Employment for occupational therapy expected to skyrocket in next seven years

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Occupational therapy is becoming one of the fastest growing jobs across the country.

Local universities are seeing a rise in their enrollment. Jefferson College faculty say all the courses in the occupational therapy program are busier than ever.

"We are at maximum. We started out with 15 students in 2007 we now have 20 students in the class," said Director of Graduate Programs David Haynes at Jefferson College.

Occupational therapy is listed as one of the fastest growing fields of employment nationwide, second to wind turbine service technicians, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of occupational therapists is expected to increase by 27 percent in the next seven years.

Dave Henderson, who is pursuing a master's degree in occupational therapy, was attracted to the personal reward and other benefits such as the $80,000 average starting annual salary.

"One of the cool things about occupational therapy is that it's a practice that provides meaning and value within the scope of therapy," said Henderson.

Haynes believes one of the reasons for the increase in employment has to do with more people remaining active in their later years.

"They're living longer and they're not wanting to be in nursing homes and they want to be part of the community and stay active," says Haynes.

Some of the schools with an occupational therapy program in Virginia include Shenandoah University, Radford University and Virginia Commonwealth University, to name a few.

As for Henderson, he can't wait to hit the ground running, "It's been my dream for the past decade to be pursuing the dream is just lovely!"

Occupational therapy has become such a growing interest at the college, that the department will soon have a doctoral program this fall.