OTAs, PTAs Ride Demographic Wave to New Opportunities

OTAs, PTAs Ride Demographic Wave to New Opportunities

Without even listening too closely, occupational therapist assistants (OTAs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) should be able to hear opportunity knocking.

"There is a huge opportunity in almost every profession that deals with the aging population due to the sheer numbers of that group," says Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, an umbrella organization that advocates on behalf of local aging agencies.

For OTAs and PTAs willing to work with older patients, choices abound. First, a growing number of positions are available in traditional employment settings -- skilled nursing facilities, acute hospitals, acute and subacute rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, home healthcare, retirement communities and contract therapy providers.

But that's not all. Savvy OTAs and PTAs can craft new niches to serve the Baby Boomers as they age. The Boomers -- those 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 -- have different expectations about aging than previous generations. They want to age well, remain productive and maintain their independence and quality of life.

OTAs: Serve the Community

"There is great opportunity for OTAs to use their skills in nontraditional areas such as community wellness and health-maintenance programs," says Pamela Toto, MS, OTR/L, FAOT, chairwoman of the American Occupational Therapy Association's (AOTA) Gerontology Special Interest Section.

OTAs can work in educational programs that teach community members how to manage and prevent strokes and diabetes, avoid falls and cope with chronic conditions, such as arthritis or low-back pain.

"OTAs have always focused on function, but now that emphasis is more in vogue," says Toto, who is board-certified in geriatrics. "We can help address issues such as community mobility, low vision, home modifications and driver rehab -- emerging practice areas, which are definitely going to increase in importance.

OTA students can prepare for their careers by targeting a practice area and focusing their academic work, volunteer experience, networking and fieldwork in that area, says Toto, an adjunct faculty member with the University of Pittsburgh's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Practicing OTAs can obtain AOTA specialty certification in aging-related areas such as driver rehabilitation and community mobility, environmental modification and low vision.

Medical research is another possibility. Researchers often hire OTAs to complete standardized assessments and collect data, says Toto, who serves as a data collector for a large, five-year study on arthritis.

"Research today has a greater emphasis on function and participation, which lends itself to occupational therapy," she says. To learn about research opportunities, contact local universities.

PTAs: Stay Competitive

For PTAs, the good news is that demand for their services exceeds supply. As more patients experience physical therapy and enjoy its benefits -- like quicker recovery after a joint replacement -- they're more likely to seek these services again.

"Our patient population is becoming more educated," says David Emerick Sr., a PTA and acute rehab program manager for Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Virginia. "Older people and their younger relatives are demanding services and asking educated questions."

The bad news is that all this demand is attracting competition. Athletic trainers, exercise physiologists and massage therapists are all college-educated professionals targeting the same patients. "Everyone is jockeying to be reimbursed for physical therapy," Emerick explains. "But only two are approved right now through Medicare and Medicaid -- PTs and PTAs."

One survival strategy for PTAs: Acquire the skills to compete. Become dual-certified, perhaps as a certified athletic trainer or exercise physiologist, Emerick suggests. Get a sense of where patient volume is -- cardiology, neurology or wound care, for example -- and gain the skills to become marketable in those areas.

The American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA) advanced proficiency recognition program, launched in 2004, allows PTAs to demonstrate proficiency in one of the following areas: neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, integumentary (skin) and cardiovascular/pulmonary. These credentials demonstrate to employers that you've broadened your knowledge. PTAs can also take courses through the APTA's Section on Geriatrics.

For both OTAs and PTAs, combining transferable skills from a previous career with therapy expertise can open other doors. Using administrative skills to manage a wellness program or leveraging construction skills in a modifications consulting venture are two such examples.

Latest Jobs

City of Fort Collins
Posted: 06/30/2015
Fort Collins, CO, 80522
Crown Lift Trucks
Posted: 06/30/2015
Hollister, CA, 95023
Blue Planet Solutions, Inc.
Posted: 06/30/2015
Stamford, CT
Heartland Automotive Services Inc
Posted: 06/30/2015
Seattle, WA
Dixon Advisory USA Inc
Posted: 06/30/2015
New York City, NY, 10005

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.12.0.54-313