Total Employment Estimate: 26,137
Median Annual Wage Estimate: $48,486
Job Growth since 2006: 10.3%
Wage Growth since 2006: 15.3%
Analysis: A beneficiary of an aging population. Occupational therapists help the disabled learn or relearn the daily activities most of us take for granted, from banking, to grocery shopping, to holding down a steady job, to bathing. OT assistants first emerged in the 1960s, during a shortage of occupational therapists, and are viewed as deputies. For example, an OT assistant might help a quadriplegic learn how to use his wheelchair safely. Increasingly, the profession is linked to medical advances that allow the elderly, accident victims and premature children to live. “Although you may be fairly healthy,” says Penelope Moyers Cleveland, president of the American Occupational Therapy Association. “you’re probably going to need help learning to adapt as you age.” OT assistants typically have an associate’s degree or certificates, and receive lots of on-the-job training. Many eventually become full-blown occupational therapists.