Thinking through what you want to do for a career can be overwhelming. (We’ve all been there.) One way to narrow it down is to ask a series of questions:
1. What occupational areas have great employment possibilities?
2. What’s the best use of my talents?
3. Do I want a streamlined degree program?
For many, the answer is earning an OTA degree and becoming an occupational therapy assistant.
If you see yourself as a natural encourager who loves working directly with people, the occupational therapy field makes a good choice.
Think of an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) as a teacher or coach who helps others overcome physical, mental, or developmental disabilities at any stage of life. An OTA works as part of a team with an occupational therapist. When a personalized therapy plan is ready, the OTA begins working one-on-one with the client. OTAs have the skills and knowledge to implement the plan, adjust it as needed, and monitor progress toward the client’s goals.
It’s definitely not a profession that’s the same every day. Sometimes the goal is to re-engage at work at the same level as before. Sometimes the goal is to re-learn how to perform daily living activities such as getting dressed without help.
Or, perhaps it’s teaching a grade-schooler how to navigate the crowded hallways. In other scenarios, clients might benefit from adaptive technology or tools, and it’s those with OTA degrees who teach how to use them.
Another advantage of becoming an OTA is how there are so many employment settings:
So, the next logical question is, “What’s the process for joining the OTA profession?” The answer to this question is to find an OTA degree program that’s fully accredited and offered by a university with a commitment to high-quality instruction and student support services.
Most OTA students are eager to begin helping clients live more fulfilling lives, so the two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) program is a great way to enter this valuable career field. The “applied” part of the degree name tells you the learning is concentrated and comprehensive.
1st and 2nd terms (Year 1)
To orient students to the world of occupational therapy, expect classes like principles of occupational therapy and ways to analyze a client’s abilities and performance. Other classes explore the different care strategies for people of all ages and abilities.
OTA students are also introduced to therapeutic interventions. Intervention is an occupational therapy term indicating actions that could involve vocational retraining, rehabilitation, addressing workplace/industrial issues, and cover health and wellness training or education.
3rd and 4th terms (Year 2)
The second – and final – year of preparation on the way to the OTA degree concentrates on learning and practicing OTA skills and knowledge. Typically, there’s a specialty component, such as mental health strategies, plus a healthcare management class from an occupational therapy perspective.
As students head toward graduation, they enter an extensive (four-to-five months) fieldwork experience. In Level I fieldwork, students learn by observing a variety of people who work with the population being studied.
In the final semester of the second year, students move on to Level II fieldwork, where they help clients while receiving coaching and instruction from trained fieldwork evaluators.
A review of job data shows that an OTA degree will open the door to a stable career. OTAs earn more than several other healthcare support jobs. The median annual wage range is $56,964 to $63,231, to the data site Salary.com.
In the Midwest U.S., newly certified occupational therapy assistants typically earn $45,000 to $48,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Areas with high demand for OTAs will see higher salaries.
For comparison, OTAs can make twice as much as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and 60% more than home health aides.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university located in Overland Park, Kansas. CUKC offers an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. Most students complete their OTA degree in as little as two years.
Our OTA program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) and includes the four-to-five months of patient-focused fieldwork experience.
Features of the CUKC program:
Get a fast connection to an advisor here and begin exploring OTA career opportunities by downloading our free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.