In your work life so far, you’ve found out that helping people is at the center of who you are, but you want more …. a rewarding, professional career that won’t take forever to accomplish. So if you’re ready to change lives over the course of a lifetime, know that you can become an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) in just two years.
Interacting one-on-one with people and helping them find new ways to reach their full potential is a great way to describe the goals of the occupational therapy profession.
Some people go into the field with the full intention of becoming an occupational therapist (OT). To meet the profession’s entry-level requirement takes at least a master’s degree. It’s a career move that takes six or more years in college to complete.
OTs develop the treatment plans, supervise occupational therapy assistants and aides, analyze progress, and plan improvements and modifications. (Go here for more about the difference between OTAs and OTs.)
When someone decides to become an occupational therapy assistant, however, the path to an occupational therapy career can be much shorter. While some OTAs choose to earn a bachelor’s (four-year) degree, more than 81% of OTAs choose the associate degree option, according to an OTA profession survey.
So, what does an OTA do? OTAs learn the same principles, methods, and best practices as occupational therapists, but work directly with individuals. Consider OTAs compassionate counselors; experts the individuals trust for advice and suggestions about achieving their goals.
The most common degree type is the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. The “applied” part of the degree means these OTA program graduates are fully qualified to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). Starting salaries for new OTAs average about $45,000; experienced OTAs can make $53,000 to 59,000 or more, according to Salary.com.
Sounds good, you say, but you wonder about getting through the program. Many students come to an OTA program thinking about a four-year degree in exercise science, physical therapy assistant, or kinesiology. Becoming an OTA is doable – it’s a two-year degree ranked among a list of high-paying jobs that don’t need high-level math skills. More important is that you’re teachable and motivated. (More about OTA coursework in this blog.)
Assisting in improving the cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills of children or youth is where OTAs can really make a difference. Addressing challenges early gives kids more tools and strategies, leading to increased self-confidence in what they can accomplish.
For example, an OTA can help children with developmental delays learn basic daily activities such as choosing clothes and getting dressed, doing their hair, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves.
The rapidly growing senior adult population prefers to live as independently as they can for as long as possible. OTAs provide personalized recommendations on how seniors can do that, and also can involve family members in achieving the senior’s desired quality of life.
OTAs often become like compassionate counselors to seniors, helping them adapt more confidently to their surroundings, whether at home, in a rehabilitation hospital, or in an assisted living center.
Because of their whole-person view of rehabilitation, OTAs address progress toward physical recovery and the mental or emotional issues that come with it.
Someone with a shoulder injury, for example, may need an assistive tool for reaching objects. Other individuals may need a coping strategy to counter depression in response to their physical changes or ways to counteract sensory processing challenges.
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 and 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 located in Overland Park, Kansas.
Other features of the CUKC program:
Getting the answers to “What does an OTA do?” is easy and convenient. There’s no better time to find out how you can become an occupational therapy assistant! Request information today, and be sure to get this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.