Of all the health care support roles, one with the widest application across various work settings is the occupational therapy assistant (OTA). OTAs partner with occupational therapists to deliver care in the form of activities, skill-building, and adaptations to challenges. When you begin the journey toward earning an occupational therapy assistant degree, you're on track to help people of all ages successfully take on emotional, developmental, sensory, and mental difficulties.
Earlier this year Cleveland University-Kansas City introduced a six-part series of blogs detailing what an OTA does, where they work, and how great the need is for these uniquely talented professionals. In short, the series was an in-depth look at the work OTAs do.
The Six Practice Areas of an Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree
These six practice areas are included here with links to blogs that will give you much insight about the populations you'll work with in this high-demand health care role.
1. Working with Children and Youth
While all six practice areas are important, a good starting point for why people decide on an occupational therapy assistant degree is knowing how young children, youth, and their families benefit from OTA expertise.
Occupational therapy can help with restricted or delayed advancement, and that's where the skills and knowledge of occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) can offer help and hope. OTAs interested in this practice area might apply for jobs with school districts to work in elementary, middle, and high schools. Other OTAs find career opportunities with children's hospitals or service agencies.
2. Improving Health and Wellness
OTAs are involved on both sides of the health and wellness equation. Those graduating with an occupational therapy assistant degree help people counter ongoing chronic and acute health conditions daily.
Occupational therapists and OTAs use education, insight, and instruction to assist individuals toward an improved quality of life. An OTA who's on-staff in an assisted living facility could be called on to conduct fall-prevention programs for senior adults or those recuperating from a major surgery. In a school, there are opportunities to promote self-management programs that address living with chronic diseases or participating more comfortably in the activities and interactions of daily life.
3. Work and Industry
Careful evaluation determines which tasks the person can do without affecting workplace safety while also progressing toward health. OTAs may be on-staff with a company, work as a consultant to the employer or industry, or employed by a medical clinic, hospital, or rehabilitation center. In a company's wellness program.
Rehabilitation is at the core of occupational therapy because it addresses the needs of persons with injuries or illnesses to resume occupations – what that person likes to do or wants to do during the day.
You could be part of a combined hospital care team that gives clients a less stressful, safe transition from post-surgery to daily life. You could also be a member of a home care team who shows people how to move from reclining to standing or getting dressed without someone's help.
For a city, county, or state agency, an OTA could be an outreach coordinator, demonstrating adaptive tools or innovative methods to community groups.
5. Quality of Life
If a physical impairment affects the ability of senior adults to live independently, an OTA can focus on in-home care on a client basis for a service agency or by private arrangement.
With an occupational therapy assistant degree, you're part of a team who can help determine the just-right therapy plan. Can the person move from sitting to standing without losing balance? If not, what adaptive tools might be needed? If someone's physical capability is adequate, are there cognitive conditions interfering with achieving daily goals?
6. Mental Health Issues
Occupational therapy practitioners are active participants in the mental health of a community. You'll find OTAs working with individuals in homeless and battered-women shelters, correctional facilities, group homes, workplaces, schools, and in coordination with community-based programs.
OTAs and others in occupational therapy careers work toward improving mental health in a variety of ways. One example: In an inpatient psychiatric unit, someone is failing to take prescribed medications, which is leading to relationship problems. An OTA might carry out a short-term plan to counteract why that person is not taking the correct medications.
You and the Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree
Students decide to earn an OTA degree because they like seeing the difference OTAs make in people's lives. The career site owlgruru.com gives the OTA profession an "A" rating. A 2018 U.S. News annual careers report says an OTA position is one the "best health care support jobs" available.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees OTA job growth increasing 29 percent from 2016 to 2026. Experienced OTAs earn more than $59,000 a year, and BLS data supports a first-year compensation of over $41,000.
Your Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree at CUKC
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, health-care focused university located in Overland Park, Kansas. CUKC serves students seeking careers in the chiropractic and health sciences.
CUKC offers an accelerated Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program that will get you ready to enter the workforce in as little as two years. OTA courses are delivered in sequential 8-week modules year-round. The degree program includes the four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience that meets the standards of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
Other features of the CUKC OTA degree program:
- A dedicated simulated living quarters lab
- Gets you ready to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)
- Guaranteed admission for eligible students who complete all required prerequisite coursework at CUKC and meet all University criteria and OTA program considerations.
- Three class start options: spring, summer, and fall each year
Connect with an advisor today to learn about the two-year OTA degree at CUKC, or explore the career opportunities by downloading the free ebook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.