6 Steps to the Right OT Job
Providing great OT care begins with finding the right place to serve. These 6 steps are your guide to landing the right occupational therapy job.
Don't get lost in the slew of OT job information out there. From hand-picked jobs (that will probably never hit the big job boards) to powerful raw data on salary information, these resources are carefully curated by a fellow OT to help you on your journey.
Discover Available OT Jobs
Start by exploring the occupational therapy job openings near you on the board below.
Then, scroll on for more in-depth search options!
Explore the Other Big Players in the OT Job Search Industry
Be sure to do your due diligence going through all of the top job search options. There is definitely some overlap between the major jobs boards, but it is worth looking through each one.
These occupational therapy job boards are listed in the order that I would recommend them.
Opportunities You Won't Find on Google
Ok. I guess you could technically find these things on Google, just not under a cursory OT jobs search.
Relode: A Healthcare Crowdsourcing Start-up. I believe that crowd-sourcing is the future of job-hunting. And one of the new crowdsourcing options is Relode. You make an account and then track available jobs in your area. You can either apply to the job yourself or if you refer a friend you can earn some bonus cash. (I'm a member of this site and have enjoyed it!)
The Occupational Therapy Job Seekers Facebook Group. I started this group in conjunction with this page as a place for people to post jobs and ask job-hunting questions. It has been growing quickly and I am proud to say that several people have already successfully found jobs through it!
Neuvoo. The other possible wave of the future will be giant job aggregator sites. (Think: jobs from around the world complied on one site). Neuvoo is positioning itself to be that site. It started in Canada and is currently in 4 countries. I've found their salary calculator to be helpful.
Covalent Careers. The site newgradoccupationaltherapy.com is part of a funnel to this healthcare-specific jobs board. It was started as a job search for optometrists, but they have recently expanded to therapy. It took some time for OT jobs to start populating in here, but the numbers seem to be growing!
Jobs Worth Making a Move For
Interested in adventure? A higher paycheck? Or simply not finding any work where you live... Here are my recommendations for traveling OT
Traveling OT is a different ballgame.
Instead of looking for the right position, you are looking for the right company (and recruiter!) to work with.
If you are just starting to consider traveling, check out my interview with Emily Butler about life as a traveling occupational therapist for an overview of what traveling entails.
My other go-to source for OT travel information is the Travel Therapists Facebook Group. This is an extremely active and supportive community. For many months, I've been monitoring the most recommended travel therapy companies and have compiled them below. (I chose two companies to spotlight based on the reasons below.)
I recommend that you talk to several companies/recruiters before making any decisions. (Scroll onto Step #2 for a spreadsheet to aid in these discussions.)
- MedTravelers– The website is nothing to write home about, but this is a solid company with a large network. They have a large number of exclusive contracts, which means that they can sometimes offer higher pay!
- Fusion– Fusion is a smaller company that I have only heard good things about! You can tell just by hitting their homepage that they are doing something right!
- Anders Group
- Ardor Health Solutions
- Aureus Medical Group
- Comp Health
- Core Medical Group
- Jackson Therapy Partners
- Pioneer Healthcare Services
If there are no OT jobs in your area AND traveling is not an option...
There are parts of our country where OT jobs are simply hard to come by. And not all of us have the option of packing up our lives to travel.
If this is you, do not despair.
Another avenue you can pursue is teletherapy. You could either serve clients in remote portions of your state or apply for a license in a state where there is a need.
You need to be licensed where you live and where you are providing therapy.
You also need to have experience in pediatrics. (Teletherapy for adults has been slow to develop.)
Reach Out to Your Network (I'm saying this last for emphasis, not because it is a last-ditch effort.)
OT is a tight community and some of the best opportunities arise person to person.
When you begin the job hunting process you should drop a note to any OTs or other health care professionals who work at facilities or areas where you have an interest. Person to person can be the quickest way to find out about new jobs that might be coming available. (For example, I've landed an interview through a FB message exchange.)
Research Potential Companies
Not all rehab companies are created equal.
Before applying, take time to research the companies you are interested in. You do not want to be surprised by unrealistic productivity levels or an unhealthy culture.
You want to find a company with a culture that values you as an individual and puts clients first.
Glassdoor is a great place to start your research. Glassdoor is a site where employees can leave anonymous company reviews. I've also noticed people are willing to share their experience with companies on related Facebook Groups.
If you are looking at multiple companies, consider making a spreadsheet of the different benefits each one offers. You may not be able to find all of the information in the initial listing, but you can add to your spreadsheet as you progress through the job hunting process.
This image gives you an idea of what a spreadsheet could look like when researching travel companies.
After narrowing in on particular positions, it is time to apply. If your resume needs some work, this blog post on How to Make Your OT Resume Stand Out can help.
Below are examples of my occupational therapy resume, a sample OT cover letter, and a reference list that you can use for inspiration.
Most applications will be online. I strongly recommend that you print out a finished version and save for your reference. The info may come in handy when filling out future applications.
This is always the most nerve racking part for me. If you need some help prepping for your own interview, check out Nail Your Occupational Therapy Job Interview.
Please keep in mind that the interview is also your chance to ask questions. Below are some questions that were suggested in interviews I conducted.
If after reading you still have questions about interviewing for positions in specific practice areas, practice area-specific FB groups are a great place to ask! If you need help finding the right one, ask me in the comments below. I think I belong to every OT FB group known to mankind.
Questions to Ask in an Acute Care OT Job Interview
These are derived from my interview with the pictured acute care team.
- What opportunities for growth exist?
- What is the staff tenure?
- Is there organizational funded continuing education?
- Are there productivity requirements?
- How does the rehab department fit into the economy of the organization?
- How is OT regarded and viewed professionally within the rehab department and organization as a whole?
- How many major/minor holidays do they require? Do they offer an incentive or time and a half for working holidays?
Are there weekend/evening differentials (how much more per hour will you make for weekends)?
Questions to Ask a SNF OT Company
These were suggested in my interview with Mandy Chamberlain.
- Is the company providing OT services for an internal or an external company?
- What vacation time is offered?
- Do they encourage program development?
- What are your work hours and what happens if your census is low as a full-time employee?
- What type of documentation system do they use?
- Are you involved in care conferences with the patient and families?
- What is the percentage of long-term care residents versus short term rehab?
- What are the daily productivity standards? Is it possible to have a lower standard for the first few weeks until familiar with the job?
Questions to Ask Before Starting a Home Health OT job
These were suggested in my interview with Monika Lukasiewicz.
- What are at least 2 qualities that are important to make a team member successful in this company as a home health OT?
- How many patients will I be expected to treat each day?
- Approximately how much mileage will I be expected to drive each week/day?
- What would it look like for an OT to be successful in this position? Please describe what it would look like from a management or team perspective.
- Why did past OTs leave this company?
- Please describe the documentation system/process for an average day (or at least for an average visit and an evaluation).
- Where would you hope to see the OT department of this company/team be in 5 years?
- What, if any, areas of expertise are either already present on the team or are wanted on the team (i.e. lymphedema, cognition, vision, neuro, ortho, motivational interviewing)?
Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Traveling OT Job
These are derrived from my interview with Emily.
- Medical coverage: Is this free for every placement? Also, how does medical coverage work between placements? For example, what if I want to take off a week between placements, would I still have medical coverage?
- Is there any life insurance offered?
- Is there a meals and incidentals stipend?
- As part of the travel expense allowance: is there ever the opportunity for car rental when placements are farther away?
- How much is the CEU annual allowance?
- Is there any opportunity for student loan repayment?
- Are there any opportunities for PTO?
- The website mentioned completion and renewal bonuses… could you elaborate on this?
- Another OT and I are hoping to travel together. Is it always possible to get placements in or near the same place?
Questions to Ask at a School-based OT Job Interview
These were suggested by Lauren of the blog Gotta Be OT.
- Is this position caseload-based or workload-based? (More information at AOTA website)
- What is the primary service delivery model in Example County Schools? (i.e. medical, educational, consultative, telehealth, etc.)
- What is the age range of students I will be serving?
- What is the radius I will be expected to cover?
- Is there reimbursement for mileage?
- What type of equipment is available to me?
- What will I have to pay for out of pocket?
- What does the new employee training look like? (i.e., Number of months/weeks, over the phone, in person, frequency of meetings, etc.)
- How many therapists are employed by Example County Schools?
- How can I consult or connect with other therapists in Example County Schools?
- How many special education cases in Example County Schools have gone to due process within the past year?
Questions to Ask Before Accepting a PRN Occupational Therapy Position
- What is the minimum number of shifts/month required to maintain PRN status?
- Who will be available for me to contact if I have a question while filling in for someone?
- How will I be brought up to speed on my caseload before seeing patients?
- What are the productivity standards for PRN staff?
- What training will be required throughout the year to maintain my PRN status?
- How will I be updated of changes in the department's policies and procedures?
- Can I be notified of my projected caseload a day prior to working? (You need to protect your time. You don't want to plan for a full day if there are only 1-2 patients to be seen.)
- If the facility cancels last minute, can I still be compensated for some of my time? (An example would be 2 hours of pay if the facility cancels within an hour of your shift.)
- Can I require a minimum of hours to be scheduled? (For example, you would only accept a shift if it is a minimum of 3 hours.)
OK, never mind, THIS can be the most nerve racking part.
I've lost nights of sleep worrying about negotiating a fair and mutually beneficial contract.
But, don't let the emotion deter you. If you have any leverage at all, I believe you should negotiate your contract. Here's why:
- You will be happier with a contract in which you helped to set the parameters.
- You will quickly learn invaluable information about how the company treats employees.
- Your skill set is worth it!
In the end, it's like my friend Emily says,
"Don't ask, don't get."
Below is one example of a successful negotiation. If you have a success story, I would love to hear it in the comments!
Negotiating Your OT Salary
A good salary negotiation is founded in research. Gather as much information about comparable positions. Factors to consider are practice area, geography, and your years of experience.
This is a great site because it breaks down the 2016 annual mean wage of therapists by state and somewhat by setting. Here is the information it lists about mean annual salary full-time for OT practitioners:
- OT Salary: $81,690 ($39.27/hour)
- OTA Salary: $58,340 ($28.05/hour)
PayScale gives lower median annual salaries for full-time OT practitioners, but the salaries are calculated based on respondents to a PayScale survey, which I assume is a smaller pool.
What is helpful on this page is an overview of salaries from some of the big employers like Rehab Care, Aegis, Fox Rehab, etc.
- OT Salary: $64,544 ($35.84/hour)
- OTA Salary: $46,885 ($25.77/hour)
The last release of the survey was in 2015 and provides information from 9,664 OTs and OTAs. (There are around 150,000 OT and COTA jobs in the US.)
If you want to view the full report, the survey is behind the AOTA paywall. But, the AOTA did release these 2014 median salaries:
- OT Salary: $70,000
- OTA Salary: $48,000
Here are the rankings of the best paid practice areas. (I'm also including the percentage of responding OTs who work in each particular type of OT job to give you an idea of where most OTs work.)
- Academia - 6%
- Home Health - 7%
- Long-term Care/Skilled Nursing Facility - 19%
- Other - 1%
- Community - 2%
- Mental Health - 2%
- Hospital - 27%
- Free-Standing Outpatient - 11%
- Schools - 20%
- Early Intervention - 5%
This is why I love OTs. Kate is an OT who wasn't satisfied with the OT salary information she was finding, so she created her own survey and spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is a standout because you can sort by years of experience, job type, state, education level, etc. The best way to use it is to download the information so you can sort it yourself!
Click on the button below to add your own info the spreadsheet!
Other Items to Negotiate in Your Job Offer
There are other factors about most job offers that can significantly impact your enjoyment of your job and your financial situation. Consider also negotiating:
- Unpaid leave for already scheduled trips
- Mutually beneficial continuing education
- The ideal schedule
- AOTA and NBCOT membership
- Loan repayment options
- A mentorship plan
Additional Negotiating Resources
I found the StoryBrand Podcast Episode #26- 5 Strategies That Will Make You a Strong Negotiator extremely helpful in normalizing the act of negotiation.
I also give more details about my own negotiating experiences in my post, Occupational Therapy Job Negotiations.
Finding the right OT job is just the beginning to providing great care.
BUT landing a job you are excited about is certainly worth taking time to celebrate! If this page was helpful to you, please consider sharing an Instagram post on your first day on the job with the tag #newOTjob or tagging me at @otpotential! We would love to celebrate with you!
Final Words of Advice and Encouragement
We are lucky to be in a field where there are many practice areas and settings available to us. This variety of potential OT employment opportunities allows us to be continually re-evaluting the fit of our position.
What was a great fit when you first graduated may not be the right place for you 5 years later.
Here are some questions to guide your evaluation of your current fit:
Am I providing sub-par care?
Has my learning and personal growth stagnated?
Do I feel undervalued?
Is my work compromising my home life?
If you answered in the affirmative to any of these, it might be time to go through this 6 step process again. Or perhaps you need to jump in at step #5 and negotiate some new parameters to your current position.
I also have a guide to OT specialties and certifications if you are looking for some ways to grow in your current role.
Some of you may also be considering venturing out on your own, here are some resources for starting your own OT business.
Wherever you are in your OT career I wish you the best of luck with next steps!
Bonus Content: Where to Post an Occupational Therapy Job?
If you are on the other end of the spectrum and looking to post an occupational therapy job, there are many options for you. Here is a quick rundown of the options and an overview of prices.
- ZipRecruiter- If you would like to be on Potential's jobs board, you can submit your posting to ZipRecruiter here and it will make its way to this board. Free to post. Pay per click.
- Indeed- Another popular option! You can post for free or sponsor a job for as little as $5/month.
- Simply Hired- Recently partnered with Indeed. Same pricing options apply.
- Covalent Careers- This is a new healthcare-specific jobs board I am watching. You can post your first job for free. The next tier of pricing is $699/month.
- LinkedIn- If you have a business page, you can post a job directly to LinkedIn. Pricing varies according the job title and geographical location.
- Facebook- Facebook is brand new to the job postings arena. I will keep you posted on details as they come out!
- Relode- Relode is another healthcare-specific jobs search startup. Pricing info is not readily available.
- Occupational Therapy Job Seekers Facebook Group- Free! But, will be screened by the admin.
Never underestimate the power of reaching out to your local network. Email the OTs you know in the area and let them know that you have an opening. You can also check with your local state association to see if they offer the option to share jobs with their mailing list.