A Look Inside the Occupational Therapy Job Market

For all college graduates, the nerves of entering into the looming job market can be enough to encourage a few extra semesters of class enrollment, just to stay in the safety net of college. You might be asking yourself, will I be able to find a job? Will it be a job I enjoy? Can I actually make a living? If you’re a student currently working towards your degree in occupational therapy, you can breathe a little easier. Here’s why:

Will I be able to find a job?

All signs point to yes! This is because the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that occupational therapy jobs are predicted to grow at a rate of 24 percent from 2016 to 2026, nearly 20 percent greater than the national average. Additionally, in the 2015 AOTA Salary and Workforce Survey, only 16 percent of recent occupational therapy graduates report being unable to find employment within three months of graduation. More than 50 percent of graduates were able to find employment within 1 month of graduation – some of those in under month! Even better, only 16.4 percent of graduates report that they were not able to find employment in their preferred setting.

Keep in mind, these are national averages. While occupational therapy jobs are everywhere, there is always higher demand for jobs in big cities. Finding a job in a rural area might be a bit harder, but it’s still achievable! Check out this map here to see where occupational therapy jobs are in the highest demand as of May 2017 (no surprise, California and Texas hold the two highest spots for demand).

Will it be a job I enjoy?

It’s another yes here! It’s easy to assume individuals entering the workforce as an occupational therapist will enjoy their work. Who wouldn’t love making a difference in the lives of other people on a daily basis? Most occupational therapists report that occupational therapy is a satisfying and rewarding career. Additionally, Glassdoor recently ranked occupational therapy as number four on the list of the 100 best jobs in America. This is largely due in part to OTs focus on helping people get the most out of life, containing cost in healthcare, excellent salaries, low job stress levels and increased job flexibility.

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Will I actually make a living?

Yes again! Although it’s not just about the money, occupational therapy graduates can expect to make well above the national average, regardless of their chosen practice setting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for occupational therapists in 2017 was $84,640, with respondents in the 90th percentile making $120,000 or more (learn four traits of high performing OTs here). Occupational therapy assistants reported an annual median salary of $48,000 and a median hourly rate of $26 per hour. More great news? Salaries for occupational therapists have risen 8.2 percent for full-time practitioners since 2010.

So, how do I get the job?

Some simple advice to start, make sure your resume is formatted correctly and error free. Additionally, be sure to include a cover letter that explains who you are and why you want the job you are applying for. Maybe this seems obvious to you, but you’d be surprised how many job applications we get at All Care Therapies that don’t meet these criteria.

If you get an interview, dress professionally and be early! Do your research about the company you are applying with. Check out the company’s website and find at least three facts you can share in the interview. We ask every applicant what they know about our company and are most impressed by those who have clearly done their homework! Also, be prepared to ask your interviewer questions as well. We always ask if applicants have questions for us at the end of the interview-and we love when they do. It shows they are excited about the position and our company.

You should also be prepared to share your strengths and weaknesses. We also ask this at every interview. Interviewers know no one is perfect, and we’d rather have someone who is aware of and honest about their weaknesses and working to improve them, rather than someone who views themselves as perfect. When sharing your strengths, don’t be afraid to sell yourself. We want to know why we should hire you!

Remember, as you move from the role of occupational therapy student to occupational therapy practitioner, don’t be nervous! You are joining a field with excellent growth, large job opportunities, well paying salaries, high job satisfaction, and most importantly, one that is truly making a difference in the lives of others.

8 thoughts on “A Look Inside the Occupational Therapy Job Market

  1. This is not true anymore. I have been an occupational therapist for over 25 years and job satisfaction is falling rapidly. It might be different if therapists were unionized, but it is becoming increasingly stressful, less satisfying, and less lucrative. The emphasis has changed from helping people to getting paper work done and being profitable for the facility. There is pressure to have good productivity and at least in SNF hours are being cut, paid holidays being taken away, and therapists talking about alternative careers.

  2. I think you need to post numbers state by state because the opportunities vary greatly from each state. It is a lot of money to pay out for tuition only to find you have to move far away in order to get a full time position. I see part -time but not a lot of full time positions in Wisconsin

  3. This article talks about OT jobs in rural areas being difficult to obtain. This is not our experience. A rural OT opening can talk a year to fill. Our OTR openings in cities are much easier to fill.

  4. The only OT jobs I’ve been seeing in my area for months now are as needed PRN jobs that don’t offer any guarantee of hours during the workweek. Its frustrating hearing about how lucrative OT is when the job search can be disappointing.

  5. I completely agree with everyone above. The majority of articles out right now are extremely misleading. With so many OT schools cranking out 50+ students a year, areas are becoming increasingly saturated and finding full time work has been very hard, even in the bigger cities. Only setting hiring are SNF’s, school based and home health.

  6. What are new grads using to job search? Perhaps there is a disconnect between those employers who are hiring and new grads who are looking? We are an out-patient pediatric therapy facility in rural Missouri, looking to hire 2 full-time, permanent OT’s and are having difficulty finding new grads that want to come to Missouri. We offer mentorship for new grads, great hours, we have 17 full-time therapists on staff and offer good benefits. We provide therapy in local schools and at our facility as well. We would love to find some new therapists to join our staff!

  7. I agree that this is misleading. I especially wonder why our professional organization does not push harder to get our profession eligible for student loan FORGIVENESS in rural areas. If you are not a PT it is awful. Still paying student loans after 24 years. I would never have entered the profession if I knew that assistants get the full time jobs and the therapist gets all the legal liability. Something very wrong about that. What does AOTA say about this?…sounds like crickets to me.

  8. I am a licensed occupational therapist practicing for 20+ years now. The state of OT employment in my area is horrible. I have worked in Pediatrics for many years. Just about every agency, company, school, or past employers are all using the “CONTRACTOR” model. It’s about money. It’s always about money. Look, from the employers perspective OT’s are expensive to directly hire. Besides salary staff OT’s generally receive health insurance, 401K, vacation, sick, and personal days are now lumped together as PTO or paid time off. The productivity standards are tough to achieve, and employers want results. If you cannot or do not perform at the highest level every day, every week, ever month there is no longer being called into the office to discuss low productivity and strategies to help the therapist. These days you either meet your numbers or lose your job
    I have been unemployed since February 2020. The COVID-19 Pandemic just made finding and securing a good “Full-Time” OT position nearly non-existent. As the OT’s above stated I too mostly see PRN, Per Diem, and Contractor positions. “Full-Time” staff OT positions are far and few. For me personally finding solid staff OT employment has been a total dead end. I love the OT profession, I love practicing OT, I do not regret becoming an OT. I am heartbroken, disappointed, a little depressed, worried, and extremely uncertain regarding just how I am going to find a good OT opportunity? Lastly, these days the hiring process is nothing like it once was. Applying on-line through various sites such as indeed and nexxt for me has been a total nightmare. no longer do OT’s apply directly to the employer, go in for an interview, and either be offered the position or not. Once my resume is sent electronically I have no idea exactyl where it goes, what algorithms are utilized to either accept or reject, and not having anyone to call and touch base is frustrating and for me cold, impersonal, and feelings disconnect with the potential employer.

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