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Occupational Therapy Job Outlook

Occupational therapy job outlook

Occupational Therapy Job Outlook

By Tiffany Aller, Contributor

Among allied health professionals, occupational therapists are some of the most in-demand practitioners. As Americans age and experience the need for rehabilitation, the need for occupational therapists will continue to grow. The occupational therapy job outlook is especially positive over the next decade. In addition to OT jobs in traditional clinical settings like medical offices and hospitals, occupational therapists are also in high demand in schools and as home health workers.

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Job growth for occupational therapists

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are more than 130,400 practicing occupational therapists currently in the job market. Over the next 10 years, the BLS predicts job growth at 24 percent, which is much faster than other jobs are expected to grow. More than 31,000 new occupational therapy jobs are anticipated between 2018 and 2028. The median annual wage for OTs was $84,270 as of 2018, with about half of those employees working in either medical offices or hospitals. These allied professionals are also sought after in schools, home health organizations and nursing homes.

Occupational therapy job outlook and demand

Currently, the states with the highest number of occupational therapy professionals are New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida. The highest concentration of OTs is found in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut. Traveling occupational therapy professionals often fill needs in smaller or more rural states and areas where organizations pay a premium to entice these practitioners to help patients in underserved areas. These locations may not have many local therapists and rely on traveling professionals or professionals willing to relocate to fill this urgent need.

Job outlook for occupational therapy assistants and aids

In addition to occupational therapists, demand is also strong for individuals who have completed their training to become occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapy aides. These professionals are often the first line of practitioners to work with patients, providing training on different types of equipment and coaching them through various exercises. Assistants and aides work closely with their supervising occupational therapist and help lighten the therapist's load of patients so more individuals can receive care. Currently, more than 46,800 assistants and aides work in the occupational therapy field. Within this workforce, 39,000 jobs are held by occupational therapy assistants and 7500 by occupational therapy aides. Over the next 10 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a growth rate of 28%, with more than 13,200 new jobs expected to be created. The vast majority of these allied health workers perform their duties in medical offices, hospitals and nursing homes. Median salaries for OT assistants top $60,000 annually.

Stability and growth in occupational therapy

The American Occupational Therapy Association notes that OT jobs are recession-proof, as Americans seek care for injuries and illnesses best served by this kind of therapy regardless of the economy. Jobs in occupational therapy continuously occupy top spots in yearly reviews of best jobs conducted by organizations including US News and World Report,Glassdoor and the Ladders. WNYC, an affiliate of NPR, notes that the current job market and anticipated growth for occupational therapy positions are impacted by nationwide shortages of these professionals. Those shortages are often felt the most in rural or underserved areas but also impact locales as large as New York City.

Maximizing your OT career opportunities

Occupational therapists have the opportunity to continue or launch their career in nearly any location across the country, satisfying shortages and bringing their skills to large and small areas alike. That gives OTs the opportunity to be picky about the jobs they pursue and accept. To maximize your OT career opportunities, take time to evaluate several different factors before deciding on your next job. These include:

  • Amount of experience on the job
  • Geographical areas where you’d like to work permanently or as a travel professional
  • Therapy settings, ranging from schools to nursing homes to hospitals
  • Specialization areas, including pediatrics, geriatrics, sports medicine and general rehabilitation
  • Room for growth or opportunities to move around between job types

Whether you are a new occupational therapist, therapy assistant or aide or are an experienced practitioner looking for your next opportunity, you are in good company. You’ll find many different job openings to explore that offer leading salaries and generous benefits packages. Take advantage of the fast-paced growth for occupational therapy as you set your sites on your next professional opportunity and share your in-demand skills with patients in need.


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