The number of people age 55+ with age-related conditions is growing. There’s a sharp increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with developmental and sensory processing difficulties. Also, there’s a need within the healthcare sector to provide the therapeutic and rehabilitative activities that will get people where they want to go in life. Who’s performing these essential tasks? OTAs – those who are discovering the benefits of the occupational therapy assistant degree.
Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Degree
Every occupational therapy assistant student will have different reasons to enter the OTA profession. Perhaps few have as compelling a personal story as Sophie Y., who graduated with her occupational therapy assistant degree in 2020.
“My parents were telling me about the OTA program,” Sophie says, which came about in a time when she was facing the challenge of having a child with a severe developmental disability. “In being around the therapists, I became very inspired by them,” she said.
Sophie discovered how practitioners within the occupational therapy profession are all about providing an encouraging, loving environment while also carrying out therapy actions meeting developmental, emotional, mental, physical, or sensory processing challenges.
Whole-person Perspective: Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree
Rather than having a mostly clinical perspective, occupational therapists (OTs) and those who’ve earned an occupational therapy assistant degree (OTAs) are in a career that seeks to help clients live their best possible life. The therapy actions OTAs carry out can take many forms:
Sophie experienced this in her OTA fieldwork, the third and final phase of earning her OTA degree. (The first phase of the OTA degree program is completing the preliminary college classes, followed by part two, the 50 or more hours of professional OTA coursework. Learn more about the OTA coursework here.)
“Yesterday, I was playing Solitaire with a client because he loves card games,” Sophie said. “They’re using their cognitive skills by counting forward and backward and remembering sequences of patterns and colors.”
Another compelling aspect of Sophie’s OTA story is her background, which did not emphasize science or math.
“I’m an artist, a dancer,” she noted. “I was a professional ballet dancer before I got married.”
As Sophie found out in her studies, a therapy action that works well for one client may not be effective with another. OTAs must have that flexible “creative muscle” to adapt such actions – sometimes on the spot – to ensure therapy progress continues.
“I have my creative side, and I used that for a long time,” Sophie says. “Occupational therapy takes the creative side and the clinical side and mixes them to treat the whole person.” “As an OTA, it’s interesting how you can use something that would be a normal activity or a hobby for someone and then can translate it into skills clients may need,” Sophie says. “I love it.
Is There an OTA Degree in Your Future?
Now that she’s entered the OTA workforce, Sophie happily says, “It was an enjoyable challenge.”
As an occupational therapy assistant, Sophie’s future looks strong, not only due to her talents and determination, but because OTAs are in-demand. In October 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates job growth for OTAs at 32% between 2019 and 2029, three times the average for all occupations.
OTAs are in the list of “best health care support jobs” published yearly by US News and World Report. According to Salary.com, in September 2020, the average salary range for OTAs is $53,859 to 59,784.
Starting salaries for newly graduated OTAs average from $44-47,000.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a private, nonprofit, healthcare-focused university that offers an accelerated A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree with full program accreditation by the Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
Focused 8-week courses enhance learning, and patient interaction can begin as early as the second semester. Students typically complete their degree in as little as two years.
Fieldwork experiences take place in different settings in the Kansas City region. View our coursework plan here.
Other features of our OTA degree program: