The national average occupational therapy salary is just under $89,000 per year.

All licensed occupational therapists have completed a graduate degree, passed the national occupational therapy exam, and become licensed by the state in which they work. Because eligibility requirements to become an occupational therapist are the same across the country, years of experience and geographic location are the two biggest influencers on salary rather than education level.

The outlook for occupational therapy job growth across the U.S. is much higher than the predicted average job growth for all occupations. The demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow, as an increasing number of aging individuals and people with autism will benefit from occupational therapy services.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Occupational therapists (OTs) work with people of all ages who are struggling to do everything they would like to be able to do in their daily lives. Through the use of customized daily activities, OTs help their clients gain or regain skills that they need in order to live life to its fullest. People living with an injury, disability, or illness can benefit from occupational therapy services.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) explains that common OT interventions include helping children with disabilities, such as autism or other learning challenges, participate more fully in school and social situations. OTs also frequently help people recovering from an injury and older adults regain physical and cognitive skills.

A typical occupational therapy program includes:

  • An initial individualized evaluation to identify the client’s strengths, weaknesses, and treatment goals.
  • A customized treatment plan targeted at specific goals.
  • An outcomes evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the interventions and to make changes, if necessary.

Occupational therapy is an evidenced-based practice rooted in science. OTs utilize a holistic perspective to figure out how to make the environment more accessible to their clients. The client is an essential part of the treatment planning process, as goals, plans, and outcomes are determined.

Occupational Therapy Salary

OTs are master’s-level therapists who have passed the Occupational Therapy Registered exam and become licensed in the state in which they practice. Because of their high level of education and training, OTs are paid relatively well throughout the country. As of May 2020, the average OT salary in the U.S. is $88,649.

Average national OT salaries vary as follows:

  • Top 10%: $103,804
  • Top 25%: $96,582
  • Median: $88,649
  • Bottom 25%: $81,207
  • Bottom 10%: $74,431

As with most occupations, OT salaries typically increase with years of experience. These are average OT earnings by seniority:

  • Top-level: $127,977 per year
  • Senior-level: $104,997 per year
  • Mid-level: $84,270 per year
  • Junior-level: $67,635 per year
  • Starting-level: $55,490 per year

OT Salary by State

In addition to years of experience, your geographic location can impact how much you can expect to earn as an OT. While OTs are paid well across the country, some states pay higher average OT salaries than others.

Average annual salaries for OTs by state, as reported by Salary.com, are as follows:

  • Alaska: $99,197
  • Alabama: $82,915
  • Arkansas: $81,611
  • Arizona: $87,487
  • California: $98,843
  • Colorado: $88,225
  • Connecticut: $95,746
  • Washington, DC: $98,427
  • Delaware: $92,915
  • Florida: $84,066
  • Georgia: $85,614
  • Hawaii: $92,844
  • Iowa: $84,685
  • Idaho: $83,519
  • Illinois: $90,879
  • Indiana: $86,455
  • Kansas: $83,977
  • Kentucky: $83,269
  • Louisiana: $84,773
  • Massachusetts: $96,277
  • Maryland: $91,238
  • Maine: $85,304
  • Michigan: $88,561
  • Minnesota: $90,525
  • Missouri: $84,331
  • Mississippi: $76,986
  • Montana: $80,216
  • North Carolina: $84,419
  • North Dakota: $83,092
  • Nebraska: $81,145
  • New Hampshire: $89,817
  • New Jersey: $97,835
  • New Mexico: $80,880
  • Nevada: $90,702
  • New York: $94,950
  • Ohio: $86,402
  • Oklahoma: $83,181
  • Oregon: $88,136
  • Pennsylvania: $88,313
  • Rhode Island: $93,268
  • South Carolina: $82,827
  • South Dakota: $75,747
  • Tennessee: $80,393
  • Texas: $86,895
  • Utah: $83,838
  • Virginia: $87,959
  • Vermont: $85,216
  • Washington: $94,507
  • Wisconsin: $87,163
  • West Virginia: $78,402
  • Wyoming: $78,756

If you are considering moving in hopes of increasing your OT salary, it is important to remember that occupational therapy licenses have state-specific requirements. While similar from state to state, you will need a valid OT license from each state that you plan to practice in as an OT.

Top Companies for Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings. From schools to hospitals, OTs provide essential services to children and adults.

According to CareerExplorer, these are the top five industries where OTs work:

  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)
  • Home health care services
  • Offices of other professionals (physical, occupational, and speech therapists)
  • Hospitals (state, local, and private)
  • Elementary and secondary schools (state, local, and private)

These are the top companies for OTs in the U.S. and their average reported salaries:

  • Sutter Health: $129,337
  • Professional Tutors of America: $126,257
  • TT Medical: $125,022
  • TheraCare: $124,781
  • Stern at Home Therapy: $117,168
  • Outreach Physical and Occupational Therapy and Speech Rehabilitation: $116,872
  • Kindred at Home: $115,248
  • Lifelong Therapeutics: $112,202
  • The Stepping Stones Group: $109,937
  • United Therapy Solutions, Inc: $108,122
  • Confident Care: $106,952
  • Cranial Technologies: $105,445
  • Baylor Scott & White Health: $103,897
  • Host Healthcare: $102,392
  • LHC Group: $101,387
  • Solace Pediatric Home Healthcare: $98,232

While these companies are preferred places for an occupational therapist because of their good salary offerings, they offer many additional benefits to employees, such as:

  • Flexible work schedules.
  • Access to many clients.
  • Good company wide communication.
  • Team-building activities and high morale.
  • A professional working environment.
  • Employee control over caseloads.
  • Supportive managers.
  • Rewarding work.

Job Growth in the Occupational Therapy Field

Occupational therapists report earnings that are above the national average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in the field of occupational therapy are expected to grow by 18% from 2018 to 2028. This compares to a 13% job growth rate for all health diagnosing and treating practitioners and a 5% total job growth rate for all occupations.

The demand for occupational therapists depends on the ability of individuals to pay for such services. Occupational therapy services are typically paid for through health insurance or directly by clients. For students who qualify for school-based occupational therapy services, the costs are covered by the student’s school district.

As the current baby boom population ages, an increasing number of OTs will be needed to help individuals address age-related issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. Likewise, people living with chronic health conditions like diabetes are continuing to seek noninvasive treatment options.

Additionally, as the rates of autism diagnoses grow across the country, the demand for school and home-based occupational therapy interventions will increase in order to help those students improve their social skills and abilities to accomplish everyday tasks of living.

A Career in Occupational Therapy

A career in occupational therapy is bound to be a rewarding, challenging, and unique one. OTs are highly trained individuals who are skilled at assessing their clients’ needs and developing customized treatment plans. OTs are team players who continually consult with other treatment professionals, educators, and parents.

According to the BLS, job opportunities will continue to grow for licensed occupational therapists across all settings, but particularly in hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings designed for older people.

OTs who specialize in a specific treatment area will have strong job prospects. Specialization is not necessary, however, as a broad knowledge of the field will help you to be successful in whichever occupational therapy setting you end up in.

References

Certification Eligibility Requirements. National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Occupational Therapist. (June 2020). Indeed.

Occupational Therapist Salary. CareerExplorer.

Occupational Therapist Salary in the United States. (May 2020). Salary.com.

Occupational Therapists: Job Outlook. (April 2020). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is Occupational Therapy? American Occupational Therapy Association.