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COTA Thoughts

COTA Salaries

Published February 26, 2013 5:39 PM by Tim Banish

Some time ago I wrote a blog about COTA salaries, and in it I mentioned that with the increased cost of schooling and decrease in salaries that soon we may see a shortage of people seeking to enter the field. Was that a bad prediction?


The cost of the two required years of OTA school can vary greatly. At the local community college tuition runs about $15,000, and at the privately owned college tuition will set you back almost $40,000. These figures do not include books and other fees either. All I can say is OUCH! However more and more people are seeking to enter the field.


Many new grad OTAs are reporting an average starting salary of $20-25 per hour. Not a bad beginning wage but still not equal to the pre-PPS days. I remember starting out at $18 per hour back in 1990, when the minimum wage was $3.80 per hour. Today's minimum wage is $7.80, and although my math is not the best, that should mean starting pay (if salary percentages matched the minimum wage increase) should be close to $40 per hour. That would be if all the Medicare cuts and managed care never came into the picture.


One thing I do know is some COTAs are reporting annual earnings of $70-90,000. A more realistic figure would be in the $40-50,000 range for a full time 40 hour work week. Some COTAs make extra money working a second part time job. Maybe a couple hours at a nursing home, or a few home health patients, but typically when you work part time you can demand more per hour as you receive no vacation days or other benefits. If you're young and have the energy, the need is there and yes, you can make a good annual salary.


Until next time, hope all your "Thoughts" are Good-



It is very hard to find full time work in Kansas. SNF pay averages anywhere from $26 up but caseloads fluctuate so much that it is hard to determine profitable gains. Home Health pays more if you are willing to become a "road warrior" in your personal vehicle. $39 per visit with gas reimbursed at .36 per mile. If you can build a decent clientele it's worth it.

Selina, Home. Health - OTA January 25, 2017 7:06 AM
Hutchinson KS

Seems a lot of Rehab companies are lowering their pay rates. In 2010 the average pay was 38.00 an hour. The in 2012 the pay rate declined to 32.00 an hour. However, starting in 2015, the pay rate has decreased to less than 28.00 an hour. These are for OTAs who have been practicing in the field over 15 years. New grads are reporting starting salaries in the 18.00 to 23.00 an hour range. Hours are no longer guaranteed with most therapists reporting a normal work week between 24 to 32 hours. New changes beginning January 1, 2016 will significantly effect the lives of many people like PPS did back in 1998. How much, no one knows for sure. I guess we will all have to sit back and wait to see. I do know one thing for sure is that the needs for OTAs here in Texas are becoming fewer and fewer except for PRN and part-time, and the jobs fr OTRs are growing like wildfire.  

Davey, Home Health - Cota/L December 10, 2015 3:44 PM
Austin TX

I just passed my NBCOT COTA exam and obtained my New York state license. I've been job-hunting in the past few weeks around NYC / Queens area and the offers that I'm getting varies. First is from an agency for $32 per hour per diem. Second is from a Rehab/Long term care facility for $27 per hour staff/fulltime but WITHOUT benefits. As an new-grad COTA, I seriously think employers are low-balling my skills and its quite dissapointing.

Ronald, , COTA Rehab/LTC January 6, 2015 2:49 PM
Long Island City NY

Hello Mr. Banish,

Thanks for publishing this article.  I will be graduating in 2016 as a COTA & was wondering what type of facility or company would be the best paying. (northern VA/DC)

Thank you!

Elizabeth, cota - student, undetermined December 19, 2014 11:50 PM
alexandria VA

I have worked a a Cota for almost 25 year. I make $ 18 something an hr. About 38 thousand a year. When I worked in schools it was $20 /hr. It was a good ojobwithyoung children. In schools' I was more autonomous, in rehab, I have to report to supervisor more often. Plus, notes everything must be signed now. It is very discouraging. I wish that I had been able to get OTR years ago.

claire destevens, rehab - cota December 26, 2013 10:13 PM
syracuse NY

I am currently in level II fieldwork for COTA in Colorado.  My classmates and I are having a really hard time getting solid information as to what to ask for salary.  My understanding is the we are one of the lowest paid states, but are hoping that will change with the licensure laws in place.  Does anyone here have an idea on what we can expect to ask for salary?

Heather Jordan, OTAS October 21, 2013 8:08 PM
Northglenn CO

Yes, the setting will determine pay rates. LTC tends to pay more, and working prn with no benefits tends to demand higher rates. The only issue with prn work is it can be feast or famine.

Tim Banish, COTA/L, Retired May 16, 2013 1:04 PM
Cincinnati OH

In my area for a permanent COTA the pay is anywhere from $17- $28 per hour for new grads depending on setting and benefits/no benefits. For contractors and PRN employees the pay can be anywhere from $25-$35 per hour. Work hours can be anywhere from 20-40 per week depending on caseload and number of therapist.

Donielle, OT - COTA, Hospital May 5, 2013 11:15 AM
Tacoma WA

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