Occupational Therapists to compare your knowledge and skills against those required to work in this field. The tool offers case scenarios, examples of daily practice, a self- assessment test against the national competencies and information about the registration process. The assistive level tool, Self Assessment Readiness Tool™ for Occupational Therapist Assistants may also be of interest to you. You do not need a license for employment as an occupational therapist assistant.

The Job Search Process in Canada: Ten Steps Tool describes the skills and processes you will need to find a job.  It describes language assessment, resume writing, interview skills, and the role of volunteering and finding a mentor.

Settlement agencies in Canada provide many services for newcomers.  These include both pre-arrival and post arrival information about language assessment and classes, career preparation, job search and other general information.  Click here to find a settlement agency in the area where you plan to settle.

What should I do if I can’t find work in my field?  Do I have options?

Yes, you have many options. The job market fluctuates for many professions so the demand for trained specialists is never constant. Many Canadians, who were trained for one career, may work in a number of related fields before they retire. For example, a physician may write healthcare policy, a nurse may work as a private healthcare consultant or an occupational therapist may translate health related documents as a fulltime career. They transfer their skills and experiences from one career to another. A career option, or an “alternative career” allows you to focus your skills, abilities and work experiences in a different direction. Ideally, you might choose a new career with fewer restrictions such as one that does not require a license, certification or extensive retraining.

If your skills and abilities do not meet the Canadian standards, consider one of the following career options. You can work in this new field temporarily while you upgrade your education or language skills, or longer if the work is satisfying to you. These options were identified through consultation with regulators, the professional association, and/or educators and profession experts.

They recognize many of the skills and abilities you already have.

Consider one or more of these options.  Click on each title to open a career fact sheet. References and links.

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