One way to help define a career direction is to ask, “What’s your why?” So out of the thousands of college degree choices out there, it’s interesting to look at “why” many students who want a healthcare-focused career are choosing to earn an occupational therapy assistant degree. It’s one of those degrees that’s often overlooked, even with healthcare research documenting the need for more occupational therapy practitioners.
A 2016 research report, for example, showed occupational therapy as the only spending category that proved effective in preventing hospital readmissions. Other evidence shows that once a child is identified with a developmental delay or life-altering condition or disease, early and specific occupational therapy activities effectively prevent those problems from becoming more significant problems later in life.
Why Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)? It’s Effective and Rewarding.
The uniqueness of the profession is that occupational therapy practitioners are trained in a holistic perspective of health and wellbeing. It’s the occupational therapy assistant – an OTA – partnering with the supervising occupational therapist, who delivers the direct one-on-one care.
As an OTA, the clients you’ll get to know might include:
“We focus on what matters to you, not what’s the matter with you,” says Rachel E., director of an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) Occupational Therapy Assistant program.
The early part of the occupational therapy assistant degree program features classes on occupational therapy principles, ways to analyze a client’s abilities and performance, and intervention strategies used.
Intervention is an occupational therapy term that refers to methods of getting clients to achieve the goals they have for their lives. Intervention activities may include health, wellness, and safety training and education, vocational retraining, physical rehabilitation, emotional/mental counseling, and addressing workplace/industrial issues.
The second – and final – year of education to become an occupational therapy assistant concentrates on learning and practicing OTA skills and knowledge.
A unique aspect of earning an OTA degree is completing the four-to-five months of fieldwork experience. In Level I fieldwork, students learn from observing OTAs work with clients. In Level II fieldwork, students receive constructive guidance from trained fieldwork evaluators while the student works with clients.
A final course gets students ready to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam and ensures students are ready for state licensure.
Students earn an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant and are eligible for a national test to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
You can learn more about OTA classes in this blog.
If Your “Why” Centers on People, Become an OTA
Dr. Margie Warrell, in her Forbes article, Do You Know Your “Why?” advises that one’s life work “sits in the intersection of your talents, skills, expertise, passions and deepest values.”
If you’re still reading this blog, you already know working with people is your calling. Why not choose a career that encourages creativity, lets you see your clients’ progress, and rewards you for unique skills in providing help and hope. That’s what earning the 2-year occupational therapy assistant degree does.
Taylor G., who completed his two-year OTA degree in 2020, says the drive to help people attracted him to a career as an OTA.
“I’ve always found pleasure in helping people.” Taylor says. “In my limited time in clinical settings, the amount of gratitude people express to therapists is pretty satisfying and keeps you going.”
In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranked OTAs as the 4th fastest growing profession and projected a 30% expansion between 2019-29. First-year OTAs typically earn $45-$47,000 or more. Experienced OTAs have a median salary of more than $55,000, according to Salary.com.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in suburban Kansas City. CUKC offers an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant.
In addition to classes, demonstrations, and group exercises, you will practice your OTA skill set in our on-campus simulated living quarters lab. The four to five months of required fieldwork experience, guided by a fieldwork evaluator, are part of the CUKC program.
Highlights of earning the occupational therapy assistant degree at CUKC:
Learn about the CUKC two-year OTA degree by requesting information here. Click here for a free career eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career