The majority of occupational therapists hold a master’s degree in the field of occupational therapy. In fact, they can’t practice without one. It’s only through a master’s degree program that these medical professionals learn the diagnostic techniques and therapeutic activities necessary to treat patients. Very few programs are available to earn a doctorate in this discipline, so the average salary for this occupation is a good indication of earnings for those with a master’s degree.
As of 2012, half of all occupational therapists could expect to earn at least $75,400 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those in the top 10 percent brought home salaries exceeding $107,000 a year. The bottom 10 percent, on the other hand, earned half that pay, with salaries less than $50,500. The average was closer to more than $76,000.
As with almost any career, earnings vary by location. The highest wages paid for this occupation were in Nevada, where the average therapist earned just over $105,000 a year. The second highest wages were found in New Jersey, at an average of nearly $87,000. California-based therapists came in at a close third, averaging $86,380 annually. The same, however, can’t be said for those working in North Dakota, who brought home the lowest wages at an average of almost $57,000.
In addition to location, earnings can vary by employer. Within the industry, occupational therapists working for home health care services earned the highest wages, at an average of nearly $87,000 a year. Those working for nursing care facilities were a close second, at an average of $83,130, while those working for consulting services ranked third, at an average of $83,050 annually. The largest sector of therapist works in the offices of health practitioners, where salaries averaged at $77,570.
The BLS expects employment opportunities for this occupation to be excellent, with an average growth rate of 33 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is more than twice the 14 percent average of all U.S. occupations. In this relatively small field, the 33-percent growth works out to the creation of more than 36,000 new jobs. Expect increased job prospects for occupational therapists specializing in an area of treatment, such as autism or pain management.