Similarly, 406 OTs who reported working fewer than 30 hours a week reported an average hourly wage of $48-up from $37.23 in 2009-while 124 part-time OTAs reported an average hourly wage of $27.48-up from $24.93 three years ago.
Almost half (46.2 percent) of survey respondents indicated receiving a raise in pay in the preceding 12 months. Inside that subset, about 45 percent reported that their pay not only increased, but it did so by at least 3 percent. On the flip side, only 6.3 percent of our respondents said they had experienced a decrease in salary in the previous 12 months. However, the decreases were sharper in scale, with 28 percent of those replying seeing a decrease of at least 5 percent.
Only seven people reported an outright job loss as the reason for their decrease.
Many respondents - just over 60 percent - have been in their current positions for no more than five years; another 19 percent said they've held the same jobs for at least 10 years. But most of them represent a highly experienced group, with 55 percent responding that they have worked in OT for at least 10 years.
Statistics by State
Responses came from each of the 50 states (plus Washington DC). New York led the way with a total of 222 who answered the survey, followed by Pennsylvania, California, Texas and Florida. Of states with at least 20 responses, California's average salaries came out the highest, at just over $88,000. Other states near the top in terms of average salary were Arizona, Texas and Maryland.
The upper Midwest trailed in terms of average salaries, with Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota ranking as the bottom three. Factors such as cost of living and job demand unquestionably play a role in these numbers, but trends can be found in the data.
The lower number of OTA responses contributed to lack of data in four states, and lower disparity in average salaries by state. For the record, Texas and New Jersey led the way for OTA salaries, both averaging just under $62,000.
Although the statistics above reflect states with a minimum of 20 respondents, little correlation can be made between states with fewer OTs offering higher or lower salaries than their more populated counterparts. For example, Nevada, with only 13 respondents, reported an average OT salary of just over $80,000-while Maine, with the same number of responses, finished last among all 50 states, with average salary of $58,460.
Click to view larger graphic.
Numbers by Setting
In 2011, schools surpassed SNFs as our OT responders' most common work setting, with just over 25 percent reporting a primary or secondary educational settings as their places of employment. SNFs dropped to second place, with 449 (or 17.3 percent) OTs indicating these facilities as their work setting.
In total, four of the other settings that received at least 5 percent of our total tally were hospital-based settings. The third most-common answer behind schools and SNFs, however, was "clients' homes," with a response of almost 8 percent of OTs.
Of the 24 settings we specified, clients' homes and SNFs-respectively, the third and second most popular settings-averaged the highest salaries, with OTs in clients' homes making just under $80,000 per year, and those in SNFs averaging $78,256. But schools-our most popular setting-ranked 22nd, with an average salary of $63,868.
On the OTA side, SNFs were by far the largest employers, with 40 percent of respondents identifying SNFs as their main setting of employment. Another 21.6 percent reported working in school settings, similar to the total for OTs.
Like our OT participants, OTAs in SNFs reported an average salary about 10 percent higher than the national average-in this case, equaling $56,547 annually. School-based OTAs reported alarmingly lower salaries than the national average-$40,469 annually, more than $10K lower than the mean.
Salaries by Education and Experience
From a purely numerical standpoint, level of education appeared to play an insignificant role in determining one's salary. A closer look at the demographical breakdown revealed some statistics that may change that significance in the future, however.
More than 78 percent of OT participants indicated that their highest degree attained was either a bachelor's degree or entry-level master's degree. Of those responses, we found that those with bachelor's degrees actually reported higher annual salaries on the average ($73,271) than those with entry-level master's degrees ($66,690).
However, a closer look revealed that more than 82 percent of OTs reporting with bachelor's degrees have been in the OT field for over 10 years. Those with entry-level master's degrees (74 percent) have been practicing for fewer than 10 years.
From strictly an average-salary standpoint, practitioners with bachelor's degrees, post-professional master's degrees or clinical doctorates all fell within a mere $150 of each other on the scale. OTs with academic doctorates reported noticeably higher average salaries ($84,872 per year) but comprised a fairly insignificant group of responses-only 29 in total.
Perhaps the single most dependable determining factor of salaries was years of experience in the OT field. OTs with 0-5 years' experience reported an average salary of $63,957 (this group also comprised the largest sample.) That average number then increased consistently and gradually, all the way up to OTs with 21-25 years of experience, who reported an average salary of $77,571.
Looking at the numbers, it would seem that currently, experience is a far more important denominator than level of education in determining one's annual wage.
Consistent with the 2009 survey was the fact that only 10 percent of respondents were males on the OT side, and only 8 percent of OTAs were male. On average, male OTs make about $8,000 more annually than their female counterparts. The discrepancy is far less pronounced on the OTA side ($53,991 for males compared to $50,585 for females) but with only 33 male OTAs reporting, it would be presumptuous to draw any conclusions.
Almost 49 percent of OTs reported working in suburban environments, with another 32 percent in urban settings and 19 percent in rural locations-but demographics did not prove significant in terms of average salaries.
Caucasians returned 84 percent of total responses, with Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Hispanics returning between 4-5 percent each. Fifty-five people, almost 2 percent, chose not to indicate ethnicity on the survey. It is encouraging to report that, at least in our survey, ethnicity plays no significant factor in terms of average salary.
ADVANCE thanks the 3,351 occupational therapy professionals who responded to our Salary Survey in the final months of 2011. Check in throughout the coming weeks and months on our website www.advanceweb.com/OT for more in-depth results.
Rob Senior is an ADVANCE managing editor.