2019 OT Salary Survey: Age and Experience

What can we learn about our colleagues’ priorities as they progress through a career?

Recently, we introduced our 2019 Occupational Therapy Salary Survey with a look at our results as a whole. Starting this week. we take a deeper dive into the data by breaking down responses into relevant categories. First up: age and experience.

As a person’s life—and career—progresses, priorities change accordingly. Relocating for a job opportunity may be a much more attractive option at 25 than it will be at 45. Then again, sometimes the results will surprise you, as a certain generation or age group will change the way we view the overall landscape of the profession.

Starting from the beginning, the most common age group for Salary Survey responses were mid-career professionals between the ages of 41-50, comprising more than one-third of our overall responses. OTs under 30 were especially light on responses, equalling only about 6 percent of the answers.

The age 61+ group was our second smallest, with about 12 percent of the total responses, suggesting that perhaps OT will not be facing such a dire need to replace a great number of professional leaders as other professions in the coming decade. 

Not surprisingly, earnings seem to peak around that 41-50 range as well. OT professionals reported salaries in the $70,000s more than any other range, but each range above that level ($80,000s, $90,000s, etc.) saw a higher percentage of professionals ages 41-50 than any other group.

Looking at employment status, the youngest professionals (ages 21-30) were likeliest to report full-time employment, as 84 of 104 responses indicated they were working 40 hours per week with one employer. It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but an encouraging result nonetheless with so many reports about the difficulty of recent graduates finding employment. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case in occupational therapy. 

Along those same lines, only 1 percent of respondents indicated they were not currently working, as the strength of U.S. employment grows. Part timers were about 50 percent more common than per diem workers across all age groups. 

Work settings showed little disparity by age, with the possible exception of young professionals (those under age 30) showing a tendency towards working in private practices. Again, with such a small sample size in that group we were careful not to assign too much importance to that result, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye out for such a trend in the future.

As a group, OTs seem relatively happy with the benefits employers offer. We asked respondents how they felt about the benefits at their place of employment, with ‘average,’ ‘below average,’ and ‘above average’ as possible responses. Each age group saw between 60-70 percent label their benefits ‘average, with the remainder relatively evenly split between above average or below average. 

One surprising development—as careers progress, so does willingness or requirement to work overtime! Almost 30 percent of the responses in the 41-50 and 51-60 age ranges came from professionals who said they work overtime on a regular basis, as opposed to an average of about 20 percent across other age groups. (The trend only holds out for so long, however, as professionals ages 61+ were statistically the least likely to work overtime.)

Older professionals were also far less likely to hold second jobs than their younger counterparts, as the trend across the profession was for about one in every three OTs to work more than one job. Within the 61+ age range, however, that fell to less than one in six. 

Factors Across All Age Groups

While it’s interesting to look at age-related trends in the profession, some of our results showed definite preferences by OT professionals regardless of age. 

Commute times, while perhaps not the most telling or interesting piece of data, may go to show how strong the employment market is for OTs right now. More than 60 percent of professionals reported a total commute time of less than 30 minutes, suggesting it’s not too difficult to find employment close to your place of residence, no matter where it may be. Just 5 percent of OT professionals commute more than an hour total each day.

Accordingly, many say they wouldn’t mind the option of eliminating the commute altogether, as over 60 percent of responses indicated they would either be interested in or have already taken the option of working virtually.A lack of willingness to relocate for a new opportunity wasn’t surprising either, with so many locally available options. More than 70 percent of OTs say they would not consider relocation even for the perfect opportunity.

Lastly, only about 20 percent of professional s are actively looking for new employment (defined as searching in the past month or more recently. About 35 percent say they aren’t considering new employment whatsoever (defined as not searching for jobs for over one year.)

Education: The Biggest Difference

Saving the best for last, we look at education, where we saw the biggest difference in terms of age groups.

Over 60 percent of OTs 30 years old or under hold a doctorate or master’s degree, easily the largest share of any age group. An increased emphasis on education throughout the profession is evident when looking at these numbers, as almost half the OTs in this age group also expressed an interest in returning to school to further their education. 

The younger age group also seemed more aware of their employers’ feelings or attitudes towards continuing education, as very few of the respondents ages 21-30 skipped our question which asked “Does your employer pay for/provide continuing education?” In all, about 20 percent of our respondents skipped this question or admitted they were unsure, but almost every single person between the ages of 21-30 answered.  

In all, when researching our results by age, you get a picture that aligns closely with career trajectories throughout many industries—salaries peaking in mid-career, a desire to settle into one area as one gets older, and an increased emphasis on higher education for younger generations.

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