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Work Setting Trends for Occupational Therapy: How to Choose a Setting

Whether you’re a new graduate or a seasoned occupational therapy practitioner looking for a new challenge, the following information will help you pick the right setting for you. Find out how practitioners spend their time in different settings and the locations of those settings, explore work setting trends, and more.

How OT Practitioners Spend Their Time in Different Settings

Do you love direct client intervention? Want to spend a lot of time doing research? Check out how OT practitioners (except those in academia) indicated the average percentage of time they spend in five functional areas.

The top work settings for direct client intervention are long-term care and skilled nursing facilities (74%), freestanding outpatient (70.4%), hospitals (70%), and schools (60.8%).

The top work settings for consultation are: other (20%), community (17%), schools (13.7%), and mental health (12%).

The top work settings for indirect and administration tasks (e.g., documentation, scheduling, meetings, planning sessions) are: mental health (32.4%), other (29.9%), community (29.4%), and home health (27.1%). 

Time allocation community

Time allocation early intervention

Time allocation freestanding outpatient

Time allocation home health

Time allocation hospital

Time allocation ltc snf

Time allocation mental health

Time allocation other

Time allocation schools

Work Setting Trends for OTs and OTAs

Two thirds of occupational therapists surveyed work in three settings—hospitals, schools, and long-term care or skilled nursing facilities (LTC/SNF). How has that changed from 2000? Check out the trends below.

Occupational Therapist Work Setting Trends

2014

2010

2006

2000

Academia

6.1%

5.8%

6.1%

6.6%

Community

2%

1.8%

1.6%

2.2%

Early Intervention

4.6%

5.2%

Included with schools

Freestanding Outpatient

10.8%

10.2%

11.2%

11.6%

Home Health

6.8%

5.9%

7.2%

6.6%

Hospital (Non-Mental Health)

26.6%

28.1%

23.5%

24.6%

LTC/SNF

19.2%

15.8%

15.4%

12.9%

Mental Health

2.4%

3.0%

3.6%

5.2%

Schools

19.9%

21.7%

29.6%

29.2%

Other

1.7%

2.5%

1.9%

1.7%

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 due to rounding.

More than 55% of occupational therapy assistants surveyed work in LTC/SNF. Find the workplace setting trends for OTAs below.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Work Setting Trends

2014

2010

2006

2000

Academia

1.5%

1.8%

1.7%

2.9%

Community

1.7%

3.1%

2.1%

2.0%

Early Intervention

2.8%

1.8%

Included with schools

Freestanding Outpatient

5.3%

4.3%

3.3%

8.3%

Home Health

4.3%

4.8%

3.3%

1.7%

Hospital (Non-Mental Health)

11.3%

14.4%

17.5%

13.6%

LTC/SNF

55.9%

45%

36.3%

38.4%

Mental Health

1.4%

2.4%

4.2%

5.4%

Schools

15.2%

21.4%

29.6%

26%

Other

0.9%

1.1%

2.1%

1.7%

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 due to rounding.

Pick a Work Setting Based on Your Location

Want to know how many OT practitioners work in settings based on urban, suburban, or rural locations? Similar to past workforce studies, the setting most likely to be in an urban environment are academia, hospital (non-mental health), and mental health settings. The home health setting has the highest concentration of rural locations, at 23%.

Urban

Suburban

Rural

Academia

58.3%

28.4%

13.5%

Community

43.4%

46.5%

10.2%

Early Intervention

41%

42.8%

16.2%

Freestanding Outpatient

41.5%

46.5%

12.1%

Home Health

34.4%

42.5%

23.1%

Hospital (Non-Mental Health)

56.3%

29.1%

14.7%

LTC/SNF

34.4%

43.5%

22.1%

Mental Health

61.5%

28.9%

9.6%

Schools

32.5%

46.8%

20.7%

Other

48.6%

36.3%

15.4%

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 due to rounding.

Work Setting Control and Ownership

Private for-profit control and ownership structure is the most popular response by a small margin when the respondents describe the type of control and ownership for their primary work setting. Private nonprofits are also highly popular, with government settings the least common. The data below excludes respondents employed in the academia setting.

Primary work setting control ownership

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 due to rounding.