When 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 2021 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 that healthcare jobs will grow 16% by 2030 – about twice 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.
You can think of the ideal pathway to becoming an occupational therapy assistant as having three stages:
1. The OTA Degree in 2 Years
You’ll want to get an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree from a university’s occupational therapy assistant program. The applied science degree tells you the coursework is devoted to learning the skills and practices necessary to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
You can learn more about OTA classes in this blog.
You do have preliminary coursework, 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 academic term, and OTA students say that’s one of the most enjoyable and exciting parts of OTA education.
2. Level I Fieldwork
Level I fieldwork aims 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 toward a client’s goals. 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 various 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.
The role of the occupational therapy assistant in healthcare support covers many different areas. An OTA works in partnership with an occupational therapist (OT) to execute therapy plans.
The type of client varies, which requires the OTA to have a comprehensive set of skills. Performing the activities of daily living is often difficult for clients because they can have various types of challenges:
The unique design of an OTA degree program has its rewards. The average starting pay for new OTAs is more than $45,000 yearly and is often more in areas where the need is higher.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median OTA salary between $55-60,220, which typically means someone certified as an OTA and has several years of experience working with clients. OTAs have many work environments: schools, outpatient centers, hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, and in-home.
The two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree at Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) includes 16 core courses and 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 is nationally accredited by the Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
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 contacting an admissions advisor and getting this free OTA ebook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.