School occupational therapists play an integral role in supporting students with various needs. Understanding the balance between occupational therapist (OT) caseload and workload is essential, not only for therapists but also for educators, administrators, parents, and the students they serve.

Whether you’re a recent graduate or an experienced OT considering a transition into education, ensuring a balance between caseload and workload is a vital aspect for all school occupational therapists. While an excessive caseload or workload can lead to burnout and stress, the decrease in the quality of services provided to students can also negatively impact student outcomes, so it’s crucial to understand how to manage both effectively.

From the average school-based OT caseload to signs of a healthy workload, learn everything you need to know about school-based OT caseloads in ProCare’s guide below!

What is a School Occupational Therapist Caseload?

A school occupational therapist caseload refers to the total number of students they are responsible for providing services to.

Too high of a caseload can lead to the risk of overburdening the therapist and compromising the quality of care provided to the students, while too small of a caseload may undermine the therapist’s ability to maintain their skills and knowledge.

What is a School Occupational Therapist Workload?

On the other hand, a school occupational therapist workload refers to all the tasks and responsibilities they have.

The workload of a school occupational therapist is diverse and goes beyond just providing direct therapy to students. In addition to conducting evaluations, developing intervention plans, and administering therapy, school-based OT workloads also encompass tasks like scheduling, paperwork, preparing reports and documentation, professional development and continuing education, and attending meetings with teachers, parents, and other staff.

What’s the difference between school-based OT caseload and workload?

The main difference between school occupational therapist caseload and workload is that the caseload focuses solely on the number of students the therapist is working with, while the workload includes all the other tasks and responsibilities related to the therapist’s role in the school.

It’s possible for an OT to have a manageable caseload but an overwhelming workload, so it’s important for professionals to find the right balance and speak up if work becomes difficult to manage.

What is the Average Caseload for a School-Based OT?

According to a 2020 research article published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, on average, full-time school occupational therapists reported a caseload of 41 to 50 students.

However, the average caseload size for a school-based OT varies greatly depending on several factors, including the severity of student needs, the availability of support staff, and the amount of time required for each individual student’s therapeutic intervention.

For example, therapists working with students with severe disabilities may need more time per student than those working with less severe cases. Similarly, therapists with more administrative responsibilities or those who are tasked with implementing school-wide initiatives may have different caseload requirements.

Signs of a Healthy School-Based OT Caseload & Workload

For school-based OTs, finding the right balance between the number of students you help and the individualized attention you’re giving each student is a tricky task. However, some signs of a healthy balance between caseload and workload include:

  1. Students are making progress, and therapy is resulting in positive student outcomes.
  2. The OT has time for professional development, for example, attending courses or conferences to stay updated with the latest therapy research.
  3. There is time to meet with students one-on-one, and group sessions are only used when it is beneficial for all students. 
  4. The OT has time to provide comprehensive updates to parents in IEP meetings, and they can answer any questions parents or educators might have about student progress.

Workload & Caseload Red Flags

Some signs that an OT’s workload or caseload is too heavy include frequent overtime, incomplete progress reports, rushed meetings, increased feelings of stress and burnout, and limited time available for professional development or consulting with other professionals and parents.

The ability to effectively manage workload and caseload varies between OTs based on experience, skill level, and the specific needs of their students. However, regularly assessing and adjusting workload is a crucial skill for all school-based OTs to maintain a healthy working environment.

If you’re struggling to keep up with caseload demands, we recommend visiting ProCare’s blog on how to handle caseload issues in school therapy for solutions and advice on providing the best care you can to your students.

How to Become a School-Based OT

To become a school occupational therapist, you must:

  1. Receive a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in occupational therapy from an accredited institution.
  2. Receive a passing score on the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) examination.
  3. Receive state licensure to practice occupational therapy.

Now is a great time to pursue a career in school occupational therapy. There’s an incredibly high demand for school-based OTs, and with demand showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon, school-based OTs benefit from a promising job outlook and high-paying salary.

If you’re passionate about helping students overcome mental, developmental, and emotional challenges and reach their full potential, then a career as a school-based occupational therapist might be the perfect route for you.

ProCare has a variety of school-based OT and certified occupational therapist assistant (COTA) openings waiting for you today, and every ProCare opportunity promises you ongoing career support, competitive salaries, comprehensive benefits, and more.

Start helping students in need today by checking out ProCare’s variety of school occupational therapist jobs!