How much do Occupational Therapists make in California

California is one the highest paying states for Occupational Therapy.  There are more OTs working in CA than any other state except New York. 

So how much do occupational therapists make in California? 

The average mean wage for Occupational Therapists in the State of California is $101,080 (bls.gov), but the answer really depends on the city, position, and job type.  

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about OT salary in California.

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What Cities in California have the highest OT salary

The average OT salary in the US is $86,280.  

If you look at OT salaries in California, you will find that Modesto is the highest paying City for OT with an annual mean wage of $112,870.  That’s $54.26 per hour and 26% more than the national average for OT.

Here is a list of the highest paying cities in California. 

Highest paying cities ranked highest to lowest

If you’re an OT in CA, you probably want to work in one of these cities.

  1. Modesto – $112,870
  2. Vallejo – $112,610
  3. Fairfield – $112,610
  4. San Jose – $111,720
  5. SunnyVale – $111,540
  6. Santa Clara – $111,379
  7. Salinas – $110,093
  8. Santa Maria – $109,183
  9. Santa Barbara – $109,093
  10. Los Angeles – 106,910
  11. Long Beach – 106,989
  12. Anaheim – $106,877
  13. Bakersfield – 106,420

Notice how Los Angeles and San Francisco are not number one on this list.  These cities have the highest populations and probably more hospitals than any other city in CA, but the reimbursement rates are lower.

What Cities in California have the lowest OT salary

The cities in CA with the lowest OT salaries are going to be cities that have smaller populations, less retired communities, less hospitals, and more rural areas.  

Unfortunately, this also includes facilities that cut costs, have fewer homeless populations, and provide lower prices. 

Here is a list of the cities in CA that pay the lowest

  • Northern California $90,120
  • Shasta  $88,134
  • San Diego $85,310
  • Carlsbad $85,218
  • Fresno $80,360

While many jobs in these cities may pay more or less, these salary ranges are based on averages.

Occupational Therapy Salary listed by Area

For an overview of OT salary throughout California see the chart below.

CountySalary
Anaheim$106,610
Bakersfield$106,420
Carlsbad$85,310
Chico$103,920
Fresno$80,360
Modesto$112,870
Napa$100,310
Redding$93,430
Salinas$110,290
San Bernadino, Riverside, Ontario$99,500
Sacramento, Roseville, Arden, Arcade$104,400
San Diego$85,310
San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles$92,730
Santa Maria, Santa Barbara$109,090
Santa Rosa$95,700
Stockton, Lodi$94,560
Oxnard, Ventura, Thousand Oaks$100,430
Visalia, Porterville$102,270
San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward$104,090
California OT Salary by area

OTA Salary in California

On average an Occupational Therapy Assistant in CA makes about $73,990.

The top states for OTA Salary

  1. California – $73,930
  2. Nevada – $73,930
  3. New Jersey – $71,680
  4. Texas – $69,420
  5. Connecticut – $68,780

The top cities for OTA Salary

  1. Santa Rosa
  2. Sacramento
  3. San Francisco
  4. Salinas

OTA salary ranges from $28-37 per hour with the highest paying jobs in skilled nursing, hospitals, acute rehab, home health and school based pediatrics.  

Typically outpatient pediatric OT pays lower with the hourly rate of $26-29 per hour while school based OTs make on average $33 per hour.


Entry level OT salary in California

If you’re a new grad in CA, you can expect to make around $38-45 per hour or about $76-91k per year.  New grads usually have a salary increase of $1 per year but can make even more if they work per diem. 

To learn more about entry level OT salary read my other post here

OTD Salary in California

Having a doctorate or Ph.D in Occupational Therapy may look good on your resume, but it doesn’t give you a wage increase unless you work as a graduate professor at a university.

Most California OT graduate professors earn about 68K-120k per year. The salary varies due to full and part-time salary reports.

It’s not easy to understand graduate professor’s salary, because each school varies in pay structure. However, California state schools report their salary every year. UCSC lists salary reports here.

How much do Pediatric OTs make in California?

Pediatric OT salary is all over the place.  Some clinics and practices do well, while others don’t.

In general, pediatric OT jobs pay less, but in California it’s different, and it really depends on a number of factors.

This may include job type, location, position, and specialty.

Most pediatric OTs in California can expect to make between $32 to $44 per hour, but some pediatric OTs make much more.  

For example, a pediatric home health OT is going to make less than a OT working at a hospital in the NICU.  Hospital jobs just pay better and offer better benefits.  

If you work in the hospital in California, you’re probably going to be making more than $45 per hour ($90k per year).  

Here are the best places to work as a pediatric OT ranked by salary

  1. Private practice
  2. OT consultant
  3. Hospital (acute care)
  4. Outpatient
  5. School-based

Outpatient pediatric salary sample

CityHourly Rate
Los Angeles$38
Sacramento $35
Los Angeles $47
Pediatric OT Salary

Reported School-based OT salary

CityHourly rate
Los Angeles $58
Apple Valley$70
Turlock$56
Sacramento$30
San Diego$34
San Diego$34
etiwanda$50
Vista$47
San Diego$45
East Bay Area$60
San Diego $43
Fullerton$34
San Francisco$54
Sacramento$56
Los Angeles$57
Los Angeles$50
Individually reported Salary

Why OT salary varies due to reimbursement rates

OT salary is usually determined based on reimbursement, and some cities in California have higher OT reimbursement rates.  For example, an OT working in San Francisco will make more than an OT working in Mammoth Lakes, because of higher reimbursement rates in SF.

Reimbursement rates are usually higher in more urban cities with larger populations and higher facility admissions.

That’s why Las Vegas is the highest paying state for Occupational Therapy. 

Las Vegas is a highly populated city and one of the highest populated retirement locations. There are only about a million people living near Las Vegas, yet there are about 15 hospitals and multiple mini hospitals throughout the area.

That doesn’t even include all the rehab facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and outpatient clinics in Las Vegas.

Another way reimbursement rates are determined can be understood by how much a facility spends. If a facility saves more on costs, they usually receives less reimbursement. 

For example, a hospital in Las Vegas with a high homeless population will lose money when homeless are admitted, because they are unable to pay for services.

This factor will cause them to receive higher reimbursement rates, because of excess expenditures.

So if you’re looking to work at a facility with better pay, look for the cities with higher reimbursement rates.

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Is it worth it to work as an OT in California?

Deciding on where to work is a personal decision. California is a popular location for OTs, but there are pros and cons to any place you decide to live.

For me, I wanted to live in California for years, but I decided to live in a location that paid better (Las Vegas) and had less expenses until I could pay off my student loans.

Here are the pros and cons of working in California

Pros

  • Plenty of OT jobs
  • Higher than average salary
  • Beautiful beaches
  • Great weather
  • Shopping
  • Outdoor recreation

Cons

  • Traffic
  • Higher taxes
  • Wildfires
  • Pollution
  • Higher cost of living
  • Less affordable housing

Conclusion

As you can see, occupational therapy salary can be difficult to understand, especially for California. If you’re living in California, you’ll be making more money, but you’ll also have to consider the cost of living, taxes, and other higher prices.

I hope this guide was helpful. To learn how to maximize your OT salary, don’t forget to read my other article that discusses the best places and positions to work, and subscribe below to learn more OT tips and tricks!

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