UPDATED MARCH 1, 2021
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.
Occupational Therapy: Assisting with Physical, Mental, and Developmental Challenges
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.)
Why Choose to Become an OTA?
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.
How to Become an OTA
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.)
What Does an OTA Do for Children?
Assisting in the improvement of cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills of children or youth are where OTAs can really make a difference. Addressing challenges early gives kids more tools and strategies to use, 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.
What Does an OTA Do for Seniors?
The rapidly growing senior adult population prefers to live as independently as they can for as long as they can. 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.
What Does an OTA Do for the Injured or Disabled?
Because of their whole-person view of rehabilitation, OTAs address not only progress toward physical recovery, but 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 2-Year Occupational Therapy Assistant Program 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 located in Overland Park, Kansas.
At CUKC, the OTA program offers class starts in spring, summer, and fall each year. 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! Connect with an advisor today, or request this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.