What is a OTA

Occupational therapy assistants (also known as OTA, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, COTA,  Occupational Therapist Assistants, Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant, Clinical Occupational Therapy Assistant, and Community Occupational Therapy Assistant) are health providers working under direction of occupation therapists to assist in the implementation of treatment programs designed to improve or maintain clients’ ability to function independently. For more on job description, please visit our occupational therapy assistant job description page.

Work EnvironmentOccupational Therapy Assistant Salary

Occupational therapy assistants work primarily in Offices of physical, occupational, speech therapists, and audiologists. They are also found in nursing care facilities. Only a small percentage of them work in general hospitals. Actual job duties may involving lifting patients and constant kneeling and stooping. Spending extended time on their feet throughout their shift is not uncommon.

Work Schedule

Occupation therapy assistants generally work 40 hours a week.  They often have to work evenings, weekends and holidays as most therapist offices are open late to match clients’ schedules.

Average OTA Salary

The mean annual occupational therapy assistant salary is $53,090. The lowest 10% of  occupational therapy assistant salaries are less than $32,970. The top 10% of occupational therapy assistant salaries reach more than $73,120.

Occupation Therapy Assistant Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$53,090 per year
$25.52 per hour
Top 10% Salary$73,120 per year
$35.16 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$32,970 per year
$15.85 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201229,500

Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for occupational therapy assistants is exceptionally good, as it is projected to grow at a rate of 43% between 2010 and 2020. This translates into almost 12,300 new jobs during these two years, making the industry particularly appealing for those willing to go to school for two years to earn an associate’s degree in an accredited program. The following factors will contribute to this rapid growth:

  1. Health needs of aging baby boomers
  2. Advancements in medical technology that have made it possible for children and adults with birth defects and critical injuries to survive
  3. Expansion of occupational therapy industry
  4. Shift to ambulatory care and increase demand in long term care facilities
  5. Growing importance of prevention as a way to reduce health care costs

Occupation Therapy Assistant Salary: Factors of Influence

In the past 2 years, the median annual wage of occupational therapy assistants has risen slightly over 4%, resulting in a pay increase from $51,010 to $53,240. Because the industry continues to grow, it appears as if the future is quite promising for individuals wanting to enter this profession.

Not every occupational therapy assistant will make a similar salary, as there are many different factors that can influence an occupational therapy assistant salary. Just some of the relevant factors that can influence salary include experience, education, industry, and location.

Experience and Education

Because there are only approximately 30,000 individuals employed in this profession throughout the United States, experience is one of the only ways in which an individual can differentiate themselves from others who have earned the same degree. This is particularly true in higher paying industries such as home health care, in which experience with senior patients is crucial to securing a job. Therefore, experience grants occupational therapy assistants access to these top paying industries much more easily. Newcomers in the industry makes an average salary of $30,000 per year but as they gain more experience, annual salary of over $50,000 is not uncommon.

Although certification is not required in all states, many employers, however, look for OTAs who are certified. There are currently over 300 accredited programs in the United States, graduates of these programs will often start with a higher salary.


The size of this field is rather small, making industry less relevant of a factor even if it is still somewhat important. Like many other fields, the top paying industries for occupational therapy assistants are home health care services, nursing care facilities, health care practitioner’s offices, and specialty hospitals. Of course, this also reflects the growing need for specialized occupational therapy assistants for the aging population. This is especially true because many home health care service companies are private, meaning that assistants within this industry are likely to earn more money.


The highest paying areas are significantly different throughout the country, as they are staggered throughout the United States. This makes it difficult to determine an exact reason as to why some states pay higher wages than others, although it is possible that these states are in greater need of more specialized individuals to work in a small number of specialty hospitals that require advanced skills. Just a few of the top paying states include Nevada, California, New Jersey, and Texas, demonstrating a mean pay range of $62,050 to $76,420. Nevada is the highest paying state for an OTA due to a higher demand as a result of the booming casino industry.

Subsequently, most of the highest paying metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas are all found within these few states, especially within California and even Texas. All of these areas have a very limited amount of individuals currently employed as well, meaning that they are in high demand in the various healthcare facilities throughout the area. Annual mean wages in these areas range anywhere from $58,590 to $77,930 and more.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Las Vegas-Paradise, NV: $77,930Nevada: $76,420Home Health Care Services: $60,820Ohio: (2,380 jobs) $53,540
Fort Worth-Arlington, TX: $76,360California: $65,920Employment Services: $58,130Texas: (2,360 jobs) $62,050
Reading, PA: $72,390New Jersey: $62,310Nursing Care Facilities: $57,520Pennsylvania: (2,340 jobs) $45,680
Anaheim, CA: $71,390Delaware: $62,170Offices of Health Practitioners: $54,730New York: (2,020 jobs) $48,910
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA: $70,070Texas: $62,050Specialty Hospitals: $53,010California: (1,880 jobs) $65,920