Best Occupational Therapy Schools in Pennsylvania – 2024

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

Whether they’re assessing fine hand movements in stroke victims in a Philadelphia hospital, or teaching Pittsburgh elementary school kids the basics of cursive handwriting, Pennsylvania occupational therapists play an important role in helping clients improve those motor skills that are invaluable for day-to-day living. OTs are experts in analyzing a task or an environment and then customizing it in a way that makes it simpler for a client to master. If you’re interested in this dynamic career, we’ve rated the best occupational therapy programs in Pennsylvania to make it easier for you to get started.


What Courses will I be Taking During my Occupational Therapist Training?

Most OTs who work with patients in the Keystone State are graduates of master’s degree level programs. Individuals who go on to earn a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree are typically interested in research or education.

Aspiring occupational therapists take classes in basic anatomy and physiology, but they spend a great deal more time than other ancillary health care professionals may in studying psychology, abnormal psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Other coursework that’s generally taught in occupational therapy schools in PA includes kinesiology, physics, statistics, and medical terminology. In addition to classroom time, OT students also participate in clinical rotations where they work with clients of all ages who have special needs and require assistance in learning how to adapt more successfully to their environments.

Occupational Therapy Program Length & Cost in Pennsylvania

If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in occupational therapy in Pennsylvania, plan to spend either two or three years getting your master’s. OT training at a state school will set you back $22,000 if you’re a Keystone State resident; attendance at a private university may cost you as much as $79,440.

Doctoral programs take three and a half years, and a training program at a publicly funded school will cost you $26,790 while attendance at a private university will cost you $96,510.

Type of Program Length Cost
Master's2 to 3 Years$22,000 - $79,440
Doctoral3.5 Years$26,790 - $96,510


(Based on our Ranking Methodology, below are the 7 best Occupational Therapy programs in Pennsylvania. The list includes both campus-based and online programs.)

1) Thomas Jefferson University-Center City Campus - Philadelphia

2) University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh

3) Misericordia University - Dallas

4) Duquesne University - Pittsburgh

5) University of Scranton - Scranton

6) Temple University - Philadelphia

7) University of the Sciences - Philadelphia

View Ranking Methodology

Occupational Therapist Career Information For Pennsylvania - 2024

How Many Occupational Therapists are Currently Employed in PA?


Where do Occupational Therapists Work in Pennsylvania?

Nearly 2100 of Pennsylvania’s OTs are employed in hospital settings where they are valuable members of an interdisciplinary team, working with patients affected by strokes or who are recovering from debilitating surgeries. They develop treatment plans with a variety of sensorimotor, educational and recreational activities that are designed to help clients relearn the simple skills of everyday life like getting up out of a chair, brushing their teeth and cooking.

Nearly 1,600 OTs work from occupational therapy offices outside hospital settings. Patients may be referred to them by primary care health workers or by teachers, school nurses and school psychologists. In private practice, an OT’s client pool may be more varied. In addition to working with individuals recovering from strokes, surgeries, and traumatic injuries, occupational therapists may also work with patients who’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, or who have developmental, behavioral, psychological or learning issues.

A sizeable number of OTs (920) work within the Pennsylvania school system, as part of the early intervention services designated by Individualized Education Programs (IEPs.) Occupational therapists also treat elderly patients in nursing care facilities. OTs treat patients in patients’ own homes, too, where they frequently suggest structural modifications that can make performing the routine activities of daily life easier.

Industry Number of Occupational Therapists
Offices Occupational Therapists 2,100
Hospitals 1,600
Elementary and Secondary Schools 920
Home Health Care Services 570
Nursing Care Facilities 520

What is the Average Salary of an Occupational Therapist in Pennsylvania?

The average occupational therapist salary in Pennsylvania is a fraction more than $88,560 a year. OTs are frequently required to work weekends for which they are not compensated at a higher rate, but if they work 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., they earn a swing shift differential. OTs are considered valuable members of the health care team, so employers typically offer them handsome benefits packages that include paid leave, medical insurance, and retirement savings options.

Type Salary
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Salary Based on Years of Experience

Years of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
Less than 1 year (Starting) $30.25 $5,240 $62,910
1-4 years $36.11 $6,260 $75,110
5-9 years $42.27 $7,330 $87,930
10-19 years $49.14 $8,520 $102,220
20 years or more $57.06 $9,890 $118,690
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Occupational Therapist Average Salary Comparison: Pennsylvania vs. National

The average salary for a Pennsylvania-based OT is 4.5% less than the national average.

Pennsylvania National Difference
Number %
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Outlook

The demand for OTs is expected to rise by 17.65% percent by the year 2030. Occupational therapy plays an important role in helping elderly patients in Pennsylvania age in place, which is certainly a lot less expensive than providing care in nursing facilities. By the year 2025, one in five residents of the Keystone State will be 65 years of age or older. Helping seniors stay as independent as possible for as long as possible can improve these seniors’ quality of life. Autism rates continue to rise, too, and OTs working within the school system play an important role in helping these individuals improve necessary social skills.

Employment Employment Growth (2020-2030)
2020 2030 Number Percent
(Source: careeronestop)

Annual Job Openings

New Replacement Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
(Source: careeronestop)

Metro Wise Employment & Salary Data

By far, the largest number of OTs—3,880— are employed in the metropolitan Philadelphia area, which is home to outstanding medical facilities like Children’s Hospital Philadelphia, Penn-Presbyterian and the other hospitals associated with the University of Pennsylvania as well as the hospitals associated with Thomas Jefferson University. Occupational therapists working in Philly command some of the state’s highest salaries, too.

Pittsburgh accounts for the next highest number of OTs (1,110.) Pittsburg also boasts some first-rate health care facilities, including the hospitals affiliated with the University of Pittsburg’s Medical Center (Presbyterian Shadyside, St. Margaret and Mercy), but Pittsburgh is a much less affluent urban center than Philadelphia, and OTs make smaller salaries there.

The York-Hanover region is one of the fastest-growing in the Keystone State. Forbes Magazine lists it as one of the best places for business and careers in the U.S. It makes sense, then, that this is the region where occupational therapists command the highest paychecks in the state.

Metro Employment Average Salary
Hourly Monthly Annual
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington 3,880 $46.95 $8,140 $97,650
Pittsburgh 1,110 $39.42 $6,830 $82,000
Harrisburg-Carlisle 410 $40.77 $7,070 $84,810
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton 380 $42.58 $7,380 $88,560
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton 280 $40.95 $7,100 $85,180
Lancaster 260 $39.93 $6,920 $83,050
York-Hanover 220 $42.06 $7,290 $87,480
Reading 200 $43.64 $7,560 $90,770
Erie 150 $39.85 $6,910 $82,880
Johnstown 110 $38.63 $6,700 $80,340
Altoona 100 $38.65 $6,700 $80,390
Bloomsburg-Berwick 100 $43.50 $7,540 $90,480
Chambersburg-Waynesboro 70 $41.90 $7,260 $87,150
Williamsport 70 $43.25 $7,500 $89,950
East Stroudsburg 50 $41.26 $7,150 $85,830
State College 50 $39.03 $6,770 $81,190
Lebanon 40 $40.68 $7,050 $84,610
Gettysburg 30 $40.15 $6,960 $83,520
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Useful Occupational Therapist Organizations & Associations in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association

The Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association maintains an active job board and sponsors professional conferences and other events.

Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

Occupational Therapy Schools in other States

  • New Jersey