Workers in the rehabilitation therapy industry continue to experience low rates of unemployment and high demand, particularly in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.

Allied Health Research Institute (AHRI), St Louis, an academic and industry partnership that focuses on increasing the number of qualified allied health professionals, projects a shortage of 1.5 to 3 million workers by the year 2020. Allied health workers are in clinical health care professions other than medicine and nursing and include physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and therapy assistants. As the US population continues to age, the demand for health care services provided by these professionals is also likely to rise.

Dan Hirschfeld, president of Genesis Rehab Services, Kennett Square, Pa, and AHRI board member, said this shortage translates to an advantage for those looking for recession-proof jobs. The company provides physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services.

“In the current economy, job security is a motivating factor for many professionals looking to enter the workforce or change fields,” Hirschfeld says. Employers are in tight competition for the same clinicians. I don’t expect this to change in the foreseeable future.”

Laurence Shatkin, PhD, validates these findings in his newly released book, “150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs” (JIST, 2008). The rehabilitation therapy industry ranked well overall, including physical therapist (6), occupational therapist (18), physical therapy assistant (44), speech-language pathologist (54), and occupational therapy assistant (72).

Rehabilitation therapists earn an average salary of $60,000 to $70,000. Therapists are required to obtain a master’s degree in order to practice, in addition to maintaining a professional license and/or credential.

Therapy assistants, after receiving an associate’s degree and professional license, earn an average salary of $42,000.

More than 300 colleges and universities offer programs in the therapy disciplines, and job retraining can take as little as 18 months. The shortage of rehabilitation therapists has prompted many companies to offer educational benefits and student scholarships to attract new clinicians.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers occupational outlooks and job descriptions for rehabilitation therapists.

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[Source: PR Newswire]