Diverse Workforce

Centennial Vision 2017: "We envision that occupational therapy is a powerful, widely recognized, science-driven, and evidence-based profession with a globally connected and diverse workforce meeting society's occupational needs."

Summary of Student Recruitment Activities

Since the profession adopted the Centennial Vision in 2006, the Professional Affairs Division at AOTA has focused its student recruitment initiatives on increasing diversity. A summary of these initiatives is provided below.

  • Association Membership with the Ventures Scholars Program: The Ventures Scholars Program is a national nonprofit membership program designed to promote access to higher education for young adults interested in pursuing math- and science-based careers.

    The Ventures Scholars Program targets high achieving underrepresented students and first-generation college-bound students and invites them to join the Ventures Scholars Program. As Ventures Scholars, they are provided with the academic recognition, information, and resources needed to successfully reach their career goals. This is accomplished, in part, through the collaborative relationship formed by the Ventures Scholars Program with a nationwide consortium of undergraduate colleges and universities, professional schools, graduate schools, professional associations, and organizations. Member institutions and associations are provided with opportunities to recruit, enroll, and prepare participating Ventures Scholars for undergraduate and graduate studies, and ultimately careers in these professions.
  • Addition of a section on "Diversity in Occupational Therapy" on the Prospective Students page of the AOTA Web site: The page features links to biographies which explain why practitioners entered the profession of occupational therapy. Biographies are posted from practitioners with diverse backgrounds including: (a) African American, (b) Hispanic, (c) Asian Pacific Islanders, (d) Orthodox Jewish, and (e) Practitioners with Disabilities. In addition, the biographies are also posted in Spanish, Tagalog, and Chinese.
  • Focus on diversity recruitment through membership and participation in other organizations including the (a) American School Counselor Association (ASCA), (b) National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP), (c) Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA), and the (d) Health Professions for Diversity (HPD) Coalition. AOTA is a member of the Advisory Council for both NAAHP and the HPD Coalition.
  • AOTA's E.K. Wise Scholarship was revised to include the following focus: "The focus of the scholarship will be to support students who can meet E.K. Wise's and the Association's objectives of developing a workforce to meet society's diverse occupational needs in underserved areas or communities." Three professional-level students are selected each year to receive a $5,000 scholarship.
  • The Define Yourself brochure has been updated to better reflect the diversity of the profession and the various roles that graduates can assume. Particular attention was spent on ensuring the diversity of the profession was represented.
  • Funds for Recruitment: The Professional Affairs Department has drafted a concept paper on proposals to seek funding from relevant foundations. The specific activities that we envision from this initiative would depend upon the foundations' priorities to a certain extent, but the focus of the proposed initiatives involves the Internet and online communications specific to the recruitment of a diverse student population.

Current Demographics Relative to Diversity

AOTA members: 85.3% white/Caucasian, according to the 2015 study. 

Current Student Population

  • Programs offering doctoral degree level programs—88.6% Caucasian
  • Programs offering masters degree level programs—72.8% Caucasian
  • Programs for OT assistants—74.6% Caucasian

When reviewing the student data, it is clear that the needle is actually moving and that occupational therapy academic programs are being more successful in attracting a diverse student group.

When reviewing the student data, it is clear that the needle is actually moving and that occupational therapy academic programs are being more successful in attracting a diverse student group.