Where Do Occupational Therapists Work (Settings and Practice Areas) – Workforce Trends

  • What settings do occupational therapy practitioners work in statistically?
  • What are the workplace / workforce trends for occupational therapy?
  • Another way to think about it, what are the chances that you are work in each setting (interest aside)?
  • How have practice settings changed in their categorization?
  • Are there new practice settings?

To answer these questions, I obtained 3 data points from the AOTA Workforce Trends (they keep changing the name of this).

Changes

Most of the categories are kept the same, but the names change once in a while, for example, they called Outpatient -> Free-standing Outpatient in 2019. Behavioral health has been renamed mental health. They also group or ungroup settings from time to time, such as separating Community and Other into their own categories. Most notably, early intervention was not mentioned in the 2016 report (does not mean that it did not exist or no OTs/OTAs practiced in this area). So on the chart, there is a missing data point.

This makes plotting the graphs a little challenging, so I did my best!

OT Practice Settings Trend Graph

How to read this chart: For each setting, data reads chronologically from left to right from 2006 to 2019 (blue -> red -> yellow).

This data is for primary practice settings. Note that some practitioners may work secondary jobs or do other things on the side (like me!).

2019

  • 23.0% School
  • 21.1% Hospital
  • 10.1% Outpatient
  • 18.5% Nursing Facilities
  • 8.6% Academia
  • 8.2% Home health
  • 4.2% Early Intervention
  • 2.9% Community
  • 2.0% Mental Health
  • 1.5% Other

2010

  • 26.2% Hospitals
  • 21.6% Schools
  • 19.9% Nursing Facilities
  • 9.3% Outpatient Clinics
  • 5.8% Home Health
  • 5.2% Academia
  • 4.8% Early Intervention
  • 4.3% Community/Other
  • 2.9% Mental Health

2006

  • 29.6% Schools
  • 23.0% Hospitals
  • 17.0% Nursing Facilities
  • 10.6% Outpatient
  • 6.9% Home Health
  • 5.7% Academic
  • 3.6% Behavioral Health
  • 3.4% Community/Other

My Insights

  1. School OT seemed to be quite popular in 2006 and is making a slow come-back.
  2. Hospital is up-and down. It would be interesting to see what the trend of this would be post-COVID.
  3. Outpatient seems pretty stable at around 10%.
  4. The same goes for Nursing Facilities around less than 20%.
  5. Interestingly, there has been a sharp increase in Academia as a primary practice. This is great! I wonder what this will look like with more OTs graduating from doctorate programs.
  6. Home Health seems to be increasing as of 2019.
  7. Early Intervention has been about less than 5% (was not measured in 2006).
  8. Mental health – this one is most disappointing to me. It shows a pretty clear decline from 2006 (3.6% > 2.9% > 2.0%). Mental health needs to make a come-back as it is on the track to becoming less than 2% of OT practice! I would love to see an increasing trend in the next report. As OTs can only work in one primary practice setting, it means that other areas would have to decrease (taking away from the pie).
  9. Last, there is a slight increase in Community and Other practice settings.

Sources

AOTA 2019 Workforce and Salary Survey

AOTA Occupational Therapy Compensation and Workforce Study, 2010

2006 AOTA Workforce Study