Helping people of all ages live their best possible lives is an excellent reason to learn about the occupational therapy (OT) field and especially the role of an occupational therapy assistant (OTA). Plus, there’s a two-year OTA degree: the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant.
It’s the occupational therapist (OT) and the occupational therapy assistant (OTA) who assist others in meeting life challenges such as injury, illness, disability, developmental, sensory, and mental/emotional circumstances or conditions.
Using their abilities in empathy, support, and coaching, OTAs find much personal satisfaction in their role. That satisfaction level is reflected in the OTA profession being ranked in the top tier of healthcare support jobs by U.S. News & World Report.
Valerie S. was drawn to the OTA life primarily because OTAs are directly involved in one-on-one patient care. In less than two years, she earned her OTA degree from Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC). She chose the CUKC program because it is accredited by the American Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) and had small classes.
Here are Valerie’s comments about changing careers to become an OTA and what she learned in her two years of OTA school.
Did you know what an OTA was before you started exploring career options?
“I already had a bachelor’s in social work…I didn’t know what an OT was. I’d done home health for a really long time. The idea of OTA came up, and it looked like something I would be really good at. One of my favorite things about OT is that it’s in a healthcare setting…but isn’t clinical. It’s a hands-on way of working with people one-on-one, which is what I like. That’s what attracted me to being an OTA.
The further I got into the program, the more I learned about the broad scope that OTAs could practice in. I’ve been really glad about my decision.
As an OTA, I could be responsible for helping people regain their independence in many areas of their lives.”
It can be difficult to understand what occupational therapy is and what OTAs do. How would you describe it?
“After I started the OTA degree program, some of the questions I got from my family members were, “What is occupational therapy?” “Are you helping people connect with jobs?” “Occupation” in OT is anything in your daily life that is important to you. So, OT is a misnomer.”
What types of therapy might an OTA carry out?
“As an occupational therapy assistant, I’m able to come up with interventions and treatments that can help you regain independence in all of those areas. It could be the basics, like learning how to put on a shirt after you’ve had a stroke. Or it could be a bigger challenge, like, community mobility or helping someone with a brain injury learn how to use a public transit system. The scope we can practice as an OTA is really broad.”
As you can see from Valerie’s story, having the chance to have a positive impact on people’s lives is one of the main reasons to become an OTA.
It’s not the only reason. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects OTA job growth will grow by more than 20% from 2021 to 2031.
Many work settings are available:
OTA salaries are competitive, too. A newly certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) in the Midwest can earn from $45,000 to $47,000 (plus benefits), according to Salary.com. Today’s average salary for all OTAs is between $55,800 and $61,900. States with high demand for OTAs (and usually, higher pay) include California, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, chiropractic and health sciences university in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburban city within the Kansas City region.
CUKC offers an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant. Our program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) and can be completed within two years. Learn more about earning an OTA degree here.
CUKC presents its coursework in sequential 8-week modules year-round. Our OTA degree program includes the four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience.
More program features:
Connect with an admissions advisor today to learn more about our OTA degree program. You’ll also have access to our free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.