Armand Patella|June 02, 2023

How Much Does an Occupational Therapist Make? - A Comprehensive Guide

If you're considering a career as an occupational therapist, one of the questions you are probably curious about is how much money you can expect to make. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the factors affecting an occupational therapist's salary, the average salaries based on experience, and the educational requirements to become an occupational therapist.

Understanding Occupational Therapy

Before diving into the salary details, it's important to have a basic understanding of what occupational therapy (OT) is and what an occupational therapist does. OT is a type of healthcare that focuses on helping people perform daily activities and live a full life despite physical, psychological, or social challenges. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages, from infants to the elderly.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a client-centered healthcare profession that uses activity and occupational engagement to promote health and enable participation in life. Occupational therapists help people with physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities to overcome the obstacles they face every day.

One of the key principles of occupational therapy is that everyone has a unique set of abilities and challenges. Occupational therapists work with patients to identify their strengths and limitations and develop a plan to help them achieve their goals. This may involve adapting activities or environments to make them more accessible, teaching new skills, or providing assistive devices.

The Role of an Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists work with individuals to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. They develop customized treatment plans and interventions to help patients overcome obstacles and improve their functioning.

For example, an occupational therapist working with a child with autism might use play-based activities to help the child develop social skills and improve their ability to communicate with others. An occupational therapist working with an older adult who has had a stroke might focus on improving their ability to perform daily activities such as dressing, grooming, and cooking.

Occupational therapists also play an important role in helping people recover from injuries or surgeries. They may work with patients to develop an exercise program to help them regain strength and mobility, or teach them new ways to perform daily tasks while they are healing.

Occupational therapists collaborate with other healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, to provide comprehensive care. They may also work with educators, employers, and community organizations to promote inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities.

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

While both occupational therapy and physical therapy (PT) are healthcare professions that help people improve their quality of life, there are some differences between the two. PT focuses mainly on restoring mobility and function, while OT is more concerned with the activities of daily living, self-care, and overall functional independence.

For example, a physical therapist might work with a patient who has had knee surgery to help them regain strength and mobility in their legs. An occupational therapist might work with the same patient to help them learn how to dress themselves while they are still recovering.

Occupational therapists and physical therapists may work together to provide comprehensive care to patients. They may also collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure that patients receive the support they need to achieve their goals and live a full life.

Educational Requirements for Occupational Therapists

If you're considering a career as an occupational therapist, you will need to meet certain educational requirements. These typically include earning a bachelor's degree in a related field, followed by a master's or doctorate in occupational therapy.

Bachelor's Degree in a Related Field

To become an occupational therapist, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree in a related field like biology, kinesiology, or psychology. Some programs may require prerequisite courses in anatomy, physiology, statistics, and psychology.

Master's or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy

After earning a bachelor's degree, the next step is to complete a master's or doctorate in occupational therapy. These programs typically take two to four years to complete and include both coursework and clinical training. After completing your education, you will need to pass a licensing exam and obtain certification to practice.

Licensing and Certification

To practice as an occupational therapist, you will need to obtain a license in the state where you plan to work. The requirements vary by state, but typically include completing an accredited educational program, passing a national exam, and meeting continuing education requirements. Certification is optional but highly recommended, as it demonstrates your competence and commitment to the profession.

Factors Affecting Occupational Therapist Salaries

The salary of an occupational therapist varies depending on several factors, including your geographic location, level of experience and education, practice setting, and specialization.

Geographic Location

The geographic location of where you work can have a significant impact on your salary. Occupational therapists in New York, California, and Texas tend to have higher salaries due to the high demand for healthcare professionals in these states. Rural areas may offer lower salaries and limited job opportunities.

Level of Education and Experience

As with most professions, the more education and experience you have, the higher your earning potential. Entry-level occupational therapists can expect to earn less than experienced occupational therapists. Specializing in a particular area of OT can also increase your earning potential.

Practice Setting and Specialization

Your practice setting and specialization can also affect your salary. Occupational therapists who work in hospitals, nursing homes, or home health care tend to earn more than those working for schools or outpatient clinics. Specializing in pediatric OT, geriatric OT, or mental health OT can also increase your salary.

Average Salaries for Occupational Therapists

Entry-Level Salaries

Entry-level occupational therapists can expect to earn around $60,000-$70,000 annually. This can vary depending on the factors mentioned above.

Mid-Career Salaries

Mid-career occupational therapists with a few years of experience can expect to earn between $75,000-$85,000 annually. Again, this can vary depending on the practice setting and specialization.

Experienced Occupational Therapist Salaries

Experienced occupational therapists with many years of experience can earn anywhere between $90,000-$100,000 or more annually. Those with advanced education, certifications, and specialization may earn even higher salaries.


If you're considering a career as an occupational therapist, you can expect to earn a good salary with plenty of room for growth and advancement. The educational requirements are stringent, but the payoff is worth it. Factors such as practice setting, experience, location, and specialty all play a role in how much you can expect to earn, so it's important to research the different opportunities available to you. Ultimately, pursuing a career as an occupational therapist can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience.

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