Opportunity often comes disguised as something unfamiliar. Take an occupational therapy assistant career, for example. “Occupational therapy assistant” is a long job title that doesn’t describe the joy an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) feels in seeing a client overcome a disability… or being thanked by a family member who sees their child finally doing well in social situations.
Get the idea? OTAs help bridge the gap between what someone wants to do and how he or she can achieve it.
Occupational Therapy Assistant: A Career For Helpers
Many of those who love their occupational therapy assistant career found their calling after first exploring other paths. It’s not unusual to see OTAs who once majored in speech therapy, exercise science, kinesiology, or physical therapy. The difference is that OTAs work from a whole-person therapy perspective, not from one narrow point-of-view.
An occupational therapy assistant career, in reality, is much different than many may think. Here are four ways “OTA reality” could match the career you’ve been searching for.
1. What You Thought: “Occupational therapy only involves at-work injuries.”
OTA Reality: Occupational therapy is a healthcare profession that helps people of all ages do the things they want and need to do. Often, this involves daily life activities most of us take for granted – from getting dressed in the morning to reaching into kitchen cabinets, to interacting effectively with people.
Different clients have wide-ranging challenges:
OTAs work under a supervising occupational therapist (OT) and often consult with each other about therapy specifics.
2. What You Thought: “Occupational therapy is a four-year degree, so the same must be true about an OTA degree.”
OTA Reality: The most popular OTA degree is a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree. “Applied” degree means the vast majority of classes are about applying occupational therapy principles, strategies, and skills involved in treating clients, then demonstrating the ability to use them properly and efficiently.
Toward the end of the program, students complete extensive fieldwork experiences with real-life clients, evaluated by fieldwork instructors according to standards set by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
3. What You Thought: “It sounds like the wrong career for someone like me who has a talent for creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.”
OTA Reality: OTA employers will tell you that applying creativity to a situation is vital to being a good OTA. Why is that? OTAs work with people of all ages who have different abilities and react to treatments differently.
Textbook strategies that work with one person may not work as well with someone else. Because the OTA is responsible for carrying out the therapy, it’s the OTA who needs to know how to adjust or adapt the therapy treatment, so progress toward client goals continues.
4. What You Thought: “Healthcare support jobs never pay that much.”
OTA Reality: Compensation increases when you have a multi-tiered skill set like an OTA, and there’s a significant demand for the services you’re able to provide.
According to Salary.com, which examines the salaries of those in the workforce, the median wage for OTAs is $59,000+ per year. New OTA grads typically earn $46,000 or more. Meanwhile, those turning to an occupational therapy assistant career can expect 31% growth from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The OTA salary, however, isn’t the best part of the job. Instead, OTAs will emphasize the personal satisfaction of coaching others, discovering adaptive ways for people to live more independently, and seeing people return to the work they love and the activities they enjoy.
The 2-Year Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree Program at CUKC
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas. The two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program at CUKC launches you into the healthcare workforce by preparing you to be a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) in as few as two years.
Our OTA degree program is accredited by the American Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Unique to OTA education is the Level I and Level II fieldwork experience students go through to ensure skill competencies before they graduate. At CUKC, coursework is presented in eight-week segments to immerse students in their class subjects.
Other aspects of our two-year degree from the A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant program:
There’s no better time to find out about becoming an occupational therapy assistant! Connect with an advisor today, and request this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.