How to Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant

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The aging of the baby boomer population in the U.S. means increasing numbers of elderly people in need of assistance to maintain their independence and ability to function on a daily basis. This, along with the needs of the developmentally disabled and injured workers learning to compensate for loss of mobility in order to gain independence, has created a high demand for the skilled certified occupational therapy assistant who is trained to help people improve their quality of life.

There are many similarities between occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT). However, the main difference is that OT focuses on improving skills for daily living, and includes the use of adaptive tools to allow a patient to work and live independently, whereas PT focuses almost exclusively on treating and preventing injury.


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What does an occupational therapy assistant do?

Occupational therapy assistants work closely with occupational therapists and other healthcare providers to assist patients with rehabilitation to improve the performance of daily activities so they may regain their independence.

OT assistants are employed in a variety of settings including home health care, hospitals, nursing care facilities, and occupational therapy private practices. Some occupational therapy assistants work in facilities that focus on one aspect of recovery and rehabilitation, such as sports medicine clinics, but most work in general practices that work with patients with physical limitations, injuries, diminished mental capacity, or developmental impairments.

The primary focus is to assist patients to become more independent, overcome or compensate for disabilities that affect their ability to work or complete everyday tasks, learn ways to stretch and move that will limit pain or further injury, and improve overall quality of life. Click here to find out how to become a certified occupational therapist assistant.

What kind of training does an occupational therapy assistant need?

Online occupational therapy assistant programs follow similar curricula. However, each state has different regulations and licensing requirements for occupational therapy assistants. While students should check with their local regulatory agency for state-specific requirements, most occupational therapy assistants pursue national certification to become a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA) through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

To be eligible for COTA certification, students must complete an accredited 1-year occupational therapy assistant certification program or any of a number of 2-year associate degree programs in occupational therapy. These OT assistant programs include medical terminology, physiology, gerontology, anatomy and basic introductory courses for healthcare. Students will also complete supervised clinical work as part of their program of study. Upon graduation and completion of clinical supervision, students are eligible to take the COTA national certification exam through NBCOT.

COTA-certified occupational therapy assistants can become Registered Occupational Therapists (OTRs) by obtaining a bachelor degree from an accredited occupational therapy program and passing the National Registration Exam administered by the NBCOT. Click here to get a list of online occupational therapy assistant programs.

What are the prospects for a career as an occupational therapy assistant?

Occupational therapy assistant jobs are expected to rise significantly, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Opportunities for certified occupational therapy assistant jobs are expected to increase by an impressive 25% between 2006 and 2016. This is significantly higher than the expected growth rate for entry-level positions in other industries. (1) click here for a list of programs to get your occupational therapy assistant certificate online.

How much do occupational therapy assistants make?

The certified occupational therapy assistant salary range varies depending on geographical location and experience. The median base salary for occupational therapy assistants across the United States is between $39,700 to $48,000, with the highest 10% earning more than $51,700. (2)

An occupational therapy assistant career is a great choice for caring individuals who enjoy helping people improve their lives and maintain their independence. Certified occupational therapy assistant jobs are becoming more plentiful, and could provide a high level of satisfaction.

Joshua T Osborne

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