It’s always better to get a first-hand report on something vs. only reading about it. That’s why, when considering a healthcare-oriented career, it makes sense to hear from those who’ve been where you want to go. In interviews with those who’ve earned an occupational therapy assistant degree and joined the occupational therapy assistant (OTA) profession, a consistent theme is how much these graduates love what they do.
One way to understand what occupational therapy assistants do is to think of them as the profession’s coaches/encouragers/motivators.
Their role is to carry out the day-to-day therapy plans for clients. That means earning an occupational therapy assistant degree helps ensure that many more people will achieve their life goals. In fact, the aspirational goal of occupational therapy practitioners is to help clients “Live Life To Its Fullest.”
Occupational therapy activities and actions provide an essential foundation to support all areas of health. The goal is to help clients maximize their participation in everyday living.
Imagine being able to help people with various life challenges:
|OTAs Help With These Challenges||Example|
|Developmental||Improving age-appropriate gross motor or fine motor skills|
|Mental||Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)|
|Social Well-being||Ability to participate in social environments|
|Sensory-based Processing||Strong reactions to loud noises, bright lights, etc.|
Elizabeth earned her occupational therapy assistant degree in 2022. During her time in a two-year OTA school, she discovered a love for today’s growing senior adult population.
“I love that geriatric population, and that’s where I’ll be starting my full-time position,” she says. “I really love getting to know elderly people. I feel they’re touching my life, and I’m touching their life. That’s really important to me.”
Elizabeth is pleased with her degree choice, and her desire to complete her OTA education came with an added challenge.
“I am married and have a one-year-old. It was not easy to be away from my baby the whole day and away from my husband, but there’s an end goal,” she says.” I made it to the end goal (graduation), and that’s what I was focusing on.”
Joanna is another 2022 Occupational Therapy Assistant program graduate.
“I’d always wanted to be in the medical field,” she says. “My sister has a sensory processing disorder, and that drew me into the OTA profession.”
Joanna noted that the personal interactions OTAs get to have with others made the profession very compelling.
“Everybody has a different story,” she says. “Being able to find out, ‘What was your story? Did you work? What did you do for work? Are you going back to a job?’…being able to figure out all those puzzle pieces! When they are discharged, they can be the people they were, or always wanted to be.”
Like Elizabeth and Joanna, many occupational therapy-minded students earn an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant. More than 81% of OTAs choose this two-year degree for two reasons.
One, it’s a highly focused program directly applicable to a high-need position. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates at least a 30% growth from 2020 to 2030.
Two, becoming an OTA is a great match for those with distinct talents for caring, coaching, encouragement, and thinking up creative solutions to challenging therapy scenarios.
Elizabeth and Joanna agree that an A.A.S. in OTA program is much more than listening to lectures in a classroom. The learning also comes from collaborative group projects, question-and-answer sessions, skills practice in a simulated living quarter’s lab environment, and guest speakers with first-hand knowledge in the occupational therapy field.
In many OTA programs, students learn hands-on techniques to help clients achieve their best possible future as early as the second academic term.
As students near graduation, they move on to Level I and Level II fieldwork. In Level I, OTA students observe how OTAs help their clients in real-world scenarios. In Level II, under the guidance of trained OTA evaluators, students begin applying the OTA skills and knowledge they’ve learned.
An excellent resource for learning about the Level I and Level II fieldwork expectations can be found here.
Who does great in an OTA degree program? Those who love working with people and are enthusiastic about figuring out ways to help others reach their potential. Here are four characteristics found in great OTA program applicants:
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, chiropractic and health sciences university in Overland Park, Kansas, a major suburban city within the Kansas City metro area.
CUKC offers an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) in Occupational Therapy Assistant that includes four to five months of fieldwork experience. This educational component helps ensure mastery of essential OTA skills and knowledge. Most students earn their OTA in two years through our year-round schedule.
Primary features of our Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program:
Request information to learn more about our occupational therapy assistant degree, and you can download this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.