What Is the Average Salary for an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists use formal education and therapy to help patients overcome developmental, emotional or physical conditions. Read on to find career and salary information for occupational therapists. Schools offering Occupational Therapy Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

An occupational therapist (OT) helps patients overcome developmental, emotional, physical and mental conditions by teaching them the skills required to accomplish everyday tasks. You would use a wide range of treatment and therapy techniques to help people who are recovering from an injury or who suffer from a chronic condition. The end goal for each of your patients will be to aid them in their quest to function as independently as possible, and to help them live a productive and happy life.

Important Facts About Occupational Therapists

Continuing Education Classes are required to maintain certification
Key Skills Observational, critical thinking, interpersonal, oral and written communication, time management, judgment and decision making
Work Environment Hospitals, therapist offices, schools
Similar Occupations Athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, recreational therapists, speech-language pathologists

Education Requirements

To become an occupational therapist, you'll need to complete a master's degree program and become licensed by the state in which you work. The licensure process includes passing a national OT exam. You can earn voluntary professional certification from the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy. In some states, if you pass the certification exam you can automatically obtain an OT license.

Salary Overview

Your salary as an OT would depend on where you work, who you work for and how long you've been in the business. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average annual income was $85,350 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Those who were in the top ten percentile of wage estimates earned $120,750 or more annually, and those who were in the bottom ten percentile made $55,490 or less.

Salary by Location

According to the BLS, the top paying state for OTs in May 2018 was Nevada, which had an annual average wage of $100,970. Other top paying locales included California ($95,160), New Jersey ($96,600), Arizona ($94,800) and the District of Columbia ($94,360). The lowest paying states at that time paid between $67,420 and $78,720, and some of these locations included Montana, Nebraska, Maine, Wisconsin, Missouri, South Carolina and North Dakota.

Salary by Industry

The BLS reported in May 2018 that OTs working at the offices of other health practitioners made average salaries of $87,120, and those working for general medical and surgical hospitals made average salaries of $85,770. Management of companies and enterprises paid the most, with average salary of $94,170.

Salary by Experience

According to PayScale.com, OT salary ranges differ based on the number of years of experience. This source reported the following salary data in May 2019:

  • 0-5 years: $51,327-$83,385
  • 5-10 years: $59,586-$98,144
  • 10-20 years: $62,502-$107,007
  • 20 years or more: $65,876-$108,041

Job Outlook

The states that were reported by the BLS to have the highest employment levels of OTs in May 2018 were California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida. If you're looking for employers with the highest level of employment for this occupation, then you'll want to look for vocational opportunities with health practitioners' offices, hospitals, schools, nursing care facilities and home health care services.

The BLS reported that occupational therapists were expected to see good job opportunities from 2016-2026 due to an increased need for the treatment of many disabilities and illnesses, including those related to aging. An increase demand in rehabilitation programs may also contribute to this vocation growing. The expected growth increase is 24% from 2016-2026 which makes this a much faster than the average growth when compared to other occupations.

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