Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 27 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of treatment for people with various illnesses and disabilities, such as Alzheimer's disease, cerebral palsy, autism, or the loss of a limb.
The need for occupational therapists is expected to increase as the large baby-boom generation ages and people remain active later in life. Occupational therapists can help senior citizens maintain their independence by recommending home modifications and strategies that make daily activities easier. Therapists also play a large role in the treatment of many conditions and ailments commonly associated with aging, such as arthritis and stroke.
Occupational therapists also will be needed in a variety of healthcare settings to treat patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes. Patients will continue to seek noninvasive outpatient treatment for long-term disabilities and illnesses, either in their homes or in residential care environments. These patients may need occupational therapy to become more independent in and to perform a variety of daily tasks.
Demand for occupational therapy services also will stem from patients with autism spectrum disorder. More therapists will be needed in schools to assist children with autism in improving their social skills and accomplishing a variety of daily tasks. Demand for occupational therapy services is related to the ability of patients to pay, either directly or through health insurance. The number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. Both rehabilitation and habilitation services are included among essential health benefits to be covered by insurers; however, coverage may vary by state.
Job opportunities should be good for licensed occupational therapists in all settings, particularly acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings, because the elderly receive most of their treatment in these settings. Occupational therapists with specialized knowledge in a treatment area also will have better job prospects.
Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24
Health diagnosing and treating practitioners
Total, all occupations
Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program