When spring comes around, remember that April is Occupational Therapy Month – a 30-day celebration of why occupational therapy is surging in today’s healthcare climate. As a result of this information, you or someone you know may discover their future via occupational therapy assistant school.
Here’s a Q&A article that will tell you more about a long-time U.S. News top-25 healthcare support job: the occupational therapy assistant (OTA).
Q. Why consider a career as an occupational therapy assistant?
A. Occupational therapy is the only profession intentionally set up to help people of all ages – regardless of their challenges – to do the things they want and need to do. Helping meet the desire for specialized healthcare practitioners are two-year programs such as the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. This accelerated, two-year degree program is getting a lot of talented people into the healthcare workforce in as little as two years, instead of four.
Q. I like the idea of helping people live their best possible life. Is that what I’ll learn in occupational therapy assistant school?
A. Yes. Through classes and labs, you’ll learn all the proven OT principles, strategies, tactics, and best practices to be a force for good in the community you serve.
For some, it means activities of daily living that many of us take for granted, like being able to move without pain from reclining to standing or navigating steps without fear of falling.
For others, that might mean regaining the confidence to attend public events after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The path forward might also involve an OTA introducing a client to an assistive tool or device, or showing an innovative method to get something done with less stress or effort.
Q. Why is “creativity” so crucial for OTAs?
A. At first, many people find the benefit of being creative a surprising talent for an occupational therapy assistant, but it makes a lot of sense.
OTAs work with people of all ages who have developmental, emotional, sensory, or physical challenges. OTAs also help people recover at home safely from injuries, and adapt to life-interrupting events, such as the onset of Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or a dementia diagnosis.
Therapies and exercises that work for one client don’t necessarily work for another. OTAs must be observant and be ready to amend an activity to each client’s situation and ability.
Q. What’s the difference between an OTA and an OT?
A. “OT” refers to an occupational therapist, which requires a master’s degree. It’s a career move that takes six or more years in college to complete. OTs design and plan occupational therapies and often have other administrative responsibilities.
When someone decides to go to an occupational therapy assistant school, however, the path to an occupational therapy career can be much shorter and still deliver excellent job satisfaction and pay. According to a 2019 American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) survey, more than 81% of OTAs choose to earn an associate in applied science degree (A.A.S.) in occupational therapy assistant.
In occupational therapy assistant schools, OTA students learn the same principles, methods, and best practices as occupational therapists, but their day-to-day centers around their clients. You can describe OTAs as compassionate counselors who relate well to people of all ages and cultures and have a natural ability to coach and teach.
(Want to know more? Go here for the differences between OTAs and OTs.)
Q. An OTA degree program includes a “fieldwork” component before you graduate. What is that about?
A. In occupational therapy assistant school, you’ll learn how to adjust activities to the individual client – every person responds differently to instruction and guidance. Fieldwork for OTA students refers to a four-to-five-month experience gaining competencies in many areas. You’ll be working on location with clients, guided by trained OT fieldwork evaluators.
There are two fieldwork levels, each with different objectives defined by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Get the details about fieldwork here.
Q. I like the idea of becoming an OTA. Is it a growing career field?
A. Yes. Those pursuing an OTA career can expect a healthy job market. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates job growth for OTAs at 31% through 2028, which is nearly three times as fast as the average.
This job growth for occupational therapy professionals is due to three factors.
The compensation site Salary.com puts the annual salary of experienced OTAs between $53,200 and $64,867. Long-time OTAs say it’s a career choice that rewards those who love to serve people and be rewarded for their unique skill set.
The Two-year Occupational Therapy Assistant School at CUKC
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas. CUKC offers a two-year applied science degree: the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant.
In addition to the professional OTA coursework delivered through classes and group learning, you’ll practice your OTA skill set in our on-campus, simulated living quarters lab. Finally, you’ll do the four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience that ensures you’re ready for the OTA workforce. Our OTA degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
Help spread the word about the benefits of occupational therapy and how OTAs are a big part of next-level healthcare. Click here to get this new, free ebook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.