If you appreciate the value of hands-on training and want to practice your skills in a highly valued career, the role of an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) is worth investigating. In today’s healthcare environment, the OTA’s work is essential in the healthcare support arena. OTAs have one of the top 25 jobs according to the 2019 U.S. News “best healthcare support” job list.
The future is bright for those drawn to healthcare jobs, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number of healthcare jobs will grow 18% by 2026 – about twice than as the national average for all jobs. If you think this could be the career for you, check out these three things you’ll want to know about getting your OTA degree- the coursework and fieldwork parts one and two.
OTA Training: Classes + Fieldwork
You can think of the ideal pathway to becoming an occupational therapy assistant as having three stages:
1. The Associate OTA Degree Coursework
You’ll want to get an associate’s (2-year) degree from a university’s occupational therapy assistant program. Typically, this is an associate of applied science degree, meaning the coursework is devoted to the skills and practices necessary to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
You can learn more about OTA classes in this blog. Spoiler: Good news for many: there’s not a lot of math.
You do have preliminary coursework, which is 24 college hours of subjects like English composition, psychology, anatomy and physiology, and healthcare terminology. Your knowledge from these classes combines with coursework specific to occupational therapy assistant training.
For example, in your OTA degree program, you’ll learn about the principles of occupational therapy and how they apply in real-life scenarios. Then, depending on the OTA degree program you choose, you’ll begin to incorporate fieldwork into your studies. The fieldwork helps to ensure you’re ready for the challenges and rewards of an OTA career. Fieldwork begins as early as the second semester.
2. Level I Fieldwork
The goal of Level I fieldwork is to introduce students to client experiences and ensure there’s an understanding of various client needs.
In Level I fieldwork, you’ll do a lot of observation, noting how occupational therapists (OTs) and OTAs work with their clients. You’ll also see the ways occupational therapists and OTAs team up for their clients’ benefit.
In general, the OT is responsible for designing the therapy plan. The OTA carries out day-to-day activities and reports on progress made toward the goals a client has set. Often the OT consults with the OTA, and the OTA can suggest changes to the plan.
Each university’s occupational therapy assistant degree program determines time requirements for Level I, guided by AOTA standards. The occupational therapy assistant program can also require specific fieldwork placements for its OTA students.
3. Level II Fieldwork
Level II fieldwork asks OTA students to apply theoretical and scientific principles from classes and practice scenarios to a wide range of actual client situations. This ability is enhanced when OTA programs are located in larger, healthcare-centric metropolitan areas. A fieldwork evaluator provides feedback and grades the student’s experiences.
Level II fieldwork often is in the form of a full-time internship or part-time work in client settings. By the end of the second (final) year of the associate of applied science in occupational therapy assistant program, the OTA student should have the proven skills of an entry-level practitioner.
Occupational Therapy Assistant: You’re Needed
The role of the occupational therapy assistant in healthcare support covers many different areas. An OTA works in partnership with an occupational therapist (OT) in the execution of therapy plans for those whose lives are more difficult due to various types of challenges:
OTA Career Outlook
The unique design of an OTA degree program has its rewards. The average starting pay for new OTAs is more than $44,000 yearly and often is more in areas of the country where the need is higher. The BLS puts the median OTA salary at $60,220, which typically means someone who is a certified OTA and has several years of experience.
Earn Your Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree at CUKC
The two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree Program at Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) includes 16 core courses along with the four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience. Coursework is presented in eight-week segments to immerse students in their class subjects.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas. At CUKC, the OTA degree program offers class starts in spring, summer, and fall each year.
Other features of the OTA degree program at CUKC:
Get your hands on one of the best two-year degree opportunities around. Find out more by getting your free OTA ebook today: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.