What is an Occupational Therapist
An occupational therapist (or an OT), is someone who helps people with severe mental, physical, or development conditions to develop or recover their ability to maintain daily work and life skills. Various treatments involve adapting the environment, learning new skills, or modifying tasks in order to perform them. For more information on how to become an occupational therapist, visit our occupational therapist job description page.
Occupational therapists work in relatively spacious rooms, often with various machines and tools to aid in treatment. They spend a great deal of time on their feet, helping patients in their recovery. There is some risk of back strain, due to the lifting and moving of equipment and, in some cases, clients.
Generally occupational therapists will work a standard 40-hour work week, maintaining business hours, however this will often depend on their chosen practice. Certainly in hospitals or other health care and community settings, this would be the case. For private practices, however, the therapist dictates their own schedule, and thus can work longer hours if desired. Many (around a quarter), work part-time.
Mean Annual Occupational Therapist Salary
The average annual occupational therapist salary is $76,400. The average salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $50,500 and the top 10% makes over $107,070.
Occupational Therapist Salary: Quick Summary
|2012 Mean Salary||$76,400 per year
$36.73 per hour
|Top 10% Salary||$107,070 per year
$51.47 per hour
|Bottom 10% Salary||$50,500 per year
$24.28 per hour
|Number of Jobs, 2012||105,540|
Occupational Therapist Job Outlook and Prospects
Proposed federal legislation set to impose limits on reimbursement for therapy services, which is expected to negatively impact job prospects in the short term,lead to a great demand for their services as more people seek them due to the affordability. So, while the amount earned per patient may decrease in the immediate future, the overall amount earned is expected to rise.
The job outlook of occupational therapists is very promising as aging baby-boomers will likely to increase the demand for occupational therapists. Many healthcare facilities will have vacancies for licensed occupational therapists owing to the role they play in the treatment of patients suffering from cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions associated with aging.
Overall, the employment prospects are expected to grow by 29%. California and New York offer the best employment prospects, with Texas a close third.
Occupational Therapist Salary: Factors of Influence
There are several factors affecting occupational therapist salary, including experience, demographics, settings, and the ability to travel.
The current mean salary for an OT is $76,400, with overall wages fluctuating between $50,000 and $107,000. Nevada has the highest-paid therapists, followed by New Jersey and California.
A low supply of occupational therapists coupled with high demand is one of the leading factors in salaries. As such, this chart outlines the areas most in need.
As well, the setting will greatly impact on a salary, with the best paid OTs working in home care or nursing care facilities, earning between $8,000 and $10,000 more than the national average.
Education and Specialization
Experience is actually the primary factor in influencing occupational therapist salary. In fact, it is rated much higher than education. Education seems to play very little role in occupational therapist salary; while a degree in occupational therapy is needed for licensing purposes, the holding of a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree seems to make little difference in salary earned.
There are a number of specialty areas, but advanced certification in physical disability-related areas will also aid in earning higher salaries.
Experience and Position
As stated, experience is the largest factor impacting on salaries. An occupational therapist with five or fewer years of experience will earn an average of around $64,000, whereas an OT with 20 or more years will earn more than $75,000. Having ten or more years’ experience will be the best means of increasing a salary.
Occupational therapists can also see salary increases through their position; in health care facilities especially, an individual working as the head of a team will have a higher pay than an entry-level position.
Given the various milieus in which occupational therapy can take place, including in the home, therapists who can travel tend to earn more than those in a fixed location. On average, traveling OTs will see a 15% pay increase, and receive a mileage reimbursement. Though it may mean travel to longer distances, these potential costs are often mitigated by housing and living stipends, so this is a lucrative option for those who enjoy travel.
Given the aforementioned, it may actually be a lack of location that can help in increasing the occupational therapist salary. However, there are many fixed locations that also pay quite well. Demand being a major factor, Nevada, New Jersey, California, D.C., and Texas are some of the highest-paying states, with Las Vegas topping the metropolitan areas of earnings. Interestingly, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, holds the second-highest average mean salary, while the listed states hold the majority of the rest of the top ten metropolitan areas.
Occupational Therapist Salary: Top 5
|Top Paying Metropolitan Areas||Top Paying States||Top Paying Industries||States with Highest Employment Level|
|Las Vegas, NV: $109,880||Nevada: $105,290||Home Health Care Services: $86,850||California: (9,250 jobs) $86,380|
|Elizabethtown, KY: $109,150||New Jersey: $86,680||Nursing Care Facilities: $83,180||New York: (7,650 jobs) $74,450|
|Sherman-Denison, TX: $99,860||California: $86,380||Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services: $83,050||Texas: (7,050 jobs) $84,810|
|Stockton, CA: $99,190||District of Columbia: $85,260||Employment Services: $81,830||Florida: (6,160 jobs) $79,560|
|Carson City, NV: $98,690||Texas: $84,810||Insurance Carriers: $79,560||Pennsylvania: (5,580 jobs) $70,450|