With the increasing demand for health care workers, Occupational Therapy can be a rewarding career choice as well as a great first step into the overall field of health care.
Starting salary range
Starting Occupational Therapist salaries range from $44,353 (Michigan) to $56,507 (California)*.
An Occupational Therapist's median salary is $72,515 and maximum Occupational Therapy salaries top out at over $80,000**. Larger institutions tend to pay more than smaller practices, according to Payscale's Median Salary By Company Size Charts.
Opportunities for advancement
Occupational Therapists can qualify for salary increases by becoming certified as an Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR), a Certified Occupational Therapist (COT), Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), or as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHR). Occupational Therapists can also become licensed as a Licensed Occupational Therapist, an Occupational Therapist Registered/Licensed (OTR/L), as a Licensed Physical Therapist. Once an Occupational Therapist has a few years of experience, self-employment and contract work can be higher paying alternatives, though those options typically don't include benefits. Occupational Therapists can also increase their salaries by earning a post-graduate degree and advancing to higher paying medical positions, by gaining seniority, by moving to a larger institution, or by promotion to a supervisory role.
Benefits and perks
Paid time off, health care, pension, education reimbursement, sick days, insurance, bonus, and taxes increase the total compensation package by an average 27.7%**, bringing the median total Occupational Therapist compensation to $100,266.
Salary negotiation tips
Negotiating salary can be tricky. Large institutions (hospitals, government health agencies, or private companies), typically set up a salary range (or salary band), so the organization will have a little room to move on salaries (about 5-10%). Smaller organizations, such as private medical practices are less likely to have as much wiggle room on salary. Either way, don't expect an employer to give you a higher salary just because you ask. Instead, prepare a well documented justification and stay within the organization's salary range for the specific position so you'll have a good chance at getting the salary increase you're targeting.
Your greatest ability to negotiate salary is when you have options. Interview with a number of hospitals, medical practices, federal/state/local government health agencies, universities, Veterans Administration, and private companies. In addition, do your homework – get salary information online with AOL Jobs Salary Center or from staffing and recruiting firms in your industry. Sometimes just having research on average salaries for your local market may provide rationale for a higher salary.
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* According to www.payscale.com.
** According to www.salary.com