Job Trends in OT: What OT Students Should Know

Job trends in occupational therapy 

As a student in any field, it’s difficult to know what you’re getting into with the career you’ve chosen until you’ve actually practiced in the field for a while. Nevertheless, you earned a degree — or are currently earning one, or would like to earn one — because you want to help people participate in the things they want and need to do through occupational therapy. 

Luckily, U.S. News & World Report lists occupational therapy jobs among the best in America, citing good salary, the ability to help people, and being part of a cutting-edge field as reasons for job satisfaction. 

2015 Job Trends in Occupational Therapy

All Signs Point to Employment

If you’re a recent grad in occupational therapy, you’re in luck. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for occupational therapists are predicted to grow at a rate of 29 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than average. This is an additional 32,800 jobs, at a median of $75,400 per year or $36.25 per hour. As of 2012, there were 113,200 jobs in the United States for occupational therapists, in a huge variety of settings. That means you will likely be able to tailor your job to your desires regarding working environment and population. Jobs exist helping children, the elderly and working-age individuals, and whichever group provides you with the most fulfillment is likely to have openings.

Jobs, Jobs Everywhere

Unlike some job markets, which are concentrated in big cities or in certain states, occupational therapy jobs exist everywhere. That doesn’t mean that every state has an equal number, however; most jobs are still concentrated in areas of highest population density. If you want to work in a rural setting, you may need to work harder to get there.

If you are open to different locations and settings, then you can apply for jobs specifically based on factors that mean the most to you - workplace factors, career advancement, professional development and compensation.

Check out this map of occupational therapy job density to get an idea of where you’re most likely to find opportunities that will meet your needs. Don’t forget, if you move across state borders after completing a degree, you may have to meet different licensing and credentialing requirements — so be prepared for that ahead of time.

Healthcare Continues to Grow Steadily

As an OT, you may even begin to experience job-availability guilt as friends in other industries struggle to find jobs as you get bombarded with recruiter calls and emails. This infographic about National Unemployment and Jobs Gains/Losses from the Wall Street Journal nicely illustrates how over the past 10 years the healthcare sector overall has only posted overall job losses in 2 out of the past 117 months. 

That isn’t to say that there will always be a job opening in your area in your preferred specialty, but you can take comfort in being a part of an industry that has shown stable growth, even through a recession.

Your Day Will Depend on Your Setting

Your individual experience as an occupational therapist will depend on what population you choose to serve and where you want to work. Sites like InsideCareerInfo offer a window into an occupational therapist’s potential employment settings. The Occupational Therapist Jobs Forum on also offers lively conversation about particular settings.

Whatever offsetting you choose for occupational therapy, and whichever population you aim to work with, you can be sure your work will be rewarding, both personally and professionally. If you haven’t yet embarked on your degree program, try shadowing professionals in different settings and populations to find the one that is right for you. If you’ve just finished, congratulations! You will be joining a field of professionals that is truly making a difference.  

About the author:

Lisa Orlando is the Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Early Intervention at Progressus Therapy a leading provider of employment and professional development for therapists. They offer opportunities for occupational therapists across the country.

If you are currently on the hunt for an OT or COTA job, learn more about the 6 steps to finding the right OT job!