For those who can do activities so important to daily life – preparing a meal by themselves, reaching into cabinets, or understanding when to take medications – life sort of runs on automatic. For someone with an injury or developmental, cognitive, or emotional conditions, life gets more demanding. Who’s there when something like that happens? It’s the occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) – a vital, people-first role within the occupational therapy profession.
Occupational Therapy: It’s About Living Life to the Fullest
Few realize how beneficial occupational therapy is until they, or someone they care about, are facing a life-interrupting challenge. OT practitioners are uniquely equipped to understand and improve people’s interactions and their home or work environment.
As one can imagine when working with clients of all ages and facing specific challenges, carrying out the recommended therapy actions takes various forms. Who leads those activities? You guessed it: the OTA.
Occupational therapy assistants, working in partnership with supervising occupational therapists, provide direct, one-on-one care and support to clients. Most importantly, the therapy chosen is personalized to the goals a client wants and needs to do to live their best possible life.
How OTAs Make Healthier Living Possible
The full range of the ways an OTA contributes to a healthier and happier life for so many people is a lengthy one. (Read this six-part blog series to see all OTA practice areas.)
Meanwhile, here are three scenarios areas of care that illustrate the diverse activities and the rewarding life of becoming an occupational therapy assistant:
Once discharged from the hospital, the road to recovery often is a series of small steps. Knowing the person’s capabilities and goals, an OTA provides instruction and encouragement in the healing process so the client will avoid further injury or the need to be re-admitted.
Imagine a client recovering from hip surgery, for example. An OTA can demonstrate the best way to get in and out of bed without putting undue stress on a healing body. Occupational therapy assistants can also help assess the home environment, eliminating barriers such as loose rugs or recommending grab bars in the bathroom.
Someone who has a mental health condition or is undergoing emotional trauma may feel alone and isolated. Recognizing this, an OTA might carry out a series of activities to improve that person’s self-esteem and increase their confidence in social situations.
OTAs might also provide support and assistance to homeless and battered women shelters, correctional facilities, group homes, workplaces, schools, and in coordination with community-based programs.
Imagine the frustration a school-age child feels when he or she lacks gross motor control to participate confidently in play activities or keep up with school assignments.
OTAs use their knowledge – and often their talent for being creative – to introduce “play” therapy techniques to help improve hand-eye coordination and balance. OTAs also present adaptive methods and tools that can make participation in activities and routines easier to accomplish.
How to Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant
Those who relate well to people, have caring and coaching instincts, and want to be a part of the healthcare field do well in an occupational therapy assistant program. In fact, two-year associate degrees – specifically the A.A.S. degree – can be as beneficial as some four-year college degrees. This is especially true for healthcare support positions because this job sector is set to grow at 18% through 2026.
More than 84% of OTAs working today get into the workforce by earning an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant. Most students earn this degree in about two years.
The coursework for students in an occupational therapy assistant program is distinctly hands-on. Students who desire to enter the workforce quickly appreciate this type of degree. The A.A.S. emphasizes profession-specific classes, labs, and practical skills experiences.
Here’s the OTA Degree Set Up
Think of an occupational therapy assistant program as having three phases. (1) The first is basic and introductory classes. (2)The second phase is the professional OTA coursework. (3) The final phase of the two-year OTA degree program is a client-focused 16-week fieldwork experience required by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
OTA graduates are eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapy assistant administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).
Successful completion of the exam results in the designation of a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
OTA Job Outlook and Salary
Compensation statistics show that it’s a well-paid career – the average national salary range for experienced OTAs is $52,685 to $60,000, according to Salary.com. New OTAs are averaging $44-47,000 per year, depending on location.
The demand for OTAs is over 30% through 2029 – much higher than for most occupations.
The 2-year Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at CUKC
Explore Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) to learn more about the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. CUKC is a private, nonprofit healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb within the greater Kansas City metro area.
Our OTA degree includes 16 core courses, integrated with the required 16 weeks of AOTA-mandated fieldwork. The shorter eight-week class segments reinforce learning.
Other features of our OTA program:
When leading people of all ages to healthier, more fulfilling lives appeals to you, it’s time to learn more about becoming an OTA. Request information by clicking here, and download a free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career today!