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Four Things You Need to Know About OT Salary

There are a lot of factors that determine occupational therapist salary, from education and experience to setting and location—and your willingness to travel.

Mike Willee
5 min read
April 5, 2024
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You didn’t choose this profession for the paycheck. You became an occupational therapist because you enjoy helping people improve the quality of their lives—and that’s admirable. Still, you shouldn’t completely ignore the dollar amount on your pay stub. Money might not be your main motivator, but you deserve fair compensation for the quality of therapy you provide. Determining what’s fair can be tricky due to the forces at play. So, what factors go into determining occupational therapist salary? Here are a few important variables to consider:

1. Experience matters.

According to this PayScale report, the occupational therapist salary for an experienced OT is on average $43.08 an hour, whereas entry-level therapists in their first year of work earn only $33.88. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual median wage for OTs at $93,180 as of May 2022, with the top ten percent earning more than $123,870.   

2. Demographics drive demand.

Remember the supply and demand curve from that Intro to Economics class you took in college? Well, it applies to occupational therapy salary, too. The greater the demand for a service, the higher the price—especially if the supply is low. So, if you practice in an area with a large elderly population but relatively few OTs, your salary is more likely to be above the national average. 

And while we’re on the subject of geography, remember that occupational therapist salary can vary from location to location due to a variety of regional factors such as cost of living and insurance reimbursement rates. For example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2022, OTs in California made an average annual salary of $109,220, whereas OTs practicing in Puerto Rico made $45,380. 

3. Setting affects salary.

The type of facility in which you practice also affects earning potential when it comes to occupational therapist salary. According to BLS data, OTs who work full-time in home healthcare services make an average of $101,5000—far more than the $79,660 earned by OTs working in elementary and secondary schools. Comparatively, OTs working in hospitals make an average of $97,400, and those working in PT/OT/SLP offices make $91,420 on average. Those numbers are particularly noteworthy considering that BLS statistics show that 29% of OTs are employed in a hospital setting and 28% work in an outpatient office setting. A separate report from ZipRecruiter states that OTs working in skilled nursing facilities make on average $110.   

4. It pays to travel. 

The national average salary for traveling occupational therapists is $98,873—and that often comes with additional perks like paid housing, non-taxable living stipends, mileage reimbursement, and assignment completion bonuses. If you’ve got the itch to get out and explore different parts of the country—or you’re just not sure what kind of setting you want to work in—travel OT is a fantastic option. Just make sure that before you sign on any dotted lines, you fully research the placement company you contract with and the assignment offers you receive—and pay special attention to things like health benefits, vacation time, sick leave, and assignment termination policies. The company should assure you that if you get stuck in a locale you don’t like, not only will your contract allow you to switch facilities, but also the company will act quickly to relocate you.

If you need a little more reading and resources regarding occupational therapist salary, the WebPT Blog has resources for negotiating a job offer—be that right out of school or just switching jobs—or for approaching your manager when looking for a salary increase. While you’re there, take a moment to check out why WebPT is the leader in Practice Experience Management (PXM) offering a software partnership that promises to engage patients, drive patient and provider satisfaction, and level up your business.

Download your OT Salary Guide now.

Enter your email address below, and we’ll send you a free breakdown of national OT salary data, including averages for each state and lists of the top-paying regions and clinical settings.


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