Occupational Therapy Salary Negotiation

Should you Negotiate Salary?

The short answer? Yes. Even if you are a new grad, don’t let this prevent you from negotiating your salary.

Glassdoor released a study that found that the average American could be earning about $7,500 more per year than their current annual base salary.

If you don’t negotiate, then you may not get a higher offer. It’s that simple.

One statement that the employer may make is that you are a new grad. How would you respond?

One way to think of this is the value you bring to the team. You would not provide less quality work for clients than an experienced OT. You would not bill a client for less just because you are a new grad. From a purely business standpoint, the amount of money you earn the company is potentially just as much as an experienced OT.

Sure, an experienced OT may have better time management and be more efficient, therefore producing higher productivity than you, but if you are doing your job correctly, you should be meeting at least minimum productivity expectations. This of course depends on the setting you are applying for.

But don’t sell yourself short just because you are a new grad. You have a lot to offer the company based on your new skillset and education despite your lack of experience. For example, new OTs have a strong background in evidence-based interventions, research and keeping up with the latest trends, use and adoption of technology such as virtual (Zoom), knowledge of healthcare trends and where OT and healthcare is heading (with the latest OTPF-4), and so on.

There are many softskills you have developed that are important:

  • Adaptability – such as in the pandemic and virtual learning
  • Teamwork – with capstone, peers, and professors
  • Career advancement – membership of AOTA, poster presentation, in-services, community outreach
  • Organization – student projects, capstone, fieldwork project
  • Leadership – student involvement, volunteering

and more!

When to Negotiate Salary

The best time to negotiate is when the employer provides an offer. It is best not to be the first to bring this up as this can seem like you are primarily concerned with money and can be a turnoff. Still, it is best to prepare because you never know at which stage in the hiring process that the employer may bring up the topic. It is best to know the range of what you want and the absolute lowest you are willing to accept, the “walk away” rate.

How to Negotiate Salary

After the employer makes an offer, kindly ask for some time to think about it (a few days). The employer will not want to wait too long and they may have other potential candidates. Provide your counter-offer and wait for a response.


  • OT’s in your area
  • OT’s with your experience
  • Your experience (volunteer, fieldwork)

What to Negotiate

First is the salary itself. To get a good idea, you can use our Salary Survey of real salaries from other OTs. You can submit your salary as well. Salaries can vary depending on location, but also OT vs COTA, type of setting, and years of experience. Another good website is otsalary.com

After you figure out what range you would want, it is best to counter-offer with a number that is higher than what you really want. The employer can say no and give you a lower number, but it will likely be closer to want you want (or nowhere near). You can then try to provide a second counter-offer, but you will have to provide a good reason of why you would be worth a higher offer.

  • Can you save the employer money or bring them in more money with productivity?
  • How are you efficient?
  • What can you bring to the team?
  • How can they measure this and justify what you want?

These days, which is very important – especially to the younger generations is how the job will bring you joy and satisfaction to avoid burnout. The last point is that many people may get caught up in salary such as hourly wage, but just as important are other factors (“the whole package”).

  • Benefits package
  • Hours and scheduling
  • Vacations
  • Continuing education
  • Other factors

Last Points

  • It’s okay to say no.
  • Think about it from the other person’s perspective.
  • Understand their constraints (including environmental, e.g. pandemic).
  • Be kind but assertive.
  • Be prepared for some difficult questions (why should we pay you more?)
  • Don’t give or present ultimatums, but open the discussion for options.
  • Maintain a sense of perspective.

Check out Youtube for some examples and simulations of “salary negotiation”.