A local college recently announced a new program to train occupational therapy assistants, citing 41% national growth through 2022 and a persistent labor shortage.
As a job seeker how could you decide whether to invest over $45,000 of your tuition dollars in this program?
Enter the Long-Term Occupational Projections, 2012–2022, for New York State and its 10 labor market regions. These data were just released by the New York State Department of Labor. They tell you the demand for about 700 different detailed occupations, both statewide and in your local area.
Click here to download the chart.
How to Read the Chart
1. Identify your occupational title, which is sometimes easier said than done. Suppose you are looking for information on occupational therapy assistants. That one is not too difficult because there is actually an occupational title named “occupational therapy assistants” (try not to confuse it with occupational therapists or occupational therapy aides). However, you will find that the list is not sorted alphabetically by occupation. To find your title you will need to use Microsoft Excel’s Find function. If you still cannot find an occupation that matches the job title you had in mind, try searching for it on www.onetcodeconnector.org.
2. Check out the Employment numbers. The first tab on the chart is for all of New York State. Note that there are projected to be 2,570 occupational therapy assistant jobs statewide in 2022, 520 more than there were in 2012. That is a growth rate of 25.4% over 10 years—pretty impressive, but not quite as high as the nationwide growth rate cited in our first paragraph. Of course the most important piece of information on this chart is the Total number of Annual Average Openings—just 100 per year. Half of the openings are due to new job growth, half due to replacements for people leaving the occupation.
3. Take a look at the wages. Remember that if you have no experience in the occupation, you will likely start near the entry level. If you can find a job after graduation, $39,720 is probably a high enough annual salary to start paying back those inevitable student loans.
What About Your Local Labor Market?
Information for the Finger Lakes Region, which includes Monroe County plus eight other surrounding counties, can be found in the fourth tab on the chart.
Notice the Total number of Annual Average Openings in the Finger Lakes—zero! (There are actually at least three average annual openings, but rounded to the nearest 10, that equals zero). Thirty or more annual openings would be a less risky number for the Finger Lakes. Some high-demand occupations have 100 or more annual openings.
Entry-level wages for occupational therapy assistants in the Finger Lakes are also a bit lower than statewide—$36,440 annually.
Can You Trust These Numbers?
The Long-Term Occupational Projections are usually fairly consistent with numbers of actual job openings. But for several reasons they are not accurate in every case. So you should always verify them by doing a real-time search on job search web sites.
I performed a search on www.indeed.com for occupational therapy assistants within 50 miles of Rochester, NY, expecting to find only one, or none. To my surprise I found at least four unduplicated, full-time, regular jobs posted. I also found a number of part-time, per diem, or travel jobs. So this was one of those instances where the long-term projections underestimated the number of openings.
Supply and Demand
We cannot discuss demand without also looking at supply. In the labor market demand represents the number of job openings. Supply represents the number of qualified job seekers competing for those jobs. For example, until that new occupational therapy assistant program starts pumping out graduates, we may very well have a labor shortage—even with a relatively small number of annual openings. However, if the college starts graduating 15 occupational therapy assistants per year, we may end up with an oversupply. Graduates of the program would then have to be open to working a travel job or relocating. The long-term projections show that more than half of the statewide openings are likely to be downstate.
So Should You Pursue That Occupation or Not?
When in doubt, get some advice. College counselors can give you an idea of the market for the jobs they prepare you for. But keep in mind that their perspective is limited to the educational programs offered by their school. And admissions counselors at some colleges may advise you with the motive of filling a recruitment quota.
Your local career center is a great place to get a second opinion. If in Rochester, come see us at one of the RochesterWorks! Career Centers. Elsewhere in New York State, find your local career center at http://labor.ny.gov/career-center-locator/.