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Choosing the Right Occupational Therapy Position

Choosing the right position as a newly graduated occupational therapist is a hard decision.

You want to start making money, paying down student loans, but most of all, you want to apply your skills and begin helping clients.

The tricky part about choosing a position will be first deciding the area of practice in which you want to work. Here are some general considerations that will allow you to make the best decision possible.

Per-diem vs. staff occupational therapist positions

  • A per-diem position will typically be defined as a temporary, as needed, or fill-in therapist.
  • Per-diem positions do not offer benefits compared to a staff therapist position.
  • A per-diem position will pay significantly more than a staff occupational therapist position simply because there are no benefits provided.

The higher hourly rate of a per-diem therapist is intended to supplement the cost of health, disability, insurance and other benefits are offered to the staff therapist.

As new grad occupational therapists, you will come across per-diem position more frequently than a staff position. On the other hand, the much-desired staff positions are what all new grads are fighting for!

Many times staff occupational therapist positions will require a degree of extra experience. The reason a staff position is harder to come by is that it offers benefits and sometimes additional perks such as personal shopping, organizational discounts, and employee incentives.

Here’s a tool from that lets you compare pay for per-diem and benefitted positions 

What are the benefits offered in your occupational therapist position?

The benefits of a position will always differ between organizations.

Each facility will have their benefits package, and you can inquire about the specifics from your potential employer. Sometimes these little details make a big difference when it comes down to selecting a position.

  • medical insurance
  • dental insurance
  • vision insurance
  • life insurance
  • disability insurance – long & short term
  • paid time off – vacation, sick, personal
  • 401(k) retirement plan with employer matching
  • continuing education stipend

Does the occupational therapist position offer a mentoring program?

As Steve Flathers OTR/L said in his video about occupational therapist mentoring:

Transitioning from student to new graduate is challenging. Becoming a professional is like getting thrown from a place of safety (school) to an ocean full of uncertainty and doubt.

I chose my current occupational therapy position solely based on two factors, first being the setting and second, the mentorship I was offered. I wanted to become a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT), so I chose to work for a very experienced CHT as the only other occupational therapist there. Finding an opportunity like this is rare, and I had to take it.

What is the annual salary for the occupational therapist position?

Asking around about annual salary or hourly rate is a little bit taboo.

Most people feel uncomfortable when it comes to asking their co-worker about these topics. It’s good to know if you are being offered a good salary or not in your occupational therapist position.

Always remember that you need to start out somewhere.

Additionally, annual salaries for occupational therapists are highly dependable based on geographical location and the patient population. You want to look at what the averages salaries and hourly rates for you local area are. These rates can even vary between counties.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is an excellent resource for looking up salaries based on geographic location. Here is the Occupational Therapist Outlook based on geographics.

Another way to look up salaries is to browse the job listings on, look up your geographic area and see what each practice offers.

With all things considered, it’s its time for you to pick your ideal occupational therapist position! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!



Matt Alpert

Occupational Therapist at CJ Allen OT Upper Extremity & Hand Therapy.

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  1. I agree that you want to consider the benefits packages of different occupational therapists. Finding something that meats all of your needs would be ideal. It would also be smart to consider how long these benefits apply as well.

  2. There is a lot that you have to look into when choosing an occupational therapy position. Fortunately, the article does a pretty good job of covering the factors that you need to look out for. I particularly like that it brings up looking at the benefits you could receive since you want to make sure that you’ll be taken care of while you’re helping others.

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