It’s common for someone with caring instincts to want a healthcare-focused career. What comes to mind first? Nursing. Medical technologist. Perhaps a Physician Assistant. Certainly not top-of-mind is the role of Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) – although it is #14 in the U.S. News list of top healthcare support positions. Here’s why those desiring a people-focused career should know about the OTA degree.
How OTAs Make a Difference for People of All Ages
One great way to show the significance of the OTA role is to describe what they do every day. OTAs want to work one-on-one with people of all ages facing developmental, emotional, mental, and physical challenges.
These clients know what they want to do; they need an expert like an OTA for the help and guidance to get there. In short, earning an OTA degree means caring enough to help people of all ages find new ways to reach their fullest potential.
Occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) assist people in participating in life activities they want to reach their life goals. Here are three examples of what that looks like in real life:
OTA: The Nation’s 4th Fastest-growing Profession
In today’s healthcare world, people with such challenges don’t always have access to the specialized assistance they need. Stepping into this gap is the occupational therapy profession.
Perhaps there’s no better proof of how healthcare has embraced what OTs and OTAs do than the rapid rise in the need for occupational therapy professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, occupational therapy assistants represent the 4th fastest growing profession. The BLS sees a 35% growth in OTA employment between 2019 and 2029. For comparison, that’s four times the growth rate of all job categories.
In recognition of that demand, the overall salary range for OTA degree earners is between $53,000 and $61,000 per year.
McKinsey’s Journey to the OTA Degree
McKinsey M., an OTA student who’s nearing graduation, always knew her destiny would involve helping people. Like many students with encouragement and compassion abilities, McKinsey started as a nursing major. Her early exposure to occupational therapy practitioners, however, opened her eyes to new possibilities.
“Then I realized I wanted to work with people on a more personal level,” McKinsey said. “What I really liked about occupational therapy assistant is that you do have a more personal impact with clients. That’s what drew me to it. You treat clients as a whole; you don’t just treat them physically but also socially and mentally as well.”
The A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant: 2 Years to an OTA Degree
Of course, realizing that nearly 80% of OTAs enter the profession with two years of college, not the four years for a B.S. in nursing, physical therapy, or kinesiology degree, often is highly motivating.
The OTA program McKinsey began exploring is the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. She learned that in an applied degree format, the vast majority of classes and labs focus on the skills and knowledge she’ll use once in the OTA workforce.
Her OTA degree program had 24 credit hours in preliminary classes like communication, psychology, and healthcare terminology, then began 51 hours of professional OTA coursework and hands-on instruction.
One of the unique – and hands-on – aspects of the OTA degree is the multiple-weeks of fieldwork experiences that come as the final phase of OTA education. McKinsey is completing her Level I fieldwork, which introduces students to the different populations OT professionals serve.
Typically, OTA students in their fieldwork experiences at client sites, but due to COVID19, Zoom conferencing proves valuable. Her group is doing simulation exercises with a theatre group in New York. The group’s members simulate client conditions for the students to react to, and fieldwork evaluators provide their comments and more detailed therapy instructions.
As she begins Level II fieldwork in January 2021, she’ll be under OTA guidance while interacting with clients and applying the insights and techniques she’s learned over her two years in the OTA program.
“I’m very much a hands-on learner, and there is a lot of hands-on learning in the OTA degree,” McKinsey said. “Our instructors brought in people to speak with us, and I really like that. Plus, the instructors are really good. If you do not understand something, they’ll stop and focus on it.”
Does earning an OTA degree like McKinsey sound like a match for your career dream? Learning more about it is your first step. Best of all, you’re not alone. More than 200,000 occupational therapy practitioners in the U.S. found their dream career working in hospitals, rehab centers, schools, community centers, and home health.
Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA Degree) at CUKC
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in suburban Kansas City. CUKC offers an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant.
Together with classes, you will practice your OTA skill set in our on-campus simulated living quarters lab and through directed activities. The four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience are part of the CUKC program.
CUKC program highlights:
To learn all about the CUKC two-year OTA degree program, download the free career eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.