occupational therapy assistant salary by state

Last Updated on December 23, 2022

The occupation of occupational therapist assistant is on the rise as the population ages. ATA practitioners provide assistance to patients with physical impairments or disabilities in a variety of settings. They help them improve their skills for daily living activities, such as grooming and meal preparation, which promotes independence and enhances the quality of life.

To be sure, getting the right information online doesn’t come easy. However, the article below brings you the best and latest information on Occupational Therapy Assistant Salary By State,ota salary vs ot salary,entry level cota salary by state,entry level occupational therapy assistant salary.

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How Much Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Make? (OTA)

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 EmployedHourly Mean WageAnnual Mean WageCompared to National Rate
Alabama520$29.69$61,760– 0.19%
Alaska*84$30.50$63,440+ 2.52%
Arizona940$30.36$63,150+ 2.05%
Arkansas320$29.80$61,990+ 0.18%
California2,640$33.73$70,150+ 13.36%
Colorado660$27.88$57,630– 6.87%
Connecticut840$32.06$66,680+ 7.76%
Delaware**$30.03$62,450+ 0.92%
Florida3,050$31.59$65,710+ 6.19%
Georgia1,100$30.22$62,850+ 1.57%
Hawaii50$29.25$60,840– 1.68%
Idaho180$25.58$53,200– 14.03%
Illinois2,240$30.62$63,700 + 2.94%
Indiana1,350$26.10$54,290– 12.27%
Iowa350$26.47$55,060– 11.02%
Kansas680$28.95$60,220– 2.68%
Kentucky490$29.09$60,510– 2.21%
Louisiana700$30.21$62,840+ 1.55%
Maine200$25.62$53,280– 13.9%
Maryland700$30.68$63,810+ 3.12%
Massachusetts1,260$30.36$63,160+ 2.07%
Michigan1,230$25.50$53,040– 14.29%
Minnesota690$24.92$51,830– 16.24%
Mississippi290$29.95$62,290+ 0.66%
Missouri900$28.33$58,940– 4.75%
Montana***90$23.55$48,980– 20.85%
Nebraska150$25.56$53,160– 14.09%
Nevada310$34.81$72,400+ 17%
New Hampshire200$28.20$58,650– 5.22%
New Jersey640$35.43$73,680+ 19.07%
New Mexico170$27.90$58,040– 6.21%
New York2,880$30.42$63,270+ 2.25%
North Carolina1,390$30.79$64,050+ 3.51%
North Dakota130$26.08$54,240– 12.35%
Ohio3,990$29.24$60,810– 1.73%
Oklahoma770$31.05$64,570+ 4.35%
Oregon350$30.42$63,270+ 2.25%
Pennsylvania2,670$27.50$57,200– 7.56%
Rhode Island240$29.57$61,500– 0.61%
South Carolina390$29.48$61,310– 0.92%
South Dakota110$20.94$43,550– 29.62%
Tennessee1,020$29.31$60,970– 1.47%
Texas3,900$32.25$67,090+ 8.42%
Utah290$28.60$59,490– 3.86%
Vermont60$28.79$59,890– 3.22%
Virginia900$32.75$68,120+ 10.08%
Washington730$31.09$64,680+ 4.52%
West Virginia290$27.63$57,460– 7.14%
Wisconsin1,570$21.04$43,770– 29.27%
Wyoming170$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:

StateEmploymentHourly Mean WageAnnual Mean WageCompared to National Rate
New Jersey640$35.43$73,680+ 19.07%
Nevada310$34.81$72,400+ 17%
California2,640$33.73$70,150+ 13.36%
Virginia900$32.75$68,120+ 10.08%
Texas3,900$32.25$67,090+ 8.42%

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:

StateEmploymentHourly Mean WageAnnual Mean WageCompared to National Rate
South Dakota110$20.94$43,550– 29.62%
Wisconsin1,570$21.04$43,770– 29.27%
Minnesota690$24.92$51,830– 16.24%
Michigan1,230$25.50$53,040– 14.29%
Nebraska150$25.56$53,160– 14.09%

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.

22 Occupational Therapy Assistant Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free  Images - iStock

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

Salary by City and Major Metropolitan Area

In the table below you can see over 150 major cities and metropolitan areas across the U.S. with corresponding occupational therapy assistant pay (both hourly and annual salaries). Bear in mind that a number of factors such as the specific industry, years of experience, local economy, cost of living and more can impact how much an occupational therapist assistant makes.Show entriesSearch:

StateCity / MetroHourly PayAnnual SalaryTotal Employed
ALBirmingham-Hoover, AL$26.17$54,430110
ALGadsden, AL$26.97$56,100**
ALHuntsville, AL$29.24$60,82040
ARFayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO$30.17$62,76040
ARJonesboro, AR$30.94$64,35030
ARLittle Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR$25.73$53,51060
AZPhoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ$30.49$63,420420
AZTucson, AZ$26.46$55,030100
CAAnaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, CA Metropolitan Division$27.70$57,610340
CAFresno, CA$35.31$73,44040
CALos Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division$31.85$66,250520
CAOxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA$32.89$68,410**
CARiverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA$32.94$68,510220
CASacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA$33.12$68,89090
CASan Diego-Carlsbad, CA$27.80$57,830240
CASan Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$23.64$49,170100
COBoulder, CO$23.54$48,96040
COColorado Springs, CO$28.22$58,690120
CODenver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO$26.25$54,600240
COPueblo, CO$28.20$58,66080
CTBridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT$31.41$65,330120
CTHartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT$30.34$63,100220
CTNew Haven, CT$31.07$64,630**
CTNorwich-New London-Westerly, CT-RI$32.62$67,85050
DCWashington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division$30.41$63,250280
DEWilmington, DE-MD-NJ Metropolitan Division$30.28$62,970220
FLCape Coral-Fort Myers, FL$31.98$66,530100
FLDeltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL$30.05$62,51080
FLFort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division$30.95$64,370170
FLHomosassa Springs, FL$28.67$59,640**
FLJacksonville, FL$30.07$62,540140
FLLakeland-Winter Haven, FL$29.76$61,90070
FLMiami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan Division$28.91$60,130180
FLNorth Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL$31.18$64,850230
FLOcala, FL$33.14$68,94070
FLOrlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL$29.47$61,290190
FLPalm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL$32.87$68,370180
FLPensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL$26.13$54,36040
FLTallahassee, FL$29.96$62,31070
FLTampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL$27.11$56,380420
FLThe Villages, FL$33.60$69,89030
FLWest Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL Metropolitan Division$28.96$60,230150
GAAtlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA$31.83$66,210510
GAAugusta-Richmond County, GA-SC$21.92$45,59030
HIUrban Honolulu, HI$26.87$55,88050
IACedar Rapids, IA$25.06$52,13050
IADes Moines-West Des Moines, IA$29.34$61,03060
IDBoise City, ID$28.28$58,82050
ILChampaign-Urbana, IL$29.26$60,86040
ILChicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division$31.17$64,8301,590

COTA Salary Factors

Occupational Therapist Assistant Salary Data and Insights

An OTA Salary will be influenced by a number of factors. Factors can include the state and city you live in, the type of health care facility you work in, your employer, your experience and more. That said, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), OTA Jobs are growing rapidly and they pay a competitive salary to other 2 year health care degrees. Occupational Therapy is one of the fastest growing fields in health care and is not projected to slow down.The BLS did a survey in May of 2014 and found that the average annual COTA Salary is $58,340 while the lowest 10% of all OTAs earned just under $38,440 while the top 10% earned over $78,080. Download 2018 OTA Salary Guide

Highest OTA Salaries by Job Type

The BLS survey was broken down by industry, or type of OTA job. When analyzing each industry the BLS looked at employment rate, % of entire OTA industry, and mean wages. Home health care came out on top and consists of jobs where OTAs perform their duties at the patient’s home. The second highest OTA salaries came from jobs at Nursing Care Facilities.

Here is a list of the top paying industries for OTAs to work in:

IndustryHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Home Health Care Services$32.03$66,630
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)$30.50$63,450
Other Ambulatory Health Care Services$29.63$61,630
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly$28.78$59,870
Management of Companies and Enterprises$28.71$59,720

Highest OTA Salaries by City

If you are considering moving then you may want to know the highest paying cities for OTAs. Below is a table of the top paying cities for occupational therapy assistant salaries and to the right is an infographic containing the data.

Metropolitan areaHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV$50.48$105,000
El Paso, TX$39.75$82,670
Tyler, TX$38.38$79,820
Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metropolitan Division$37.77$78,560
Corpus Christi, TX$36.98$76,930
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL$36.24$75,370
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX$34.92$72,640
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX$34.91$72,600

Occupational therapist assistants also have the ability to earn even more income if they have experience in specialty areas such as pediatric OTAs that work with children. In specializing you can impact your desired demographic with your career by improving specific groups’ overall health.

OTA Salary Averages by State

The BLS also broke down the survey results by location to see which regions offered the highest and lowest average occupational therapy assistant salaries. Here is a list of states that offer an OTA salary of over $60,000 per year as well as under $40,000 per year.

OTA Salary Over $60K

  • California
  • Texas
  • Nevada

OTA Salary Under $40K

  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • South Dakota

Keep in mind that when looking at an entire region the salary data is aggregated across industries and types of OTA jobs. So, you may still be interested in a few jobs in the lower paying states, that still pay well but are brought down by other lower paying jobs in the same state. Also, employment rate is something to consider for job security, here are the states with the highest OTA employment rates:

StateHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
New York$26.99$56,130

Close behind occupational therapy assistants, in terms of compensation, are OT Aides. The range for an occupational therapy aide salary is about $26,550 to $44,220. Although an occupational therapist aide salary is lower, they don’t require as much schooling or requirements to gain license for employment.

2018 OTA Salary Guide PDF

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.
How Much Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Make? (PTA)

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.

OT Vs OTA | Occupational Therapy Career Paths | USAHS

Differences Between Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants

Occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work with patients who are injured, ill, or disabled to help them develop, improve, or regain the skills needed for everyday life.

Though OTs and OTAs have a lot in common, they differ in a few main ways. Most notably, OTs and OTAs differ in terms of responsibilities, salaries, and educational requirements. Below are in-depth explanations of the similarities and differences between the two professions:

Responsibilities and Duties of an OT vs an OTA

An OT works independently with their patients, helping them to improve their daily living situations. OTs are responsible for everything from conducting a patient’s intake and creating a treatment plan to physically treating a patient and monitoring their improvements. One of the benefits of becoming an OT is greater independence in practice, and the opportunity to participate in more of a leadership role on care teams. OTAs, much like their name suggests, largely serve to assist OTs in their work. They are less autonomous, and more likely to receive delegated tasks under supervision.

Duties of both an OT and OTA may include, but are not limited to:

  • Training a patient to use assistive devices, such as raised toilet seats or wheelchairs;
  • Teaching a patient how to dress themselves, button a shirt, or tie their shoes;
  • Teaching a patient how to get in and out of the shower;
  • Educating an older patient on how to avoid slips and falls in their home or public areas;
  • Organizing a patient’s medication and instructing them on when to take it;
  • Addressing behavioral problems in children or teens;
  • Working on a patient’s motor skills;
  • Teaching a patient how to regain strength after an accident.

Responsibilities more likely to fall on the shoulders of OTs include, but are not limited to:

  • Reviewing a patient’s medical history;
  • Evaluating a patient’s condition;
  • Developing a treatment plan;
  • Assessing a patient’s level of independence;
  • Prescribing assistive devices;
  • Implementing programs.

OTAs take on many of the same responsibilities as OTs, but generally have less autonomy and skills to complete the full scope of the latter’s responsibilities.

Skills and Attributes of an OT vs. an OTA

For the most part, OTs and OTAs possess the same skillset. Each profession requires compassion, communication, and critical thinking, among other attributes. However, OTs develop more hard skills throughout their additional education and experience. Moreover, OTs take on more leadership and managerial roles, making it important to have developed skills in those areas as well.

A few skills needed for both OTs and OTAs include:

  • Compassion and patience – OTs and OTAs work with some of the most vulnerable people in society. As such, they must bring compassion and patience to their job every day.
  • Critical thinking skills – OTs and OTAs must be prepared to make decisions quickly in case of an emergency; as such they must have sharp critical thinking skills. OTs especially must have critical thinking skills as they have a variety of treatment methods to choose from, and must select the best course of action.
  • Interpersonal and communication skills – Working with patients who may have difficulty articulating their needs means that OTs and OTAs must have excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Teamwork skills – Since OTAs work under the guidance of OTs, both must have teamwork skills.

Skills required of OTs, specifically, include:

  • Diagnostic skills – OTs take on the responsibility of diagnosing patients and figuring out the best treatment plan for their condition. As such, OTs must have excellent diagnostic skills.
  • Leadership skills – Since OTs supervise OTAs, aides, and volunteers, they must possess leadership skills. This includes the ability to teach others, promote teamwork, delegate tasks, and submit feedback, among other abilities.

Educational Requirements of an OT vs. an OTA

OTAs must obtain an associate’s degree from an ACOTE accredited program. These degrees typically take two years to complete. OTs, on the other hand, must obtain at least a master’s degree from an ACOTE accredited program.

Before entering a master’s program, OTs must complete a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as biology, psychology, or health science. Aspiring OTs should be sure to fill their undergraduate schedule with the coursework required for entry into an occupational therapy graduate program.

Licensure and Qualifications of an OT vs. an OTA

After graduating from an accredited program, OTs and OTAs alike must obtain licensure. They do this by taking their respective NBCOT exams. OTs take the Occupational Therapy Registered (OTR) exam and OTAs take the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) exam.

Average Salary of an OT vs. an OTA

As of 2019, OTs in the U.S. earned an average salary of $84,950 per year. OTAs, on the other hand, earned an average salary of $59,200 per year. The difference in pay grade is due to the respective professions’ required education level and amount of responsibilities delegated.

Growth Opportunities of an OT vs. an OTA

Generally speaking, the more education completed the more opportunities arise. OTs, as a result, have more opportunities for growth than their OTA counterparts.

OTs can pursue specialty certifications in fields such as pediatric occupational therapy, mental health occupational therapy, or gerontology. Others may seek supervisory or management roles, such as senior occupational therapist or regional rehabilitation director.

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