How Much Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Make? OTA Salary Guide

Interested in making a difference? Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) are tasked with directly providing therapy to patients and helping them recover, improve, and develop the skills they will need to manage day-to-day life with medical conditions. They must help patients perform therapeutic activities, educate them on how to use medical equipment, and report patient progress to designated occupational therapists.

If the idea of fulfilling these duties interests you, you might be considering a career as an OTA. Fortunately, this is a great move for individuals seeking job security; with the number of jobs for this occupation projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to grow 31% from 2018 to 2028, the job outlook for prospective OTAs is unquestionably higher than most. But how much can you expect to get paid in this field?

BLS statistics show that OTAs earn a mean pay of $61,880 per year, which means that the average person in this field who works 40 hours a week earns:

  • $5,157 per month;
  • $1,190 per week;
  • $238 per day;
  • $29.75 per hour.

However, OTAs across different states may not earn a comparable amount, and it is unlikely that new employees will earn this much. Indeed, the amount you may earn varies greatly depending on the region you work in and the amount of experience you have. While this amount is lower than the average salary for occupational therapists, there are lower educational requirements to become an OTA.

This guide will walk you through how much you could expect to earn as an OTA, depending on your specific circumstances, and provide some tips to maximize your earnings.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Salary by State

As you’ll see in the table below, the average state salary for OTAs varies greatly. In fact, depending on where you work, you can expect to earn anywhere from $43,550 to $73,680 per year — a nearly 60% difference in pay. Review the information below to see the average wage in your state:

State # Currently Employed Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage Compared to National Rate
Alabama 520 $29.69 $61,760 – 0.19%
Alaska* 84 $30.50 $63,440 + 2.52%
Arizona 940 $30.36 $63,150 + 2.05%
Arkansas 320 $29.80 $61,990 + 0.18%
California 2,640 $33.73 $70,150 + 13.36%
Colorado 660 $27.88 $57,630 – 6.87%
Connecticut 840 $32.06 $66,680 + 7.76%
Delaware ** $30.03 $62,450 + 0.92%
Florida 3,050 $31.59 $65,710 + 6.19%
Georgia 1,100 $30.22 $62,850 + 1.57%
Hawaii 50 $29.25 $60,840 – 1.68%
Idaho 180 $25.58 $53,200 – 14.03%
Illinois 2,240 $30.62 $63,700  + 2.94%
Indiana 1,350 $26.10 $54,290 – 12.27%
Iowa 350 $26.47 $55,060 – 11.02%
Kansas 680 $28.95 $60,220 – 2.68%
Kentucky 490 $29.09 $60,510 – 2.21%
Louisiana 700 $30.21 $62,840 + 1.55%
Maine 200 $25.62 $53,280 – 13.9%
Maryland 700 $30.68 $63,810 + 3.12%
Massachusetts 1,260 $30.36 $63,160 + 2.07%
Michigan 1,230 $25.50 $53,040 – 14.29%
Minnesota 690 $24.92 $51,830 – 16.24%
Mississippi 290 $29.95 $62,290 + 0.66%
Missouri 900 $28.33 $58,940 – 4.75%
Montana*** 90 $23.55 $48,980 – 20.85%
Nebraska 150 $25.56 $53,160 – 14.09%
Nevada 310 $34.81 $72,400 + 17%
New Hampshire 200 $28.20 $58,650 – 5.22%
New Jersey 640 $35.43 $73,680 + 19.07%
New Mexico 170 $27.90 $58,040 – 6.21%
New York 2,880 $30.42 $63,270 + 2.25%
North Carolina 1,390 $30.79 $64,050 + 3.51%
North Dakota 130 $26.08 $54,240 – 12.35%
Ohio 3,990 $29.24 $60,810 – 1.73%
Oklahoma 770 $31.05 $64,570 + 4.35%
Oregon 350 $30.42 $63,270 + 2.25%
Pennsylvania 2,670 $27.50 $57,200 – 7.56%
Rhode Island 240 $29.57 $61,500 – 0.61%
South Carolina 390 $29.48 $61,310 – 0.92%
South Dakota 110 $20.94 $43,550 – 29.62%
Tennessee 1,020 $29.31 $60,970 – 1.47%
Texas 3,900 $32.25 $67,090 + 8.42%
Utah 290 $28.60 $59,490 – 3.86%
Vermont 60 $28.79 $59,890 – 3.22%
Virginia 900 $32.75 $68,120 + 10.08%
Washington 730 $31.09 $64,680 + 4.52%
West Virginia 290 $27.63 $57,460 – 7.14%
Wisconsin 1,570 $21.04 $43,770 – 29.27%
Wyoming 170 $26.23 $54,560 – 11.83%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019 * Data from Alaska Occupational Forecast, 2016 ** Insufficient data reported to BLS *** Most recent BLS data for Montana is from 2014

Top-Paying States for Occupational Therapy Assistants

If you want to consider making a move to maximize your earnings potential as an OTA, you should explore job opportunities at the top-paying states for individuals in this field. The top five include:

State Employment Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage Compared to National Rate
New Jersey 640 $35.43 $73,680 + 19.07%
Nevada 310 $34.81 $72,400 + 17%
California 2,640 $33.73 $70,150 + 13.36%
Virginia 900 $32.75 $68,120 + 10.08%
Texas 3,900 $32.25 $67,090 + 8.42%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019

Depending on your level of experience, you may earn more or less than these average rates — read more on these differences below.

Worst-Paying States for Occupational Therapy Assistants

If you work in one of the worst-paying states for OTAs, you may want to consider making a move to improve your earnings. While rates can vary from city to city, the following five states generally have substantially lower salaries than the national average rate:

State Employment Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage Compared to National Rate
South Dakota 110 $20.94 $43,550 – 29.62%
Wisconsin 1,570 $21.04 $43,770 – 29.27%
Minnesota 690 $24.92 $51,830 – 16.24%
Michigan 1,230 $25.50 $53,040 – 14.29%
Nebraska 150 $25.56 $53,160 – 14.09%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019

It’s important to keep in mind that many of the top-paying regions in the U.S. for OTAs have substantially higher costs of living than cities in these states. While pay may be lower, the amount you will need to spend on necessities will generally be lower as well.

OTA Salary by Years of Experience

Your level of experience will also have a major impact on how much you can earn. Reference the chart below to see the national median pay for OTAs depending on how many years of experience they have:

Years of Experience National Median Salary
Less than 1 year $58,427
1-2 years $59,921
3 or more years $61,672

Source: Salary.com, 2020

Note that experience-based earnings plateau after three years of experience. To continue increasing your earnings potential, it is prudent to seek out avenues of career advancement. Common routes for OTAs seeking career advancement include positions related to:

  • Administrative positions;
  • Teaching health risk reduction classes;
  • Becoming an OTA program director;
  • Becoming an occupational therapist or a physical therapist.

These are only a few examples of potential avenues for advancement. Further, keep in mind that your educational level will also play a role in how much you can earn. While an associate’s degree is generally sufficient to qualify as an OTA, acquiring more advanced degrees may result in a larger salary. A variety of scholarships and grants exist for those looking to learn more about occupational therapy, and these can make higher education more attainable.

How Can You Earn More Money as an OTA?

There are many different approaches to earning more money as an OTA. These include:

  • Move to a Region With Higher Average Salaries: As noted above, average earnings for OTAs vary from state to state, as well as from city to city. Moving to a region that generally offers higher pay will typically result in an increased salary — though it is important to weigh this improvement with moving costs, a potentially higher cost of living, and more competitive job markets. Carefully considering such factors will help you find the optimal job opportunity for your needs.
  • Pick a Higher-Paying Facility or Sector: The amount an OTA earns may also depend on the type of facility they work at. It’s important to explore your employment options in a variety of healthcare settings, including skilled nursing facilities, home health occupational therapy, and academia. You may notice considerable differences in earnings potential across different settings.
  • Seek Out Continuing Education and Additional Certifications: Employers are often willing to pay a premium to retain employees who have additional skills beyond what is minimally required for the position. If you pursue additional education and training, you may be able to make a compelling case for a raise from your employer. Online occupational therapy programs are convenient options to pursue further education for this purpose.
  • Work on a Pro Re Nata (PRN) Basis: Working on a PRN (or “as necessary”) basis will lead to less consistent hours, but you will generally earn more per hour. Note, however, that you will likely not receive benefits associated with full-time employment, including bonuses, health insurance, pension, paid time-off, and so on. This is a great option for individuals who are working multiple jobs or who require more time for family-related, personal, or other obligations.
  • Become an Occupational Therapist: There are many similarities between OTAs and OTs, so if you’ve already been certified and employed as an OTA, you are well-positioned to obtain more advanced certification. OTs make a higher average salary than OTAs, among many other benefits.

Career Outlook for Occupational Therapists

According to the reports of the BLS, the job opportunities for occupational therapists are supposed to grow by 18% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than all other occupations. The need for OTs is expected to increase as the large Baby Boomer workforce generation proceeds toward retirement. Additionally, more and more people are staying active later in life, which also increases the need for OTs. Demand for OTs can also stem from people with diabetes, autism, and other chronic issues. Thus, there is a bright future ahead for the students pursuing their occupational therapy degree.

Additional OT Career Benefits

Besides salaries, occupational therapists get many monetary and non-monetary perks including:

  • Bonus;
  • Pension;
  • Disability coverage;
  • Health insurance;
  • Paid time off;
  • Sick leaves;

Some employers also provide financial aid for the further education of their employees.

Becoming an occupational therapist can have many benefits, salary being one of the biggest advantages. As you move forward in your OT career, it’s important to understand that location, position, and work environment can affect your salary. By understanding those aspects, you can make more informed decisions about your OT career.