Perhaps the biggest question is how much graduates from occupational therapy schools can expect to earn after becoming certified. The most significant factor is where an occupational therapist works. At the low end, average annual earnings are around $62,000, while the highest-paid occupational therapists earn $85,000 or more, with the majority falling in between, with incomes ranging from $67,000 to $79,000. The current median income is around $73,000 for a certified and licensed therapist, while the average is $89,000.
Occupational therapists working at correctional facilities earn the least – an average of $58,000 per year – while allied health therapists at the high end can earn more than $100,000.
Here is a breakdown of average salaries by title for 2010:
- School OT – $98,000
- Correctional facility OT – $58,000
- Travel OT – $85,000
- Traveling OT – $96,000
- Rehab OT – $98,000
- Travel OT assistant – $83,000
- Allied health OT – $103,000
- Pediatric OT – $72,000
A recent survey by the publication Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners revealed some interesting trends in earnings, most notably how widely earnings can vary by state. In North Carolina, for example, licensed graduates of occupational therapy schools earn an average annual income of $83,000, while those in California, Florida, Maryland, Indiana, and New Jersey average $70,000 or more. Salaries can be much lower in other states, however. The lowest average income was reported in Wisconsin, with occupational therapists earning $55,982 per year.
In terms of hourly rates, New York ranked highest at $47.00, followed by Arizona ($44.53) and New Jersey ($43.70). The lowest average hourly rate was in Virginia at $32.81, but practitioners in a number of states earn just $30 an hour. Among occupational therapists responding to the publication’ s 2009 survey, those working in skilled nursing facilities were the highest earners at $74,828 per year or $35.59 per hour, followed by specialty hand clinics at $70,958 and hospital outpatient clinics at $70,409, or $36.15 per hour.
Specialty certification does not appear to have a significant impact on earning potential, according to the analysis. Less than 1 percent of survey respondents said that not having any specialist certification has kept them from getting a job, but 14 percent said that it has slowed reimbursement for services. Of the 79 therapist respondents who had been promoted in the prior year, though, 37 had specialty certifications. The average national salary for an occupational therapist with specialty certification was $69,309, according to the report. Therapists with specialized industrial rehabilitation credentials, including certified work capacity evaluators and those certified to perform functional capacity evaluations, earned annual wages of $71,917.
According to the survey, graduates from occupational therapy schools with entry-level master’ s degrees earned the least at $59,431 per year, while therapists with bachelor’ s degrees achieved prior to the 2007 shift requiring graduate degrees earned slightly less, on average, than those with postprofessional master’ s degrees: $67,751 versus $67,955. Entry-level PhD graduates from occupational therapy schools earned, on average, $75,000 per year.