One of the most in-demand and people-first professions in the healthcare field is occupational therapy, commonly known as OT. The online Job Network, a career matching resource, says those working directly with OT clients – those who earn an occupational therapy assistant degree – develop “a special patient-provider relationship…they get to watch their clients do something today that they couldn’t do yesterday.”
Those choosing the occupational therapy assistant degree as their outlet for their caring instincts find the profession immensely fulfilling for themselves, too.
OTAs get to work one-on-one with clients recovering from injuries, have become disabled, face age-based developmental delays, have conditions such as autism or sensory-based disorders, or have lost physical or cognitive function.
In fact, one OT practitioner support organization compiled comments that show how occupational therapists and OTAs feel about their profession:
“It is rewarding, dynamic, and fun!”
“Everyone should have a purpose in life, no matter what challenges you have.”
“It helps individuals realize their potential.”
“It allows me to touch lives in positive ways.”
“We get to help people help themselves…I still love it after 35 years!”
From these quotes, it’s easy to see that OTAs can also be thought of as compassionate counselors, or perhaps teacher/coaches. Thanks to specialized training and skills, OTAsbecome someone clients can trust to help them experience life to its fullest potential. What’s that mean?
Sometimes, it’s basic life skills – learning how to accomplish the necessary activities of daily living, such as getting dressed or preparing a meal by themselves.
Sometimes it’s condition-specific, such as helping a client with dementia through behavioral interventions or adaptive tools.
Sometimes it’s helping the client and their family find new ways to cope successfully with challenging situations.
Becoming an OTA is doable for those with a passion for working with people of all ages. Is it hard? Not for those who are teachable and motivated. It’s rated as a top-15 healthcare support profession yet is among a list of high-paying jobs that don’t need high-level math or science skills.
The most common occupational therapy assistant degree is the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. The “applied” part of the degree signals that a great majority of classes and experiences – nearly two-thirds of the degree – center on mastering skills and techniques an OTA will use after they’re in the workforce.
After preliminary classes like English, social sciences, communications, and health sciences terminology, students move into the professional OTA courses. These courses cover a wide array of OT subjects, such as analysis of performance, rehabilitation and disability topics, and the methods, techniques, and adaptive technologies OTAs use when interacting with their clients.
An emphasis on hands-on activities, such as practicing wheelchair-to-car transfers, reinforces what OTA students learn in classes and labs.
The final phase of OTA education is the four-to-five months of Level I and Level II fieldwork, all of it guided by trained fieldwork evaluators.
(Want more details about OTA coursework? Check out this blog.)
Overall, the occupational therapy profession is on track to be the nation’s 4th fastest growing occupation for 2019-29 and is proving valuable in lowering hospital re-admission rates, helping children succeed in school, and improving the ability of senior adults to live independently in their homes.
As of September 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a 32% job growth between 2019 and 2029. New OTAs average about $45-$47,000 per year. The average salary range for certified occupational therapy assistants is $53,859 to $59,784.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a healthcare-focused, private, nonprofit university offering an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant.
CUKC links the teaching and learning process used by occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants to ensure a high-quality educational experience.
Other features of the CUKC program:
For more information about the OTA program at CUKC, request information here. A more detailed resource about the occupational therapy assistant degree is this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.