Average Occupational Therapist Salary by City and State

by | Published on Jan 26, 2024 | Compensation

Top Compensation Providers

The freshest salary benchmarking data by industry, location, and revenue size.

What is the average occupational therapist salary by city and state? This vital question for professionals in the field is answered here, as we provide a detailed comparison of salaries across the U.S. From metropolitan areas to rural locales, understand how geographic location affects your earning potential and explore the economic factors at play, preparing you for a strategic approach to your occupational therapy career.

Key Takeaways

  • Occupational therapist salaries vary significantly by geography, reflecting regional labor market conditions, cost of living, and demand for services, with certain states like California, Nevada, and New Jersey offering high average salaries, while states like Maine and North Dakota are on the lower end of the pay scale.
  • Cities within states also show different salary ranges for occupational therapists, with top-paying cities often located in California and offering average salaries exceeding $100,000, while the lowest-paying cities like Bay City, Michigan, and Colorado Springs, Colorado have averages that can dip below $65,000.
  • Several factors beyond location influence an occupational therapist’s salary, including education, experience, certifications, specializations, and the industry or employer an individual works for, with higher education and specialized certifications often correlating with increased earning potential.

State-by-State Analysis of Occupational Therapist Salaries

Occupational Therapist Salary

Given its vastness and diversity, the United States displays a considerable variation in occupational therapist salaries across its states. From the sun-kissed beaches of California to the rural charm of Nebraska, the average salary for occupational therapist jobs can fluctuate significantly. This variance is not random but reflects the unique characteristics and demands of each state’s labor market.

For example, occupational therapists command some of the highest salaries in states like:

  • Vermont
  • Pennsylvania
  • Illinois
  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Alaska

This disparity illustrates the diversity in occupational therapy compensation across the country. Yet, the paycheck isn’t the only consideration. The cost of living in each state significantly affects the salary of occupational therapists. Generally, salaries tend to be higher in metropolitan areas with a higher cost of living, indicating a relationship between living expenses and where occupational therapists work.

Top-Paying States

Certain states consistently emerge as the top paymasters for occupational therapists. The sunny state of California, for instance, offers an average annual salary of $108,204. A little further east, occupational therapists in Nevada enjoy an average salary of $99,159, while their counterparts in New Jersey earn a median salary of $107,998.

Venturing north, we find that Alaska offers a salary range for occupational therapists between $98,040 and $116,600, with an average annual wage of approximately $99,340. Over on the east coast, occupational therapists in Virginia take home an average salary of $97,511.

While these figures are certainly impressive, they should be considered in the context of labor statistics, including the thousand jobs location quotient, industry employment hourly rates, and annual wages, for a more detailed understanding of the compensation structure.

Lowest-Paying States

While certain states offer high salaries, others lie at the opposite end of the pay scale. States such as:

  • Maine
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • Vermont

have some of the lowest average salaries for occupational therapists. Yet, when assessing these salary disparities, it’s vital to factor in aspects like medical history and local service demand.

The average occupational therapist salary varies based on the demand and market competitiveness in metropolitan areas with a higher cost of living, leading to higher figures. Conversely, rural areas with less demand for occupational therapists tend to offer lesser pay, resulting in lower average salaries in those states. Therefore, while these states may not top the list in terms of salary, they could still offer a wealth of opportunities for occupational therapists considering factors beyond just remuneration.

City-by-City Breakdown of Occupational Therapist Salaries

Occupational Therapist Jobs

Drilling down from the state level reveals a dynamic spectrum of occupational therapist salaries at the city level. Some cities, like:

  • San Jose
  • San Francisco
  • Santa Cruz
  • Santa Rosa
  • Sacramento

Most occupational therapists are known for offering the highest salaries in paying industries, with industry employment opportunities playing a significant role in determining these salary levels.

For instance, the average annual salary for an occupational therapist in Los Angeles is $110,136, with an hourly wage of $58.18. In the Windy City, Chicago, the typical salary range for occupational therapists falls between $94,793 and $112,734. However, the story is quite different in cities with the lowest average salaries for occupational therapists, where the range is from $30.44 to $50.35 per hour and $63,320 to $104,730 per year.

Highest-Paying Cities

California cities predominantly feature on the list of highest-paying cities for occupational therapists. Take San Jose, for instance, where the typical annual income for an occupational therapist is $123,115. The nearby city of San Francisco isn’t far behind, with an average salary for an occupational therapist reaching $122,624.

Venturing further north, we find:

  • Santa Cruz, where the annual median salary of an occupational therapist is $109,116
  • Santa Rosa, where the average base salary for occupational therapists is $108,419
  • Sacramento, which also offers attractive salaries for occupational therapists

While these figures may seem enticing, it’s crucial to remember that these cities also have a higher cost of living, making the net salary a bit less impressive than it first appears.

Lowest-Paying Cities

On the other end of the spectrum are cities like:

  • Bay City, Michigan
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Leominster-Gardner, Massachusetts
  • Worcester, Massachusetts-Connecticut

These cities demonstrate the lowest average salaries for occupational therapists.

Although the average salary for occupational therapists in these lower-income cities fluctuates, national estimates suggest an hourly wage range of $30.44 to $50.35 and an annual wage range of $63,320 to $104,730. The lower salaries can be attributed to several factors, including the local demand for their services, the overall cost of living, and broader regional economic conditions.

However, it’s important to take into account housing, transportation, and other expenses when assessing the overall cost of living in these cities relative to the salaries of occupational therapists.

Factors Influencing Occupational Therapist Salaries

Labor Statistics

While geographic location significantly influences occupational therapist salaries, it doesn’t stand as the only determining factor. Other factors that can significantly influence an occupational therapist’s salary include:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Certifications
  • Specializations
  • Industry
  • Employer

These factors add to the complexity of the salary landscape for occupational therapists. Therefore, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the earning potential in this profession, it’s essential to consider these variables and how they interact with each other.

Education and Experience

Education and experience form two pivotal factors shaping an occupational therapist’s salary. Typically, an occupational therapist with a master’s degree earns a higher salary compared to one with only a bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, as years of experience increase, so does the salary.

For example, an occupational therapist with a Master’s degree can expect to earn significantly more than one with a Bachelor’s degree, with salaries typically ranging from $95,394 to $100,062. Furthermore, further training and education can lead to enhanced specialization, skills, and expertise, potentially leading to higher remuneration.

It’s also worth noting that an entry-level occupational therapist typically earns a median salary of approximately $65,000, while those with 7 to 9 years of experience can earn a median of $73,000. Those with over 26 years of experience have the potential to earn even more.

Certifications and Specializations

Another significant element that can affect an occupational therapist’s salary is the presence of certifications and specializations. Research shows a notable positive correlation between the number of certifications an occupational therapist holds and their hourly rate, particularly when they hold up to 3 certifications.

Specializations in gerontology and physical agent modalities (PAM) are recognized for offering the highest salaries within the field of occupational therapy. Therefore, obtaining certifications such as:

  • Assistive Technology Professional (ATP)
  • Seating and Mobility Specialist (ATP/SMS)
  • Board Certification in Gerontology
  • Board Certification in Pediatrics
  • Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation
  • Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist

Additionally, collaborating with physical therapists can enhance the scope of practice for occupational therapy professionals.

and others can help occupational therapists enhance their earning potential. However, it’s important to consider the financial and time commitments required to obtain these certifications.

Industry and Employer

The industry and employer likewise significantly factor into an occupational therapist’s salary determination. For instance, occupational therapists employed in fields like:

  • travel OT
  • acute care hospitals
  • nursing care facilities
  • home healthcare services

often command the highest salaries.

Interestingly, the size of the employer does not have a direct impact on an occupational therapist’s salary. Whether the employer is a large hospital or a small private practice, the median annual wage for occupational therapists continues to be around $93,180. However, the healthcare setting does influence salary, with occupational therapists in different settings earning different average annual salaries:

  • Occupational therapists in home healthcare services typically earn an average annual salary of $101,500
  • Occupational therapists in nursing care facilities earn around $99,560
  • Occupational therapists working in hospitals earn approximately $97,400

Occupational therapists in the education sector earn between $62,072 and $77,253, with an average base salary of $69,541.

Tips for Maximizing Your Occupational Therapist Salary

Occupational Therapists Work

Having explored the myriad factors influencing occupational therapist salaries, we can now focus on practical strategies for salary maximization. From pursuing further education and obtaining certifications to networking and job searching, there are several strategies occupational therapists can employ to increase their earning potential.

These tips serve as a roadmap for escalating your salary and fostering personal and professional growth. After all, becoming a successful occupational therapist is about more than just earning a high salary – it’s about continuously learning, growing, and making a difference in people’s lives.

Pursuing Continuing Education

Given the continuous evolution of the occupational therapy field, it is imperative to pursue ongoing education. Pursuing further education and training can not only keep you up-to-date with the latest industry trends and practices but also add value to your professional profile, potentially leading to:

  • Higher salaries
  • Expanded job opportunities
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Enhanced skills and knowledge

Make sure to regularly assess your professional development needs and seek out relevant courses, workshops, conferences, and certifications to stay ahead in your career.

There are various continuing education options available to occupational therapists, including article-based courses, eLearning courses, and specialized courses that offer practical training and the most up-to-date industry practices. However, the frequency and nature of continuing education should be tailored to your career goals and the regulations set by your state licensure.

Networking and Job Searching

Networking forms another vital strategy for enhancing your occupational therapist salary. By building strong professional relationships, you can gain access to job opportunities, collaborations, and innovative concepts that can enhance your career prospects and, consequently, your earning potential.

Practical tips for effective networking include attending professional conferences, engaging with peers on social media platforms, sharing valuable content, and making a positive first impression.

As for job searching, consider:

  • Using specific job search engines
  • Maintaining a list of potential opportunities
  • Following a streamlined process to identify and apply for the most suitable roles.

Considering Geographic Location

When striving to maximize your occupational therapist salary, another essential consideration is your geographic location. While higher salaries in cities with a high cost of living may seem attractive, it’s important to consider the net salary after accounting for housing, transportation, and other living expenses.

Cities like Arizona, Nevada, and California are known to offer competitive salaries for occupational therapists, factoring in the cost of living. Moreover, various regions offer incentives such as loan repayment programs, scholarships, and other benefits to entice occupational therapists to relocate and establish their practice in those areas.

Occupational Therapist Job Market Trends

Navigating through the 21st century, we observe a continual evolution in the occupational therapist job market. The projected job growth for occupational therapists is estimated to be approximately 18% by 2028 and 11.5% between 2022 and 2032. Moreover, the demand for occupational therapists is increasing in areas such as:

  • Ergonomics
  • Aging in place
  • Health promotion and prevention
  • Adaptive equipment and technology
  • Telehealth care services
  • Personalized care
  • Wearable tech
  • Nanotechnology
  • Virtual reality and sensory integration

These market trends offer a glimpse into the future of the occupational therapy profession, indicating a promising outlook for both new and experienced occupational therapists. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or looking to advance, staying on top of these trends can help you navigate the job market and maximize your earning potential.

Projected Job Growth

With a projected job growth rate of 12 percent from 2022 to 2032, exceeding the average for all occupations, the future appears promising for occupational therapists. This growth is fueled by factors such as:

  • the aging baby-boomer population
  • rising incidences of specific health conditions necessitating therapy services
  • a greater acknowledgment of the advantages of occupational therapy services in enhancing health and wellness.

This projected growth points to a wealth of opportunities for occupational therapists in the coming years. Whether you’re considering a career in occupational therapy or looking to advance in the field, this promising job outlook is certainly a positive sign.

Emerging Areas of Demand

Concurrent with the projected job growth, various burgeoning areas are demonstrating demand for occupational therapists. Sectors such as home health care, outpatient care, and specialty hospitals are seeing increased demand for occupational therapy services.

The demand for occupational therapists in home health care is projected to grow by 17% from 2020 through 2030, with home health OTs receiving the highest annual median wage compared to other settings. Similarly, outpatient care is seeing a significant surge in demand for occupational therapists, with a projected job growth of 17% from 2020 to 2030.

The increased demand in specialty hospitals and skilled nursing facilities is driven by the need for professionals who can aid patients in developing, maintaining, or enhancing skills for daily living tasks.


In conclusion, the world of occupational therapy offers a variety of salary potentials influenced by a confluence of factors such as education, experience, certifications, specializations, industry, employer, and geographic location. With projected job growth and emerging areas of demand, the occupational therapy field promises a bright future for both aspiring and experienced therapists. Remember, the journey of an occupational therapist is not just about maximizing salary but also about making a difference in the lives of those in need. So, whether you’re just starting out or looking to advance in your career, embrace the opportunities, challenges, and rewards this profession has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What state pays the most for Occupational Therapist?

New Jersey is the state that pays the most for Occupational Therapists, with Wisconsin and Washington following closely behind. These states offer the highest salaries for this profession.

What areas of OT make the most money?

The highest paid areas in occupational therapy include home healthcare, early intervention services, neonatal intensive care units (NICU), and inpatient rehabilitation centers.

What is the best state to live in as an Occupational Therapist?

The best state to live in as an occupational therapist is Texas, with an average salary of $99,273 per year and opportunities for even higher pay in cities like Houston and Austin. Jan 26, 2023.

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

The average salary of an occupational therapist in the US varies depending on factors like location, education, experience, certifications, specializations, industry, and employer. It is important to consider these factors when evaluating potential earnings.

What impact does education and experience have on an occupational therapist’s salary?

Having a master’s degree and gaining more experience can significantly increase an occupational therapist’s salary.