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Occupational Therapy: Growing Stronger

Industry Trends That Affect You

The occupational therapy field is dynamic and ever-changing. The following are some key facts about the industry as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor and an independent national study. (1,2)

  • Professional growth opportunities. Employment opportunities are expected to grow much faster than average growth of all occupations, and job opportunities should be robust, especially for therapists treating the elderly. In fact, occupational therapist employment will increase 23 percent between 2006 and 2016. However, despite the increasing demand for occupational therapy practitioners, there exists a U.S. workforce shortage is: (2)
  • -A vacancy rate for occupational therapist positions of 8.9 percent.

    -A vacancy rate for occupational therapy assistant positions of 7.7 percent.

  • Evolving roles and responsibilities. Occupational therapists are increasingly taking on supervisory roles, allowing assistants and aides to work more closely with clients under the guidance of the therapist. (1)
  • Flexibility in the workplace. More than a quarter of occupational therapists work part-time. (1)

Career Opportunities

Overall, the number of job opportunities should be robust across practice areas in occupational therapy; however, specialization will enhance job prospects and advancement. (1) The following details workforce trends within particular settings:

  • Working with the elderly. As baby-boomer age increases, a larger elderly population will require a greater amount of therapy services. (1) While in the late 1990s the number of occupational therapy positions decreased in hospitals and skilled-nursing facilities, opportunities in these practice settings for older adults appear to be increasing again. (2) As such, acute hospital, rehabilitation and orthopedic care settings should have particularly strong job opportunities, as well as community-based programs. (1,2)
  • Working in a hospital setting. Hospitals will remain a significant source of job opportunities since they employ occupational therapy practitioners who provide services to acutely ill inpatients, as well as outpatients in need of rehabilitation. (1)
  • Working in a school setting. Schools offer potential for increasing occupational therapy employment opportunities. The expansion of the school age population and the increasing prevalence of children with sensory disorders, including autism, along with expanded programs to serve disabled children, will drive greater demand of occupational therapy practitioners. (1)

(1) U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos078.htm (accessed 03/27/2008)
(2) Powell, Janet M., Kanny, Elizabeth M., and Ciol, Marcia A., "State of Occupational Therapy Workforce: Results of a National Study." The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Jan/Feb. 2008, Vol. 62, Number 1. page 97