Occupational Therapist Salary

An occupational therapist assists a client in compensating for a developmental, emotional, mental, physical disability or handicap. The goal of an occupational therapist is to allow a client to offset a permanent loss of function or improve an existing function. An occupational therapist will observe every aspect of a client’s life where they experience difficulty and then create a personalized treatment plan.

Occupational therapists often receive excellent salaries for the health care field. Increasingly, occupational therapists are taking on supervisory roles and guiding occupational aides or assistants. Occupational therapists who keep their certification and license up to date have the best chance to compete for employment opportunities.

The demand for occupational therapists is expected to increase significantly over the next decade. In particular, occupational therapists with experience working with elderly clients or with specific specializations will be highly sought after.

Salary Overview

Occupational therapists’ salaries can vary greatly depending upon whether their employer is private or public and what geographic location they are working in. Occupational therapists certified as Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) will typically earn more than the average median salary. Administrative and supervisory occupational therapists also had higher salaries.

Occupational therapists had a median annual salary of $66,780 in May of 2008. The middle 50% of occupational therapists earned between $55,090 and $81,290. The lowest 10% of occupational therapists earned less than $42,820 per year. The highest 10% of occupational therapists earned more than $98,310 each year.*

Occupational therapists employed by schools had the lowest median annual salary at $60,020. Home health care occupational therapists had the highest median annual salary at $74,510.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Occupational therapists often are compensated with vacation days and insurance benefits as well.

Training and Education Requirements

All states have laws governing occupational therapists. Typically, an occupational therapist will need to earn a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university to apply for a license. A master’s degree or higher is considered to be the minimum accepted for nearly all occupational therapy jobs.

Occupational therapists’ coursework includes behavioral, biological, and physical sciences. Occupational therapy theory will be learned and then practiced. Accredited schools will require a minimum of 24 weeks of supervised work experience during the coursework. Undergraduate coursework can include anatomy, art (for artistic therapy), biology, psychology-related courses, and sociology among others.

As of 2009, 150 master’s degree and 4 doctoral degree programs were accredited.

An occupational therapist must go through the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) program before undergoing a final examination for a license.

Job Description and Outlook

An occupational therapist will typically work in a room filled with rehabilitative machines and tools. Their day will vary depending upon which clients are scheduled. Occupational therapists will often be on their feet most of the day. They may need to lift or help support clients with physical disabilities. An occupational therapist will typically demonstrate how to do a rehabilitative activity before the client attempts it.

Occupational therapists should be exceedingly patient and expect to see the same clients on a long-term basis. Occupational therapy may take months or even years with only slight improvement for some clients.

Full-time occupational therapists worked about 40 hours per week. Roughly 31% of all occupational therapists were part-time. Some occupational therapists may split their work day between different employers at different locations. Occupational therapists who work for schools or universities may need to attend meetings to discuss their clients with professors or teachers. Home health care occupational therapists will likely travel frequently to each client’s home.

Between 2008 and 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment opportunities for occupational therapists to grow 26%. This is significantly above average when compared to other careers. The BLS indicates that the growth in the elderly population will present important opportunities for occupational therapists. The elderly population is likely to live longer, but also require occupational therapy for injuries incurred during old age.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

The BLS suggests that driver rehabilitation, ergonomic consultation and design, and elderly assistance training are becoming increasingly popular specialties for occupational therapists.


Every state requires that a occupational therapist graduate from an accredited school and pass a national examination to apply for a license. A license is necessary to practice. Additional requirements may vary by state. Most states require continuing education coursework for license renewals.

Occupational therapists who will be working in primary or secondary schools may face other requirements such as educational certifications or coursework. Also, a background check or fingerprint check might be necessary.

The National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy offers voluntary certification for occupational therapists. Passing the examination allows occupational therapists to call themselves Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR). In some states, the OTR examination may meet licensing requirements but this is uncommon.

Professional Associations

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) was first established in 1917 to represent practitioners and advance the quality of occupational therapy. Today, the AOTA has more than 41,000 members in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The AOTA assists with the creation of occupational therapy standards and promotes the development of occupational therapy resources.

Most popular careers in Health:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Medical Transcriptionist
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Health Administration
  • Medical Sonographer
  • Dental Assistant

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer