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Occupational Therapist Assistants and Aides - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Occupational therapist assistants may advance into administration positions. They might organize all the assistants in a large occupational therapy department or act as the director for a specific department such as sports medicine. Some assistants go on to teach classes in accredited occupational therapist assistant academic programs or lead health risk reduction classes for the elderly.

With proper formal education, occupational therapist aides can become occupational therapist assistants.

Employment
Occupational therapist assistants and aides held about 34,400 jobs in 2008, with assistants holding about 26,600 jobs and aides holding approximately 7,800 jobs. About 28 percent of jobs for assistants and aides were in offices of other health practitioners, 27 percent were in hospitals, and 20 percent were in nursing care facilities. The rest were primarily in community care facilities for the elderly, home healthcare services, individual and family services, and government agencies.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow much faster than average as demand for occupational therapy services rises and as occupational therapists increasingly use assistants and aides. Job prospects should be very good for occupational therapist assistants. Jobseekers holding only a high school diploma might face keen competition for occupational therapist aide jobs.

Job Growth
Employment of occupational therapist assistants and aides is expected to grow by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. 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 and aides 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. Demand for therapy may be dampened by Federal legislation imposing limits on reimbursement for therapy services.

Demand from adolescents will increase due to expansion of the school-age population and Federal legislation mandating funding for education for the disabled.

Occupational therapists are expected to increasingly employ assistants 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 occupational therapist assistants should be very good. However, individuals with only a high school diploma may face keen competition for occupational therapist aide jobs. Occupational therapist assistants and aides with prior experience working in an occupational therapy office or other healthcare setting will have the best job opportunities. In addition to employment growth, job openings will result from the need to replace occupational therapist assistants and aides who leave the occupation permanently over the 2008-18 period.

Earnings
Median annual wages of occupational therapist assistants were $48,230 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $39,240 and $57,810. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,160.

Median annual wages of occupational therapist aides were $26,960 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $21,930 and $33,340. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,910.

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Academic Programs of Interest

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