Pursuing an occupational therapy assistant career can be fulfilling for you and your patients. Occupational therapy is an essential part of the healthcare field that uses therapeutic activities to help patients regain independence and ability in everyday activities.
There are several requirements a person must meet to become a certified occupational therapy assistant, including educational requirements, training and certification programs, and a licensing exam.
Before pursuing a rewarding career as an occupational therapy assistant, it is essential to know what an occupational therapy assistant does.
What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?
Occupational therapy assistants work one-on-one with patients to help them regain or improve ability in daily life skills.
The primary duties of an occupational therapy assistant are to guide patients through therapeutic activities and work collaboratively with occupational therapists to establish treatment plans.
The daily job duties of an occupational therapy assistant can change depending on the unique needs of the patient they are working with.
What Do Occupational Therapy Assistants Do?
Occupational therapy assistants help patients to complete planned activities and tasks according to the treatment plan provided by the occupational therapist. By assisting patients and providing therapy, occupational therapy assistants directly impact patients’ quality of life.
Occupational therapy assistants can help patients of all ages. For children with developmental disabilities, occupational therapy assistants lead them in play activities that promote coordination and socialization.
Occupational therapist assistants can also specialize in senior care, helping elderly patients adjust to aging difficulties.
An occupational therapy assistant teaches patients how to implement occupational therapy strategies and operate the equipment. It is also the job of an occupational therapy assistant to communicate with patients and help them feel comfortable with the occupational therapy process.
Together, the occupational therapist and occupational therapy assistant track patients’ progress and change their treatment program as needed.
Occupational therapy assistants may also prepare and maintain training areas and equipment and assist in clerical tasks.
Where Do Occupational Therapy Assistants Work?
Occupational therapy assistants can work in various facilities, including nursing homes, outpatient clinics, assisted living facilities, nursing care facilities, and hospitals.
An OTA’s specific job description and tasks may differ depending on where they work.
How to Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant
To become an occupational therapy assistant, there are many steps a person must complete. Before pursuing the career, it is important to understand these occupational therapy assistant requirements.
Graduate High School or GED Equivalent
Most, if not all, OTA programs require a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. This initial education provides a foundation for continuing education.
Apply for an OTA Program
After receiving a high school diploma, you must apply to an occupational therapy assistant program. It is best to enroll in an educational program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), a part of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
Occupational therapy assistant programs will teach you the basic life support and interpersonal skills needed to succeed as an occupational therapist assistant. They will also provide you with field-specific knowledge as you work toward an associate degree.
Find an accredited OTA program that best suits you based on your location, desired timeframe, and cost. Check local community colleges to ask about their associate degree programs or find an accredited college with an occupational therapy assistant program near you.
An OTA program will typically require students to complete fieldwork. A student is assigned to an occupational therapist at a hospital, nursing care facility, or other settings to gain hands-on practice in the field and experience the day-to-day life of an OTA.
How Long is Occupational Therapy Assistant School?
A person will typically be enrolled in an OTA school for two years before receiving an associate degree. An accelerated degree program may be completed in a year and a half.
After receiving an associate OTA degree, you may pursue additional education, such as a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree program. While a master’s or bachelor’s degree is not required to become an occupational therapy assistant, they may expand your career options and field experience.
Become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
After successful completion of an accredited program, you may begin the certification process. While graduating from an OTA program can be enough for some positions, receiving a certification may lead to more job opportunities and higher pay.
Take NBCOT Certification Exam
Occupational therapy assistants can become certified after receiving a passing score on the NBCOT exam.
Visit The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) website to learn more about the national exam, including eligibility requirements, access to study resources, and review of the application process.
Apply for COTA License
After certification, many states require occupational therapy assistants to receive a license to practice. Check your specific state licensure requirements and processes to determine your next steps.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Job Outlook
In the next ten years, overall employment of OTAs is expected to grow 25%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth projection is significantly higher than the average growth rate for other occupations.
According to a 2021 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage that occupational therapy assistants earn is $33,560.
Apply for Occupational Therapy Assistant Jobs
After completing all the requirements to become an occupational therapy assistant, you are ready to apply for jobs!
There are plenty of job opportunities available to you as an OTA, so it is essential to find one that works best for you.
Why not travel to your dream destination for your job? If you are considering a traveling OTA assignment, apply here.
Traveling COTA Jobs
A traveling OTA career gives you the freedom to help patients in your ideal destination. Not only does a traveling career allow you to explore new places, but it also brings the potential for higher pay and opportunity.
Many more benefits are involved with a traveling OTA career, including flexible hours, diverse job experiences, and even housing accommodations.
AlliedTravelCareers.com is the best place to look for your first travel COTA assignment!