Occupational therapists are in high demand throughout the country, creating exciting opportunities for OTs to put their clinical skills to work and explore new places at the same time through travel occupational therapy jobs. As a travel OT, you can choose the temporary contracts you want to accept, set your own schedule and earn a sizable paycheck.
Before you pack your suitcase, however, it’s important to find the right position. Not all travel occupational therapy jobs are the same, and you want to select ones that keep you on the right career path and support your growth. Get information about travel OT jobs and salaries, plus tips for finding positions that help you thrive in this guide.
Demand for Travel Occupational Therapists
The job outlook for OTs is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment for OTs to grow 17% between 2020 and 2030. The BLS also projects more than 10,000 openings yearly as occupational therapists retire or move to other jobs.
Occupational therapists work with patients of all ages, although an aging population fuels much of the job growth. OTs play a key role in supporting seniors who experience chronic illnesses and conditions, such as stroke, diabetes and arthritis. They’re also needed to work with older adults who wish to remain independent and age in place.
Travel OTs usually fill in for staff on vacation or taking a leave of absence. Temporary clinicians also provide critical support in locations with a shortage of occupational therapists.
Benefits of Working as a Travel OT
Most OTs are drawn to travel occupational therapy jobs for the freedom of working when and where they want. Add valuable experience and lucrative pay to the mix, and a travel OT career can be a smart investment in your future. Travel positions aren’t for everyone, but those who are adaptable and thrive on adventure enjoy an array of experiences. Some rewards of a travel OT job include:
With travel OTs needed in every state, you can experience different parts of the country without putting your career on hold. Work in places on your bucket list or spend time near family and friends. Hop across the continent or work your way down one of the coasts. You can visit several destinations in a year.
Living Like a Local
Travel OT jobs are typically 13 weeks long, giving you plenty of time to get to know a destination like a local. Make new friends, discover hidden gems that aren’t in the guidebooks and find favorite places to hang out.
Travel OTs commit to a job for a certain length of time, but otherwise enjoy the freedom of setting their own schedules. You can be in a new location every few months or line up back-to-back jobs to stay longer in one destination. You can also take time off as needed when you complete a contract.
An allied travel career is an ideal way to gain hands-on experience in various environments to build an impressive resume. Travel OTs are recruited to work in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, clinics, schools and home health care positions. By taking on contracts in different settings and working with diverse patient populations, you develop a versatile skill set that equips you well for the future.
With each temporary contract comes a chance to meet new colleagues and potential mentors. As you build your network, you exchange knowledge, learn best practices and support each other as your careers progress. Travel OT jobs can lead to valuable professional connections across the country.
What You Should Know about Travel OT Salaries
Occupational therapists are one of the highest-paying allied health specialties. According to the BLS, the average annual wage for staff OTs was $89,470 in May 2021. Travel therapists typically earn more money than staff OTs, Vivian listed $1,902 weekly as the average weekly rate for travel OTs in August 2022, nearly $99,000 annually. However, your travel OT salary depends on factors such as experience, certifications, cost of living, the hiring facility’s budget and how urgently a facility needs to fill the position.
Like staff salaries, travel OT wages vary by state. The state with the highest-paid travel OTs was Alaska, with an average rate of $2,277 weekly and a high of $3,220. Other top states for OT travel salaries included Maine, with an average of $2,172 and a high of $2,400, Wyoming, with an average of $2,067 and a high of $2,535, and Wisconsin, with an average of $2,056 and a high of $3,400. While you might be drawn to positions in high-paying locations, keep in mind that a higher travel OT salary may come with increased living costs.
When comparing salaries, be sure to consider additional incentives provided by the recruiting agency, so you’re looking at the entire compensation package. Incentives might include:
- Housing stipend or provided accommodation
- Medical, dental and vision coverage
- Life insurance
- 401(k) plans
- Free CEUs
- Paid time off
- Overtime pay
- Per diems for meals and incidentals
- Renewal bonuses
- Travel reimbursement and mileage
8 Tips for Finding the Best Travel Occupational Therapy Jobs
The secret to a thriving travel OT career is to find positions that support your personal and professional growth. Make a short list of your requirements, then see if the job you’re considering matches them. If it doesn’t, weigh your trade-offs and whether the position is worth it in the long run. These 8 tips help you line up the best travel occupational therapy jobs for your career development and travel preferences.
1. Consider Your Goals
What are you hoping to gain as a travel OT? You may want to acquire experience in certain settings or work with specific patient populations, such as children or seniors. Perhaps you’re looking for adventure or want a contract that lets you be near family. You can narrow your search better by prioritizing your goals.
2. Determine Your Salary Needs
Look at the compensation offered for each position. Think about the cost of living in different locations and the salary you need to cover your expenses, pay off debt and save for the future. While there are geographic variations in travel OT salaries, you’ll also find differences in pay rates depending on the hiring facility. Our Salary Tool helps you compare the average and highest salaries for travel and staff OT positions in specific locations.
3. Get Your Paperwork in Order
Make sure your resume, references, certifications and licenses are ready to go before you begin your job search. Positions in desirable locations or those offering lucrative pay may be highly competitive and fill quickly. Having your paperwork ready makes applying easy as soon as you spot the job you want. If you don’t land the contract, the recruiter may keep you in mind for the next opening.
4. Be Flexible
Sometimes, the position you want isn’t immediately available in your desired location. Flexibility is required to build a successful travel OT career. It may involve taking weekend shifts, being on call or accepting a contract that extends through the holiday season. You might also need to get creative, working in a nearby community and taking day trips on your days off. You’re more likely to land where you want to be if you’re adaptable. New graduates should gain experience to improve their chances of landing a dream job. Build your resume and shine in the opportunities you get, and you’ll get closer to having your pick of positions.
5. Ask Other Travelers
The best way to learn about great places to work is through first-hand experience from other OTs. Connect with OTs either online through discussion boards or while you’re traveling. Ask colleagues where they’ve worked, what the employers were like and which recruiters they used. You may discover information that leads to your next fabulous opportunity.
6. Find a Great Recruiter
Recruiters offer a direct pathway to travel OT jobs. Take the time to find one who’s responsive to your questions and career needs. Put together a list of questions for each recruiter and compare how they can help you achieve your goals. Some agencies, for example, may have exclusive rights to positions with certain facilities. When you find a recruiter you trust, help them do their job by being a consummate professional in your placements. They’re more likely to go out of their way to help you if you impress their clients.
7. Monitor Job Boards
Agencies that fill allied health travel jobs usually post openings on their websites. However, you can access 100s of travel occupational therapy jobs from different recruiters at once by creating a universal Vivian Health candidate profile. We’re a one-stop marketplace that lets you search for various allied health jobs by location, employer, facility, shift, salary, start date and other factors. You can also set alerts to receive notifications of jobs that meet your requirements and connect with employers through real-time chat. Our portal offers a convenient way to submit and manage your applications in one place instead of setting up profiles on multiple agency sites.
8. Check Employer Reviews
Great employers can make a travel OT job more enriching by offering supportive, collaborative work environments. Check review sites and Vivian’s employer reviews to see what previous employees are saying. This information helps you shortlist places you’d like to work and provides insight into the employer’s culture before you accept a contract. To ensure you’re getting an accurate reflection of a workplace, consider how large of a sample size you’re looking at and check for recurring themes in the comments.