Want to use your caring for people talents in a growing and much-needed healthcare job? You can reach that goal by earning an occupational therapy assistant degree. More than 80% of today’s 45,000+ occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) achieve that degree in two years, and they earn a salary that rivals many other healthcare-focused degrees that take four years or more of college. (See Good Employment Outlook,” below.)
OTAs Fill a Pressing Need in Healthcare
Everyone knows about the role of doctors, physician assistants, and nurses. Who fills the gap for those facing mental, emotional, and developmental conditions? Who can help assess the need for post-surgical or post-injury rehabilitative care? Who has the knowledge and training to assist families in caring for those affected by a life-changing disease or condition?
In large part, that role falls to occupational therapy practitioners ‑ occupational therapists (achieved via a master’s degree or higher) and occupational therapy assistants (achieved via a two-year associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree in occupational therapy assistant.
How OTAs Use Their Caring/Teaching Talents
For a school-age child, imagine how better it is to conduct play-like therapy activities in a gym environment instead of a regular rehabilitation center. OTAs create and lead such activities and adapt them as needed.
For an adult with cognitive challenges, OTAs can increase their ability to function as they would like and achieve the things they want to do. OTAs can help them stay organized by showing them how to use a white-board listing daily “to-do’s.” OTAs can also be involved in re-teaching speech, writing, and other “everyday” skills that are now much more difficult.
For anyone recovering from surgery or injuries, an OTA is a person who can come to their home and assess the need for assistive devices like bathroom handrails and “reach extenders.” OTAs also teach techniques such as safe transfers from bed to standing positions or one-arm techniques to get dressed.
Is Earning an Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree Hard?
Ask OTA graduates about their educational experience, and they’ll say getting through the program depends on two things. (1) Your desire to help people, and (2) your willingness to follow the two-year degree plan. They also will tell you that OTA instructors want students to succeed in the profession they love.
Some coursework is delivered in a traditional college lecture format, similar to the prerequisite (required) courses necessary for any college degree. Very quickly, though, OTA students are engaged in hands-on activities and group learning sessions that provide the training you’ll use for your OTA career.
Typically, OTA students also have access to an on-campus simulated living lab to practice their skills with other students. Students undergo a four-to-five-month fieldwork experience in real-world settings to complete the occupational therapy assistant degree.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree: It Fits Today’s Healthcare
Evidence-based research continues to show occupational therapy use is a valid healthcare resource. One study confirmed that increasing occupational therapy resources is effective; other studies show early intervention by OT practitioners help children avoid more significant problems later in life.
In 2020, legislation introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives advocated for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants to use telehealth techniques to provide services to Medicare beneficiaries. Wendy Hildebrand, MPH, OTR/L, Ph.D., president of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), said during the COVID-19 pandemic, “telehealth was effective in removing barriers to care.”
Good Employment Outlook, High Salaries
Not surprisingly, a growing acceptance of the benefits of occupational therapy overall is resulting in high demand for OTAs and shows up in yearly salaries.
OTAs now comprise the 4th-fastest-growing profession in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Students earning their occupational therapy assistant degree can expect a first-year salary of $46,000 or more. OTAs with experience can earn a salary between $54,150 and $66,034, according to Salary.com in December 2020.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree at Cleveland University-Kansas City
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a private, nonprofit, healthcare-focused university offering the 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. The full-time, on-campus Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program at CUKC delivers 8-week courses that are sequenced to allow students to build upon each course’s knowledge and skills, so challenging concepts are easier to grasp.
Other features of our A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program:
For more information about our OTA degree program, request information today, and request this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.