Information travels so fast today, much of it gets out half-baked or just plain wrong. Unfortunately, the field of occupational therapy – and the role of an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) – is often misunderstood. It turns out the role of an OTA in today’s healthcare economy is critically important. So, what are the facts about an occupational therapy assistant career, and what’s the best way to earn the 2-year OTA degree?
It’s time to peel back the myths and lay out the truths about the occupational therapy assistant career and deliver some important information about earning this OTA degree.
Myth 1: “An occupational therapy assistant career sounds like I only help people get back to work.”
Truth: A client could be anyone of any age who might need help meeting challenges that are developmental, emotional, sensory, social, or physical. Examples include:
An OTA degree translates into a people-first career that is personally and professionally rewarding. OTAs are on the front line of care, carrying out the exercises, techniques, and methods that will achieve success for their clients.
Myth 2: “OTA jobs are not as important as other healthcare jobs I already know about.”
Truth: You may not have heard much about occupational therapy practitioners because much of what they do is behind the scenes. Often, the difference OT professionals can make in the quality of life goes unknown by those who do not experience the benefits first hand.
A study by health policy researchers published in Medical Care Research said “occupational therapy is the only spending category where additional spending has a statistically significant association with lower readmission rates” for patients admitted because of heart failure, pneumonia, and heart attack. The researchers noted how occupational therapy addressed patients’ functional and social needs.
Myth 3: “I’m not the right kind of person for an OTA degree.”
Truth: When you’re open to learning new skills and getting better at using the talents you already have, success as an OTA is highly likely. Both introverts and extraverts make great OTAs – they just apply themselves in the job differently.
In OT work, clients may feel stressed about the tasks you’re asking them to try. OTAs must be able to show empathy and understanding while keeping in mind the desired therapy goals. The combination of occupational therapy assistant degree coursework and guided fieldwork delivers the expertise and confidence to be better at both.
Interestingly, creative ability and a knack for seeing a need for changes from the norm are valuable to those earning an occupational therapy assistant degree. Taking occupational therapy from theory to real-life requires lots of creativity. What works for one client may not work as well for another.
Myth 4: “An OTA degree is too specialized.”
Truth: Earning an OTA degree makes for a great healthcare career, as evidenced by the “A” grade by the career website owlgurus.com. Those who choose the occupational therapy assistant degree love working one-on-one with clients and seeing them achieve their life goals.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) understands how big an influence occupational therapy principles and strategies can be. The AOTA describes OT as having six different areas of emphasis:
These six different areas of emphasis allow for plenty of variety within the career field as well as the opportunity to work with clients from many walks of life.
Myth 5: “All OTA degree programs are the same.”
Truth: The emergence of a two-year college degree as a wise career pathway is well-documented. Plus, the lower cost of a specialized two-year degree does make a lot of sense.
The logic goes like this: when you want to become an expert in a particular field, why go for a longer degree plan that includes non-career-focused classes? Imagine the income and seniority advantages you could have with a two-year head start into a career field.
There can be differences among two-year occupational therapy assistant degree programs, so it’s important to know how each program is set up. Here are questions you can ask to help you make sure your occupational therapy assistant career gets a good start:
Myth 6: “An occupational therapy assistant career won’t pay enough to get me where I want to go in life.”
Truth: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with at least an associate degree will earn more than 25% more than those without a college degree.
Occupational therapy assistants rank #22 in the 2019 Best Health Care Support Jobs list by U.S. News and World Report. Starting out, OTAs average about $45,000 yearly, and often more in areas where they are needed most.
The median salary for an experienced Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant is just over $59,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of course, they also don’t have wardrobe worries – they wear scrubs every day.
The Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Degree at CUKC
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university located in Overland Park, Kansas, which is part of the Kansas City Metro. At CUKC, students can earn the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree.
In addition to the professional OTA coursework delivered through classes and group learning at CUKC, you’ll practice your OTA skill set in our on-campus, simulated living quarters lab. Finally, you’ll do the four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience that helps to ensure you’re ready for an OTA career.
At CUKC you can: