Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy?

Currently in a CRISIS! I have been trying to decide between pursuing a career in physical therapy and occupational therapy. So you all are going to witness part of the planning process. If you have any advice for me please leave it in the comments below because all tips are appreciated. How did you decide between OT and PT? Do you currently work in one of the fields? Do you regret choosing one over the other? What do you love most about your current profession? I hope I am able to help anyone who is in the same position that I am in.


Physical therapists treat the patient's impairment while occupational therapists teach the patient how to complete everyday tasks with that impairment. Physical therapists treat impairments by increasing mobility, lessening pain, and teaching patients how to prevent/manage their condition. Occupational therapists focus on therapeutic modifications such as helping patients learn how to apply new adaptive equipment and use different techniques to complete everyday tasks as easily as possible.


Entry-level physical therapy positions are expected to acquire a doctoral degree by 2020 while occupational therapy positions will be expected to do the same by 2025. Both professions are required to be licensed in whatever state he/she chooses to work in.


PT: Graduate school for 3 years (doctorate)

OT: Graduate school for 2 years (master's)

Although OT and PT graduate school prerequisite requirements are similar, there are a few key differences. These differences and similarities can vary depending on the University. For instance, occupational therapy prerequisites consists of classes such as sociology, anthropology, medical terminology and developmental psychology. On the other hand, physical therapy has requirements like precalculus, biology, and chemistry.

Taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is mandatory in order to apply to both graduate programs.

Duties & Skills

According to APTA, physical therapists focus on anatomical injuries by preparing and implementing individualized patient plans. They measure the functional capacity and motor development of patients in order to improve his/her mobility. They work with injury prevention while educating the patient on his/her condition.

Occupational therapists have a knowledge base of anatomical health while understanding mental health. They evaluate the physical capabilities of patients and create exercises that will help patients learn life management skills at his/her own pace. Occupational therapists often times use assistive technology with patients to help him/her learn independence.


The salary for each career path is expected to grow within the next few years. Factors such as location can make a difference when trying to determine average annual salary, but overall these are the numbers for the median annual salaries:

OT: $78,810

PT: $83,940

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