One description of occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) is they are positive-minded, have a teaching talent, and love to see their clients achieve goals that help them live life to the fullest. OTAs are optimistic people and honestly believe in making the world a better place. When that describes you, earning an occupational therapy assistant degree is well worth considering.
In partnership with occupational therapists, OTAs work directly with people with developmental, emotional, cognitive, and physical impairments.
A client may have a disorder such as multiple sclerosis, or perhaps is a child with developmental delays who are having difficulty in school. Some clients are recovering from an injury or condition that is interfering with daily life activities – getting dressed, making a meal by themselves, or moving about safely in their home. These are just some of the many conditions and situations that OTAs assist people with every day.
1. OTAs are on the front line of healthcare delivery
The benefits of occupational therapy contribute to better healthcare outcomes, specifically by reducing hospital re-admissions and preventing or delaying entry into assisted care facilities.
According to the AOTA, occupational therapy fits in well with the emphasis on preventive healthcare. OTAs carry out recommended therapy plans, which are personalized to the needs and desires of clients.
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Donna K. mentions the many applications for OT therapies. “I had the chance to work with a wide variety of patients, including hip and knee replacements, stroke, spinal cord injuries, amputees, M.S., Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and alcohol and drug addictions. I was able to work alongside some amazing OTs and PTs.”
2. It’s a two-year applied science degree
Most students complete their occupational therapy assistant degree in two years by choosing the degree option of Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.).
So in two years, not four, the accelerated A.A.S. in occupational therapy assistant degree means becoming eligible to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. Passing this exam earns OTAs the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA ) designation and shows you’re ready for the OTA workforce.
OTA student Jeannette N. says this: “Having the knowledge of being able to affect the physical and mental well-being of a person, whether elderly or young, is truly special.”
3. It’s a healthcare degree that doesn’t focus on math
Unlike many healthcare professions, OTAs don’t need high-level math and science skills; what’s more important to success as an OTA are skills and talents in working effectively with people:
Another OTA, Lindsay R., likes the close interaction with her clients: the close interaction with her clients: “I have been working as an occupational therapy assistant since 2013. I love every part of it. The connections I make with my patients are just unlike any other.”
4. Client-based experience is included in the OTA degree
After completing prerequisite classes and gaining skills competencies in the professional OTA courses, OTA students enter a fieldwork phase as their last education component.
Fieldwork starts with students observing OTAs as they work with clients and then moves to OTA students applying their knowledge with clients under the supervision of specially trained OTA fieldwork evaluators.
During the fieldwork stage, students experience what’s it’s like to work one-on-one with clients. One practicing OTA noted this: “The OTA is more hands-on than many occupational therapists. The OTA can go home at night knowing she makes a real difference.”
5. Compensation, employability is high
OTA graduates enter a field expanding more than five times the rate as the average for all professions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for OTAs is projected at 31% over the next decade. That’s impressive because the average job growth for all occupations in the next 10 years is just over 5%,
An excellent career outlook also means a competitive salary, and national statistics also show this. According to Salary.com, a data site that examines job salaries nationwide, a newly certified OTA earns from $44,000 to $46,000 per year. For OTAs with at least several years of experience, a typical salary ranges from $ 53,587 to $65,349.
P. Steeneck, an OTA for 20 years, says the day-to-day interaction with children is a reward in itself. “I work with children that have Autism and behavior difficulties. To see even a small step to learning a new skill, to see them smile with pride, that’s my favorite part of being an occupational therapist assistant.”
Simply put, an occupational therapy assistant degree provides education and training to help people overcome obstacles in their lives. Talk about a fulfilling career: in addition to the joy that comes by seeing others reach the goals they want in life, OTAs have a competitive salary, have an excellent work-life balance, and a career that fulfills their caring instincts.
This combination of attributes may be why occupational therapy assistant is regularly within the top 20 in the U.S. News annual survey of the best healthcare support jobs.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas, within the Kansas City metro. For nearly 100 years, we’ve been on a mission to create a healthier world. One way our students achieve that is through our two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant program.
The A.A.S. in occupational therapy assistant degree includes 16 core courses and four-to-five months of supervised fieldwork experience. Coursework is presented during the day in eight-week segments. Classes are sequential, meaning the learning one class meshes with the next, allowing better mastery of knowledge.
Our OTA students practice their skills through group discussions, guest speakers in specialized OT areas, and guided hands-on demonstrations in our dedicated OTA simulated living quarters.
Aspects of the CUKC program you’ll appreciate:
Now’s the time to explore a career that helps so many people and is personally satisfying. Connect with an advisor today, or request this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.