Occupational Therapist Salary in the US

The salary of occupational therapists in the US is one that most professionals would envy. Not only is occupational therapy one of the high-paying jobs in the US, but the job also comes with flexibility and ease. This is not to say that the profession is all roses. However, when you compare the pay of an occupational therapist with that of other professions, it is fairly what many people would dream of. In this article, we have discussed some of the important questions about the salary of occupational therapists in the US. We looked into how to become an occupational therapist, their salary by state, acute care occupational therapist salary, schools that teach occupational therapy, and requirements to become an occupational therapist. Without wasting more time, let’s get to it.

Occupational Therapist Salary in the US

What Are the Steps to Becoming an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapy is a hands-on profession that involves assisting people with disabilities in improving their ability to participate in meaningful daily activities. Working as an occupational therapist (OT) allows you to make a positive difference in the lives of your patients daily. To work as an OT, you must meet certain educational and licensing criteria. Occupational therapy is a type of rehabilitative medicine that employs interventions to help patients with various cognitive and physical issues. It stresses developing and maintaining skills needed to execute daily activities or “occupations.”

Occupational therapists use their creativity to develop unique adaptive movements and technologies that allow patients to participate more completely in activities such as work, play, leisure time, education, social contact, and more. They also assist patients with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting. It is for these reasons that the salary of occupational therapists in the US is high.


What do Occupational Therapists Do?

Occupational therapists help people of all ages with physical and cognitive impairments. They begin by interacting with the patient, instructors, family, or carers to understand the patient’s needs. The next analyzes the patient’s physical, sensory, emotional, and cognitive abilities to formulate therapy goals and plans. The OT and the patient work together to acquire and improve capabilities, and they monitor the patient’s development regularly. Occupational therapists may have the following responsibilities:

  • Assisting patients in learning new ways to carry out ADLs
  • Developing patient-specific solutions that promote independence and healing
  • Helping patients establish a daily regimen, master memory techniques, and solve problems
  • Patients are being taught how to use assistive technologies.
  • Patients are being taught how to execute chores without discomfort.
  • Working with children and adults with developmental and cognitive disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy.
  • Occupational therapists (OTs) work with patients who have physical changes due to aging or injury, such as stroke, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or amputation. An occupational therapist, for example, aids people with autism spectrum condition in regulating their emotions and improving their motor abilities, social skills, and response to stimuli, among other things.


What Are the Pros and Cons of Working as an Occupational Therapist?

Many occupational therapists value the steadiness and flexibility of their jobs. Because occupational therapy is a rapidly expanding discipline, new positions are always becoming available, and the salary of occupational therapists in the US has continued to soar. You can carve out your creative niche within the field or even start your practice. Many employers provide part-time or PRN (as needed) job options. Working as an occupational therapist is also fulfilling since you get to assist others in improving their quality of life.

Once you are a licensed occupational therapist, you can specialize in a certain field, such as pediatrics or gerontology. You can choose from a range of settings, including schools, residential facilities, and acute care.


What Qualifications Do You Require to Work as an Occupational Therapist?

You will study hands-on evaluation and treatment skills in OT school. However, there are some personal and professional qualities that you may develop before you start. The best occupational therapists are good communicators who can work well in groups. They are problem-solvers who come up with unique solutions for their clients. They care about their customers and show flexibility and patience. It’s no surprise that such a fulfilling career draws so many people. If you want to pursue an occupational therapist (OT) profession, you must first learn about the educational requirements.

Occupational therapists must complete a recognized curriculum, obtain a license to practice, and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. As a result, acquiring a master’s degree is an essential component of starting a career in the industry.


What Does It Take to Be an Occupational Therapist?

To work as an occupational therapist, you’ll need to get a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and pass the relevant licensing examinations. Six to seven years in school is typical: four years for an undergraduate degree and two to three years for a graduate degree (if you are attending school full-time). 2 The processes to becoming an occupational therapist are outlined here.

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1. Get your bachelor’s degree.

If you want to work as an occupational therapist, you should get a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like biology, health science, or psychology. If you have a bachelor’s degree in an area that is unrelated to your intended field of study, you may need to complete prerequisite courses before going to graduate school. If you choose to work as an OTA rather than an OT, you only need an associate’s degree in occupational therapy.

2. Get a Master’s Degree

The following step is to obtain a graduate degree from a recognized university. A Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree is available. The MOT and OTD curriculums will contain the fieldwork hours required to sit for the licensure exam and the required coursework. If you want to pursue advocacy, leadership responsibilities, and clinical practice, an OTD is better than an MOT. An OTD normally takes three years to accomplish if you are attending school full-time, although an MOT may just take two years. They are entry-level degrees.

Some colleges, including the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), offer a Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree (PPOTD). This degree is for professional occupational therapists who have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field and want to advance their expertise and credentials by earning a doctorate. Advanced studies in research skills, practice skills, administration, leadership, program development, and more are available through the PPOTD.

3. Obtain certification

To practice occupational therapy in the United States, you must pass the National Board of Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) test after finishing an MOT or an OTD. Because state licensure requirements can differ, you should check with your state’s occupational therapy regulating agency.

4. How Long Does It Take to Become an Occupational Therapist?

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, earning a graduate degree in OT should take two to three years, depending on the program and university you choose. You should set aside 30 to 90 days to prepare for and take the NBCOT exam.


What is the NBCOT Exam?

The next stage in becoming a licensed occupational therapist is to pass the NBCOT exam after completing your master’s degree. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) developed, administered, and reviewed the exam, using evidence-based standards to guarantee that practicing occupational therapists have the necessary skills and knowledge.


School of Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists give treatments for physical illnesses to patients of all ages. They may work with injured patients, youngsters with disabilities, and senior citizens. These are the best colleges for master’s and doctoral-level occupational therapy education (OTD). Based on a poll of academics at peer institutions, each school’s score reflects its average assessment on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (excellent).

1. Boston University

Boston University is a Boston, Massachusetts-based private research university. Although the university is nonsectarian, it has had a long history with the United Methodist Church. It was established in 1839 by Methodists in Newbury, Vermont, before relocating to Boston in 1867.

2. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California is a Los Angeles-based private research university. It is the oldest private research university in California, founded in 1880 by Robert M. Widney.

3. University of Illinois–Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is a Chicago-based public research university. Its campus is located near the Chicago Loop in the Near West Side neighborhood. With more than 33,000 students[9] enrolled in 16 colleges, UIC is the largest institution in the Chicago metropolitan area and the second campus established under the University of Illinois system. It belongs to the “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity” category.

4. University of Pittsburgh

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Institution of Pittsburgh is a public state-related research university. The university’s metropolitan Pittsburgh campus, which houses the university’s core administration and 28,391 undergraduate and graduate students, comprises 17 undergraduate and graduate schools and colleges.

5. Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis (WashU, or WUSTL) is a private research university with a main campus (Danforth) that is primarily split between St. Louis County and Clayton, Missouri. The majority of Washington Campus’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional students attend classes on the 169-acre Danforth Campus, located in the university’s core. The Danforth Campus, which is flanked by Forest Park and the cities of St. Louis, Clayton, and University City, has largely Collegiate Gothic architecture in its academic buildings. Major education journals consistently rank it as one of the world’s most distinguished colleges.

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6. Thomas Jefferson University

Thomas Jefferson Institution is a Philadelphia-based private research university. The university first opened its doors in 1824 and officially merged with Philadelphia University in 2017. The university’s branding sometimes includes the term Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) to represent its history. It belongs to the “R2: Doctoral Universities – High Research Activity” category.

7. Colorado State University

Colorado State Institution, located in Fort Collins, Colorado, is a public land-grant research university. The Colorado State University System’s flagship institution. “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity” is how Colorado State University is designated.


Occupational Therapy Job Opportunities and Outlook

Within the field of occupational therapy, there are numerous opportunities for specialization. Following the receipt of your license to practice, you may wish to pursue certification in a specialty field. Physical rehabilitation, driving and community mobility, gerontology, pediatrics, and mental health are all popular occupational therapy specialties. Keep in mind that most specialties necessitate extensive work experience (the AOTA recommends 3,000 hours) in the field. Occupational therapy is ranked #11 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Healthcare Jobs for 2022.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapists’ median annual compensation was $86,280 in 2020, and employment of occupational therapists is expected to expand 17% from 2020 to 2030. An estimated 23,000 new employment is predicted to be created during that time.  Occupational therapists work in hospitals about 29% of the time, while 25% work in rehabilitative offices with physical therapists, audiologists, and speech therapists. The remaining 46% work in schools, home health care, skilled nursing institutions, and other places. These figures show that occupational therapists are in high demand and that this sector is developing.


Requirements to Become an Occupational Therapist

The path to earning that degree begins with enrolling in a top-notch occupational therapy school, which will help you develop skills and knowledge while also preparing you for the crucial examinations that will allow you to become a registered and qualified practitioner. Finding a graduate degree program that fits those requirements and your needs is the key. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, OT jobs are expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 24% between 2016 and 2026. According to Bureau Data, an OT’s typical yearly compensation is above average, at $83,200.

A bachelor’s degree is the first step toward becoming a certified occupational therapist, aside from having a particular enthusiasm for the field. Remember that becoming a licensed practitioner requires a master’s degree. The good news is that many colleges will accept applications from students with a wide range of backgrounds and academic interests. The prerequisite courses, taking the GRE, and presenting official transcripts or work experience are all criteria for admission to an OT degree program, just as they are for any other health care graduate school. An occupational therapy master’s program can be completed in as little as two years. Expect to learn about the following topics in class:

  • Mental health and learning challenges
  • Functional anatomy and neuroscience
  • Client interventions and research-based practice
  • Acute and chronic physical conditions

Students should opt for reputable colleges with innovative curricula if they want to acquire the greatest occupational therapy education. This means looking for an Occupational Therapy program approved by the American Occupational Therapy Association that includes service learning, field experience, and collaborative research opportunities in addition to the classroom, such as Elmhurst University’s curriculum.


What is the salary of an occupational therapist in the US?

Occupational therapy salary in the US is mouthwatering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapists earned an average annual pay of $84,270 in May 2018 or nearly $40.51 per hour. For a variety of reasons, these specialists’ salaries vary. As a result, the worst ten percent earned less than $55,490 in the same year, while the top ten percent earned more than $120,750. The location and context in which an occupational therapist works are two elements that impact how much money they make. In 2020, the median Occupational therapy salary in the US was $86,280. The best-paid 25 percent made $103,060 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $70,880.


Salary of Occupational Therapist in the US by State

Between 2020 and 2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 23,000 new occupational therapy jobs. The profession is predicted to rise by 17%, compared to a 12% increase in overall health care diagnosing and treating practitioner positions. The US’s occupational therapy salary is best in some cities, including Las Vegas, Modesto, Vallejo, and San Jose. These are the metropolitan regions with the highest occupational therapist salaries. An occupational therapist’s compensation is influenced by various factors, including location, education, specialty, industry, and employer.

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Child daycare services ($106,070); management of companies and enterprises ($99,850); continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly ($94,360); home health care services ($94,270); and nursing care facilities ($91,810) are the highest-paying places of employment with the highest average annual salaries for this career. To suit patients’ schedules, most occupational therapists work full-time. However, others may work nights or weekends, which majorly impacts the variation of the US’s occupational therapy salary.


Occupational Therapy-Related Jobs

1. Physical therapist

The average salary for a physical therapist is $91,680 per year. A physical therapist helps people who have been injured or have been physically harmed somehow. Before creating and implementing programs, physical therapists assess a patient’s condition and medical history.

2. Registered Nurses

Registered Nurses make an average of $80,010 per year. A registered nurse manages and coordinates a patient’s care while also giving health-related information.

3. Occupational Therapy Aide

Occupational Therapy Aide makes $34,160 on average. Occupational therapy assistants assist occupational therapists in assisting people who have been injured, ill, or disabled in learning or relearning basic life skills such as cleaning their teeth and putting on clothes.



As we have seen, Occupational Therapists is a great Job that not only comes with great pay but with prestige. One of the most important things I like about it is that it is a profession that focuses on helping humanity. As of 2020, Occupational Therapy salary in the US was an average of $87,480 in 2020. Comparable jobs earned the following average salary in 2020: Physical Therapists made $91,680, Registered Nurses made $80,010, Occupational Therapy Assistants made $63,420, and Occupational Therapy Aides made $34,160. In 2022, we have noticed a significant rise to $110,456, and this figure will continue to soar. We believe that this post has helped you indulge your curiosity about the US’s occupational therapy salary.


Frequently Asked Questions

What does an occupational therapist earn per hour?

Occupational therapists earned an average of $50.06 per hour in 2022.

What does an occupational therapist make in Florida?

In 2020, occupational therapists in Florida earned an average of $89,785.

How much does an occupational therapist make in the United States?

In 2020, the average salary for occupational therapists was $87,480.

Is occupational therapy a good profession to pursue?

OT is a good career choice because it allows you to work from home and has a flexible schedule. It also pays well and allows you to choose where you work. While you may face setbacks and difficult situations, you will also have the opportunity to help others and make a difference.

Do occupational therapists make a lot of money?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of occupational therapists is around $87,480 per year (BLS). However, the pay in this field varies depending on where you work. Child daycare services ($106,070) is the highest-paying industry for OTs.

What does the future hold for occupational therapists?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapists are expected to expand at a faster-than-average pace of 18 percent between 2018 and 2028. This expected job growth rate is significantly higher than the national average of 5% for all occupations. As a result, occupational therapists should have a high level of job security and various career options.

What distinguishes an occupational therapist from a physical therapist?

The major distinction between an occupational therapist and a physical therapist is that an occupational therapist works to improve their patients’ capacity to do daily life activities. In contrast, physical therapists work to improve their patients’ ability to move portions of their bodies. Physical and occupational therapists give rehabilitative therapy to help their patients achieve independence in their daily lives.

What options do occupational therapists have for advancement?

Occupational therapists have a variety of options to develop their profession. Some occupational therapists opt to specialize in pediatric occupational therapy, mental health occupational therapy, or hand therapy to enhance their careers. Other occupational therapists want to improve their careers by becoming senior occupational therapists, regional rehabilitation managers, or directors.

What is the highest paying field in occupational therapy?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paying industries for occupational therapists, as of May 2020, are:

  • Nursing care facilities: $92,260 per year.
  • Home healthcare services: $91,830 per year.
  • Hospitals: $86,910 per year.
  • Offices: $86,830 per year.
  • Elementary and secondary schools: $76,560 per year.

Where do the highest-paid occupational therapists work?

Here are some of the states with the highest average salary for occupational therapists

  • In Nevada – the average occupational therapist salary is $105,450.
  • California’s average occupational therapist salary is $98,450.
  • New Jersey’s average occupational therapist salary is $96,820.
  • Arizona’s average occupational therapist salary is $95,180.
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Martin Uwakwe

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