In the field of rehabilitative sciences, there are many career paths to choose from—especially in fields of occupational therapy (OT).
If you’ve completed your undergraduate program and want to establish a career in OT, the first step is going to graduate school. Earn a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) with a program that will prepare you to pursue an OT specialty.
For all OT specialties, successfully complete the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam to become a registered occupational therapist (OT) and obtain state licensure. Below are the highest-paying OT specialties you may enter after completing an OT program.
|Average Hourly Pay (2023)||$39.64*1|
Occupational therapists who specialize in gerontology work with elderly adults to help them with post-stroke recovery, cognitive challenges, mobility issues and various illnesses that affect their ability to perform daily tasks.2
To specialize in gerontology, earn a Board Certification in Gerontology (BCG) from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). New candidates must wait until the AOTA shifts from a portfolio assessment to an exam-based certification process. Check AOTA’s website for details.
2. Brain Injuries
|Average Annual Salary (2023)||$85,4343|
Certified Brain Injury Specialists (CBIS) are healthcare professionals who work with patients with brain injuries. A CBIS provides patients with a personalized treatment plan to promote recovery.4
Earn the CBIS credential through the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) to specialize in brain injury.
|Average Hourly Pay (2023)||$37.975|
OTs who work with patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a specialized skill set to help address specific challenges. They work with autistic adults and children who have difficulty with sensory dysfunction and fine motor skills.6
To become a Certified Autism Specialist (CAS), earn a CAS certificate through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). Take a look at the IBCCES website for more information.
|Average Hourly Pay (2023)||$37.927|
A pediatric occupational therapist works with children to improve their motor skills and help them perform tasks such as feeding and walking. Pediatric OTs also help adolescents with mental and physical limitations to live more independently.8
5. Hand Therapy
|Average Annual Salary (2023)||$75,5679|
Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs) are occupational therapists who work with patients to treat upper limb conditions caused by disease, trauma and deformity.10
To become a CHT, get certified through the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC). Candidates must meet the required HTCC standard and pass the examination. Take a look at eligibility requirements for more details.
6. Physical Rehabilitation
|Average Hourly Pay (2023)||$37.2511|
OTs that specialize in physical rehabilitation can design rehab strategies that are unique to the patient and focus on occupational engagement. To specialize in physical rehabilitation, earn the Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation (BCPR). Take a look at more details about the BCPR process before applying.
7. Mental Health
|Average Hourly Pay (2023)||$35.7812|
Specialize in mental health to work with patients who have difficulty functioning independently in their community. These patients may struggle with coping with emotions, planning and organizing tasks or problem-solving.13
|Average Hourly Pay (2023)||$34.8014|
OTs may specialize in neurology, a medical field that studies and treats the nervous system.15 An OT may become a Certified Neuro Specialist (CNS) to expand their neurological skills.
To become a CNS, earn the CNS certification through an advanced educational course from a reputable institution.
9. Driving and Community Mobility
|Average Annual Salary (2023)||$60,16216|
Driving and community mobility practitioners help patients safely and confidently move through their community by way of driving, biking, walking or using public transportation.17
To specialize in driving and community mobility, you may earn the Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) credential from the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists.
The following are common questions about OT specialties and industries.
What is the highest-paying field in occupational therapy?
The highest-paying field in occupational therapy in 2023 is gerontology, with an annual salary of $91,563.1
What are the highest-paying industries for occupational therapists?
The industries with the highest annual mean salary for OTs are18:
- Management of companies and enterprises: $117,790
- Home health care services: $105,700
- Outpatient care centers: $102,840
- Specialty hospitals, excluding psychiatric & substance abuse hospitals: $99,040
- Skilled nursing facilities: $98,000
Offices of other health practitioners have the highest level of employment, with 38,900 employed OTs.18
What are the highest-paying states for occupational therapists?
The states with the highest annual mean salary for OTs are18:
- California: $109,220
- Nevada: $105,020
- New Jersey: $104,710
- Alaska: $100,810
- Virginia: $97,980
California also ranks as the state with the highest employment level, with 13,230 employed OTs.18 Keep in mind cost of living when comparing mean salaries.
Learn More About USAHS OT Programs
At the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), our more than 200 OT faculty have real-world experience in 30 specialties, including geriatrics, neurological rehabilitation and pediatrics. In our MOT and OTD programs, faculty members provide in-depth expertise and mentorship.
The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929; telephone: 301-652-AOTA; email: www.acoteonline.org accredits the Master of Occupational Therapy and Doctor of Occupational Therapy programs at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences on a campus-by-campus basis.
The entry-level occupational therapy master’s degree program at the Dallas, Texas, campus has applied for accreditation and has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA and its web address is www.acoteonline.org. The program must have a preaccreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.
*The information provided on this website is based on self-reported data and is intended for informational purposes only. Payscale is a limited data source that relies on voluntary submissions from individuals and employers.
The accuracy, completeness and reliability of the data presented may vary due to its voluntary nature and limited scope. While efforts are made to maintain the data’s accuracy, we cannot guarantee its absolute correctness or currency.
- Payscale, “Average Occupational Therapist (OT) with Geriatrics Skills Hourly Pay,” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Occupational_Therapist_(OT)/Hourly_Rate/ece29f86/Geriatrics
- B Greenwood, “Geriatric Care & Occupational Therapy,” Chron, last modified April 2022, https://work.chron.com/geriatric-care-occupational-therapy-18951.html
- Payscale, “Salary for Certification: The Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists (ACBIS), Occupational Therapists,” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=The_Academy_of_Certified_Brain_Injury_Specialists_(ACBIS)/Salary
- C Brown, “Occupational Therapy (OT),” BrainLine, last modified June 2023, https://www.brainline.org/treatment-hub/occupational-therapy-ot#
- Payscale, “Average Pediatric Occupational Therapist with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Skills Hourly Pay,” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Pediatric_Occupational_Therapist/Salary/cda085e0/Autism-Spectrum-Disorders-ASD
- L Rudy, “Occupational Therapy for Autism,” Verywellhealth, last modified August 2023, https://www.verywellhealth.com/occupational-therapy-for-autism-4783594
- Payscale, “Average Pediatric Occupational Therapist Hourly Pay” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Pediatric_Occupational_Therapist/Salary
- Cleveland Clinic, “Pediatric Occupational Therapy,” Cleveland Clinic, last modified June 2023, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/25094-pediatric-occupational-therapy
- Payscale, “Average Hand Therapist Salary,” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Hand_Therapist
- Hand Therapy Certification Commission, “Definition of Hand Therapy and Scope of Practice of Certified Hand Therapists,” HTCC, last modified June 2023, https://www.htcc.org/about-htcc/definition-of-hand-therapy-and-scope-of-practice
- Payscale, “Average Occupational Therapist (OT) with Rehabilitation Skills Hourly Pay,” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Occupational_Therapist_(OT)/Hourly_Rate/c3be2e8f/Seattle-WA-Rehabilitation
- Payscale, “Average Occupational Therapist (OT) with Psychiatric Skills Hourly Pay,” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Occupational_Therapist_(OT)/Salary/22604a36/Psychiatric
- John Hopkins Medicine, “Occupational Therapy for Mental Health,” John Hopkins Medicine, last modified April 2017, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/specialty-areas/occupational-therapy/mental-health-ot
- Payscale, “Average Occupational Therapist (OT) with Neurology Clinic Skills Hourly Pay,” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Occupational_Therapist_(OT)/Salary/b00637eb/Neurology-Clinic
- Cleveland Clinic, “Neurologist,” Cleveland Clinic, last modified April 2022, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22277-neurologist
- Payscale, “Average Occupational Therapist (OT) with Community Health Skills Salary” Payscale, last modified 2023, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Occupational_Therapist_(OT)/Salary/bdeb24fe/Community-Health
- American Occupational Therapy Association, “Driving & community mobility practitioner education,” AOTA, last modified September 2023, https://www.aota.org/practice/clinical-topics/driving-community-mobility/driving-community-mobility-practitioner-education
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2022” BLS, last modified May 2022, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291122.htm