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.
Discover Available Jobs
Here is an overview of the occupational therapy job openings near you. (Scroll down for more resources!)
Check out these additional OT job boards
These occupational therapy job resources are listed in the order that I would recommend them.
Look nationwide, if you have the option
If you are unable to find the right job in your area, you may consider expanding your search. Making a move isn't for everyone, but if you are open to it, here is an option to consider:
If you are interested in traveling occupational therapy jobs....
Travel OT is a totally different job hunt process. Instead of looking for a specific posting, you are looking for the right recruiter and company.
Below are the OT travel companies that I've been recommended over the years:
- Anders Group
- Ardor Health Solutions
- Aureus Medical Group
- Comp Health
- Core Medical Group
- Jackson Therapy Partners
- Pioneer Healthcare Services
If you are just starting to consider traveling, check out this interview with Emily Butler about life as a traveling occupational therapist.
The Facebook Group Travel Therapists is also an awesome resource! You can search the group thread for the name of recommended OT travel recruiters.
Reach Out to Your Network
If you're still not finding the right OT job, consider reaching out to your network. OT is the a tight community and some of the best opportunities arise person to person. 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 individual companies that you are interested in. You do not want to be surprised by unrealistic productivity levels or an unhealthy culture.
Glassdoor is a great place to start.
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 it 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.
I am also including an example of my occupational therapy resume and a sample OT cover letter that you can reference for inspiration.
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.
Acute care questions suggested by this OT 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?
SNF questions suggested in my interview with Mandy Chamberlain :
- Is the company providing OT services for the SNF 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 residence versus short term rehab?
Home health jobs suggest by Monika Luekasiewicz:
- 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 (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)?
Traveling OT questions suggested in 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?
- Are 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?
- Are there any opportunities for student loan repayment?
- 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
OK, never mind, THIS can be the most nerve racking part. I have lost nights of sleep worrying about negotiating a fair and mutually beneficial contract. Something that has helped me over the years is episode #26- 5 Strategies That Will Make You a Strong Negotiator. If you don't have time to listen the take home message is this: we are all negotiators, and negotiating is a skill you can always be refining. I go into this in more detail in my post, Occupational Therapy Job Negotiations, but below is the essential information I want you to know.
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 annual mean wage of therapists by state and somewhat by setting. The mean annual salary listed for OTs listed is $81,690 ($39.27/hour) and $58,340 ($28.05/hour) for COTAs.
Payscale gives a median annual salary at $64,544 ($35.84/hour), but it is calculated according to 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.
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.)
The survey is behind the AOTA paywall, if you want to view the full report. But, the AOTA did share it found the median salary (in 2014) to be $70,000 for full time OTs and $48,000 for full time OTAs
Here are the rankings of the best paid practice areas. I'm including the percentage of responding OTs who work in each particular practice area 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!
You can 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 strongly 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
Finding the right OT job is, of course, 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 a post on your first day on the job with the tag #newOTjob! 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 potential job mobility 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:
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 on your journey I wish you the best of luck!
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 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.
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.