It’s easy to guess what everyone wants in a career. Competitive pay. Knowing you’re making a difference in people’s lives. Different challenges from nearly every day. Those choosing the OTA degree get all that as occupational therapy assistants (OTAs). Talk to those who’ve chosen this career field, and you’ll discover they have their specific reason for choosing this healthcare occupation.
Occupational therapy assistants team up with supervising occupational therapists (OTs) to treat people facing developmental, emotional, rehabilitative, mental, social, and sensory challenges.
They lead the day-to-day therapy actions and do them in authentic, inspiring ways. That’s because OTAs see their healthcare mission as coming alongside their clients to develop, recover, and improve their ability to achieve the things in life they want to do for more fulfilling lives.
Take Elizabeth B., for example. She knew early in her life a people-focused career in healthcare was where she wanted to be, having been a Certified Nursing Assistant. She was looking for something with higher pay, more career upside, and put a high value on her abilities to be creative, encouraging, and make a genuine difference in people’s lives.
After searching through possibilities, Elizabeth zeroed in on the occupational therapy assistant degree. She was impressed she could earn her OTA degree in as few as two years and be fully ready to join the OTA workforce.
Elizabeth came from a small, rural area, so she also wanted an OTA degree from a university in a larger city. She learned this option would present many different client settings for her OTA fieldwork – a required component of her OTA education. (Read about Level I and Level II fieldwork here.)
Now about halfway through her OTA program, Elizabeth believes she found exactly the career path she always wanted.
Occupational therapy practitioners consider a person’s psychological, physical, emotional, and social makeup in their approach to healthcare and wellbeing. Recent OTA graduate Sophie Y. says having a direct, positive interaction with people is a big reason she chose to enroll in a 2-year occupational therapy degree program.
“The environment of occupational therapy is a loving and warm environment,” she says. “We treat the whole person, and it’s interesting how you can use something that would be a routine activity. As an OTA, you can translate that into a skill they may want or need for a more fulfilling life. It’s a great world to be in.”
Taylor G.’s path to the OTA degree matched his deep desire to help others.
“My parents instilled in me to help those that may be less fortunate than you,” he says. “That drive to help people is what drew me to this profession.”
The variety of therapy activities OTAs lead is highly personalized, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Some examples:
Taylor completed his 2-year occupational therapy assistant degree in 2020. He says the OTA career is delivering the “helping others” profession he was looking for, along with a bonus benefit. “The amount of gratitude people express is pretty satisfying.”
“I was a nursing major at first,” McKenzie M. says, “and I wanted to work with people on a more personal level. I began looking at physical therapy and occupational therapy careers. What I really liked about occupational therapy is how you have a more personal interaction with the clients.”
The trusting relationship OTAs develop with clients often leads to more effective therapy. For example, consider a golf enthusiast who’s rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. An OTA has the skills and knowledge to adapt a therapy goal to use golf activity movements in regaining arm strength and range of motion.
Elizabeth, Sophie, Taylor, and McKenzie like knowing the occupational therapy profession has an impressive future.
The overall demand for occupational therapy assistants will improve by 35% from 2019 to 2029, according to May 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also has the OTA profession as the nation’s 4th fastest-growing occupation.
Compensation for OTAs is competitive. New OTAs typically earn $45,000 per year or more, and wage data collected by Salary.com places the average salary for experienced OTAs between $54,054 and $65,916.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas.
CUKC offers an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. Our two-year OTA program presents classes in sequential 8-week modules year-round. The OTA degree program includes the required four to five months of fieldwork experience, ensuring mastery of essential OTA skills and knowledge.
Other features of our OTA program:
Request information to learn about our occupational therapy assistant degree, plus download a free eBook about the OTA profession: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.