Occupational Therapy Assistants
Employment is expected to grow much faster than average as demand for occupational therapy services rises and as occupational therapists increasingly use assistants. Job prospects should be very good for occupational therapist assistants.
Employment of occupational therapist assistants is expected to grow 25 percent from 2006 to 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations. In the short run, the impact of proposed Federal legislation imposing limits on reimbursement for therapy services may adversely affect the job market for occupational therapist assistants. Over the long run, however, demand for occupational therapist assistants and aides will continue to rise because of the increasing number of individuals with disabilities or limited function.
The growing elderly population is particularly vulnerable to chronic and debilitating conditions that require therapeutic services. These patients often need additional assistance in their treatment, making the roles of assistants vital. Also, the large baby-boom generation is entering the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, further increasing the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation. In addition, future medical developments should permit an increased percentage of trauma victims to survive, creating added demand for therapy services. An increase of sensory disorders in children will also spur demand for occupational therapy services.
Occupational therapists are expected to increasingly utilize assistants and aides to reduce the cost of occupational therapy services. Once a patient is evaluated and a treatment plan is designed by the therapist, the occupational therapist assistant can provide many aspects of treatment, as prescribed by the therapist.
Opportunities for individuals interested in becoming occupational therapist assistants are expected to be very good. In addition to employment growth, job openings will result from the need to replace occupational therapist assistants who leave the occupation permanently over the 2006-16 period. Occupational therapist assistants with prior experience working in an occupational therapy office or other health care setting will have the best job opportunities.
Median annual earnings of occupational therapist assistants were $42,060 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,130 and $50,230. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,050, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,270. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of occupational therapist assistants in May 2006 were:
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists: $45,130
Nursing care facilities: $43,280
General medical and surgical hospitals: $40,060
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, Occupational Therapist Assistants and Aides, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos166.htm (visited April 03, 2009).