How to use a desire to assist others professionally is something those pondering a healthcare-focused degree need to explore. Many of these require four years or more of college – nursing, physical therapy, speech pathology, for example. Some two-year degrees satisfy that “calling to care for others” and result in a highly competitive salary. One of those is the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) Occupational Therapy Assistant degree.
Becoming an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) is an excellent fit for those who want to spend most of their time with clients and seeing them make progress toward their goals. That’s why, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the A.A.S. in OTA is the degree choice for more than 80% of OTAs working in the occupational therapy field.
Bam’s Path to the OTA Degree
When he was searching for the right healthcare profession, Bamalu K., who goes by “Bam,” wasn’t familiar with occupational therapy professions. What he discovered, though, he liked, especially the role of an occupational therapy assistant – an OTA.
OTAs do the day-to-day therapy that helps people who struggle the most in society – those with developmental, emotional, mental, sensory processing, and rehabilitative challenges. These clients know what they want to do and need specialized guidance and instruction to overcome personal obstacles. (For more details on what OTAs do, read this blog.)
“I liked the fact that the occupational therapy assistant degree is a two-year program and then get straight into work,” Bam says.
Sophie’s Path to the OTA Degree
As a mom whose child had a severe developmental disability, Sophie Y. was inspired by what therapists do.
Rather than having a primarily clinical perspective, occupational therapists (OTs) and OTAs work together to encourage and teach clients how to live their best possible life.
In addition to home modification recommendations and teaching how to use adaptive devices, occupational therapy actions sometimes don’t seem like therapy, but they have tangible outcomes.
Sophie recalls working one-on-one with cognitive difficulties during her fieldwork phase of earning her occupational therapy assistant degree.
“I was playing Solitaire with a client because he loves card games,” Sophie says. “He was using his cognitive skills by counting forward and backward and remembering sequences of patterns and colors.”
Taylor’s Path to the OTA Degree
At first, Taylor G. wasn’t sure which direction to take his desire to care for people.
“I originally thought I would shadow some occupational therapists, or maybe shadow some physical therapists,” Taylor says. “The first person I shadowed for a couple of days was an OTA, and I really liked it. So, I was like, ‘Why look elsewhere when I think this is something I want to do?’”
OTA program directors find those who excel as OTAs have specific talents and abilities, including:
OTA program directors also look for those with a natural inclination for“soft skills.” OTA degree programs help students master the art and science of conflict resolution, mid-problem critical thinking, communicating clearly with people of ages and diverse backgrounds, and finding “win-win” solutions through communication in a team-based environment.
The Rewards of Becoming an OTA
If you ask Bam, Sophie, and Taylor about the benefits of becoming an occupational therapy assistant, they’re sure to say the #1 benefit is its role in helping others.
Still, it’s good to know OTAs are in demand and are compensated for their knowledge and skills. Salaries for newly certified OTAs typically range from $45-48,000. The average salary of OTAs working today ranges from $49,298 to $60,478.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics sees a 31% growth for the occupational therapy assistant profession through 2029, ranking as the 4th fastest-growing occupation.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas. CUKC offers an applied science degree you can earn in as little as two years: the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant.
Beyond the class and lab time that introduces knowledge and client skills, our occupational therapy assistant degree helps ensure career confidence through supervised multiple-month fieldwork experiences.
The OTA fieldwork – worksite learning – happens while you’re in the program! (Learn more about the OTA fieldwork here.)
Other features of the OTA degree program at CUKC:
Ready to learn more about the CUKC occupational therapy assistant degree and its career possibilities? Download this free career eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.