Change is the one constant thing in life. That’s also true when it comes to healthcare careers. Over the past decade, a big contributor to better health and wellness comes from occupational therapy (OT) practitioners. A specialist position within OT, the occupational therapy assistant, is now the #25 “best healthcare support job” in the U.S., according to a U.S. News survey. What is an OTA, and how do you choose an OTA school?
The benefits of OT are widely understood and accepted today. Many students who once thought of majoring in kinesiology, physical therapy assistant, nursing, or other patient-care focused degree programs are seeing the long-term career benefits of going to OTA school.
OTAs help people reach the life goals they want to reach despite disorders, injury, or developmental challenges. Talk to any OTA, and you’ll see the highly practical aspects of the job present a tremendous opportunity. Becoming an OTA requires a unique mix of skills, someone who is drawn to interacting with people and has a talent for teaching.
Here are a few examples of what OTAs do:
Because OTAs work day-to-day with so many types of clients, the choice of an OTA school deserves careful evaluation. The most sought-after OTA degree choice is the two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. The A.A.S. degree in OTA is accelerated, and the majority of classes focus on OTA skills and abilities.
Here are three questions to ask to help ensure your choice of OTA schools will deliver the high-quality education and career satisfaction you’re seeking.
1. Is the University healthcare-focused?
Not all occupational therapy assistant programs come from a university that specializes in the health sciences. The ideal environment for an OTA school is one where you’re taught by those with experience in the OT field, and the academic coursework matches employer expectations.
The OTA school program should have multiple anatomy and physiology classes, and teach the principles of occupational therapy, analyzing client performance, and the many topics and techniques of rehabilitation and disability therapy.
You can learn more about the classes you’ll take by reading this blog, “Becoming an OTA: Are OTA Classes Hard?
2. Does the OTA school emphasize comprehensive, hands-on teaching?
Being an OTA means you’re in a physical, people-focused work environment. OTAs learn many of their advanced skills and in hands-on practice sessions. Expect to spend a lot of time in the school’s simulated home-living lab. There, you’ll learn to master techniques for various client scenarios and use your creativity to improve therapy outcomes.
3. How real-life is this OTA program?
The goal of occupational therapy assistant schools is to achieve real-world employment for its students. The last phase of OTA school is the Level I and Level II fieldwork experiences. Supervised by trained OT evaluators, this client-intensive fieldwork is your time to show you have what it takes to be an OTA.
That’s why your choice for OTA school should be in an urban environment with a strong healthcare presence. When you’re in a city with healthcare facilities that include hospital systems, group medical practices, rehab centers, and senior care housing, you’ll likely have better access to fieldwork opportunities involving many different therapy types.
Looking for a good starting wage and a bright future? National statistics show that a newly certified OTA often earn right at $45,000 per year – even more if you go to a high-need state. In 2022, OTAs with experience earn a salary from $53,000 to $59,300, according to survey data from Salary.com.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, expect a 31% growth for OTAs between 2020 and 2030.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas. Our Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant includes 16 core courses along with the four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience. Coursework is presented in eight-week segments to immerse students in their class subjects.
Features of the CUKC program:
Ready to change your life for the better? Connect with a CUKC advisor today, and request this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.