How Much Do Occupational Therapists Make?

Occupational therapist jobs offer competitive salaries and high growth potential. Learn more about average occupational therapist salary expectations.

portrait of Staff Writers
by Staff Writers

Published September 22, 2022

Share this Article
How Much Do Occupational Therapists Make?
Image Credit: Pekic / E+ / Getty Images


Occupational therapy can help people overcome injury, disability, or illness. Occupational therapists work with patients of all ages, allowing them to adapt their environment or task to their needs.

Becoming an occupational therapist requires earning a graduate degree from an accredited program, passing a national certification exam, and obtaining a state license. Like many healthcare careers, students should attend an accredited program to ensure they meet licensing requirements. Advanced occupational therapy education, location, and professional credentials or specialization can increase occupational therapist salary expectations.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

What Is the Average Occupational Therapist Salary?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median occupational therapist salary in May 2021 was $85,570, though some industries offer much higher pay. This median salary exceeds the median salary for all occupations, which was $45,760 in 2021.

Occupational therapist salary often increases with experience. As of August 2022 Payscale data, entry-level licensed occupational therapists make an average of $34.80 per hour. Those with 5-9 years of experience earn an average of almost $39 per hour.

The occupational therapist's industry will also affect job opportunities and salary expectations. While healthcare practitioners' offices offer the most occupational therapist jobs, home healthcare services report the highest average salary of $102,640, as per BLS data.

Job Growth for Occupational Therapists

The BLS projects a 17% increase in occupational therapist jobs from 2020-2030, with about 10,100 job openings each year. Several factors drive the demand for more occupational therapists, including an aging population. The growth in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and a move toward holistic, non-invasive treatments to manage chronic conditions are also driving the field's growth.

How Much Do Occupational Therapists Make By State?

Geographic location can impact occupational therapist salary expectations. Some states may find it challenging to meet the demand for occupational therapists. The cost of living can also lead to higher pay.

Nevada, California, and New Jersey offered high occupational therapist salaries in May 2021, according to the BLS. California and Texas also employ the most occupational therapists to serve their large populations. States in the western portion of the U.S. typically reported higher pay for occupational therapists than states in the Plains, the Midwest and the Southeast.

Occupational Therapist Median Salary by State, 2021
State Annual Mean Wage
Alabama $84,710
Alaska $93,440
Arizona $90,520
Arkansas $81,360
California $105,760
Colorado $93,250
Connecticut $94,040
Delaware $88,680
District of Columbia $90,150
Florida $86,640
Georgia $87,250
Hawaii $92,350
Idaho $80,760
Illinois $83,620
Indiana $85,580
Iowa $82,110
Kansas $86,430
Kentucky $81,330
Louisiana $92,230
Maine $74,380
Maryland $86,460
Massachusetts $88,040
Michigan $77,880
Minnesota $80,060
Mississippi $87,420
Missouri $78,990
Montana $82,300
Nebraska $83,710
Nevada $109,010
New Hampshire $82,820
New Jersey $100,140
New Mexico $95,060
New York $93,190
North Carolina $83,580
North Dakota $71,340
Ohio $84,930
Oklahoma $88,200
Oregon $91,730
Pennsylvania $88,540
Rhode Island $92,510
South Carolina $88,180
South Dakota $76,330
Tennessee $87,060
Texas $96,100
Utah $89,480
Vermont $77,740
Virginia $94,950
Washington $92,650
West Virginia $81,860
Wisconsin $76,770
Wyoming $82,170

Source: BLS

Where Can I Make the Most Money as an Occupational Therapist?

Highest-Paying States for Occupational Therapists

Nevada reported the highest average occupational therapist salary at $109,010 in May 2021. Neighboring California and nearby New Mexico also offered top pay. However, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Nevada reported a cost of living that's slightly higher than the U.S. average.

State Annual Mean Salary
Nevada $109,010
California $105,760
New Jersey $100,140
Texas $96,100
New Mexico $95,060

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Occupational Therapists

According to the BLS, the San Jose metropolitan area reported the highest average occupational therapist salary of $121,190 in May 2021. According to Payscale, the cost of living in San Jose is about 53% higher than the U.S. average. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that San Jose had a median home value of $925,800 from 2016-2020.

Metropolitan Area Annual Mean Salary
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $121,190
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $113,210
Santa Rosa, CA $113,190
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA $111,680
Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV $110,640

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Nonmetropolitan Areas for Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapist jobs in the north coast region of California offer the highest pay for nonmetropolitan areas. Occupational therapists here earned an average salary of $108,170 in May 2021, as per the BLS. However, housing and other expenses make California an expensive place to live. Other nonmetropolitan regions may offer a lower cost of living, especially in the Southeast or Midwest.

Nonmetropolitan Area Annual Mean Salary
North Coast Region of California $108,170
North Valley-Northern Mountains Region of California $105,810
Central Louisiana $100,690
Northeast Oklahoma $100,670
Big Thicket Region of Texas $99,280

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Industries for Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapist jobs in the home healthcare services industry reported the highest average pay of $102,640 in May 2021, according to BLS data. Home health brings occupational therapy to the patient, requiring therapists to travel from place to place. Some occupational therapists may work in company management, earning an average salary of $100,700. Other therapists may work for specialty outpatient care centers, earning an average of $98,120, thanks to specialized experience or training.

Industry Annual Mean Salary
Home Healthcare Services $102,640
Management of Companies and Enterprises $100,700
Other Ambulatory Healthcare Services $98,120
Child Day Care Services $97,980
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly $97,620

Source: BLS

How Can I Increase My Salary as an Occupational Therapist?

Choose a Specialty

An occupational therapist may consider specialty training and professional certification to increase their salary. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers gerontology, pediatrics, and physical rehabilitation certification.

While occupational therapists may seek electives in their specialty area in school, the AOTA does not require specific coursework. Instead, the organization looks at work experience related to the specialization. Much like state licensing, maintaining a professional credential requires continuing education courses.

Home health services, which pay the highest average occupational therapist salary, may prefer occupational therapists who specialize in gerontology. Schools, which pay an average occupational therapist salary of $78,480 as of May 2021, may prefer a pediatric certification.

Consider Travel Occupational Therapy

Like many medical professionals, many areas face a shortage of qualified occupational therapists for available jobs. Travel occupational therapists can help meet these critical needs. Travel occupational therapists often contract with a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or outpatient therapy provider for short-term assignments.

This option offers high earning potential, and some facilities may offer housing. Before practicing in a new state, occupational therapists must apply for a state license. Although, there are efforts to enact an interstate licensure compact, according to the AOTA.

Consider Relocating

Sometimes a move across a state line can increase salary potential. For example, Idaho reports an average occupational therapist salary of $80,760 in May 2021, as per the BLS, but the surrounding states all offer higher average salaries. Look for states with higher salaries, lower cost of living, low unemployment, and a growing population.

Change Industries

Most occupational therapists work in the offices of other health practitioners, such as a rehabilitation practice group. But this industry pays an average occupational therapist salary of $87,690 as of May 2021 BLS data. Home health occupational therapists earned an average of $102,640 the same year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Occupational Therapist Salary

Is becoming an occupational therapist worth it?

Yes. Becoming an occupational therapist requires many years of studying, taking exams, and earning state licensure. However, these medical professionals report high job satisfaction, according to a 2021 review, with growing job opportunities and an above-average salary. Many occupational therapists also find their work fulfilling as they help clients reach goals or overcome challenges.

Where do occupational therapists make the most money?

San Jose, California, offers the nation's highest average occupational therapist salary at $121,190 as of May 2021 BLS data. Several other California cities also report high average occupational therapist salaries compared to the state average. About 11,460 occupational therapists work in California.

Occupational therapists also make a lot of money in Nevada, specifically the Las Vegas area. According to the BLS, occupational therapist jobs in Las Vegas reported an average pay of $110,640 in May 2021.

Which occupational therapist jobs pay the most?

Occupational therapist jobs in home health services report the highest average pay among industries. Other top-paying industries include management of companies, other outpatient healthcare services, and child day care services.

Health practitioner offices employ the most occupational therapists, with 34,380 occupational therapist jobs as of May 2021 BLS data. These offices include physician groups, rehabilitation practices, and behavioral health facilities.

How can an occupational therapist make more money?

Occupational therapists can increase their salary by gaining more experience, advancing their education, or specializing in a high-need service, such as autism interventions or gerontology. Occupational therapists can pursue professional credentials in pediatrics, gerontology, or physical rehabilitation.

Moving to an area with higher pay can also increase earning potential. Look for areas with high salaries, high job growth, and low cost of living. Occupational therapists can also find jobs in new industries that pay higher salaries, like home health services.

What is the highest salary an occupational therapist can make?

According to the BLS, top-earning occupational therapists reported salaries greater than $123,840 in May 2021. The lowest occupational therapist salaries were less than $60,680.

Higher salaries typically go to occupational therapists with more experience. While Payscale reported an average entry-level salary of about $72,380 per year as of August 2022 for licensed occupational therapists, those with 20 or more years of experience earned an average of about $93,600 per year.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.