Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Schools

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What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

An occupational therapy assistant (OTA) is a professional responsible for assisting occupational therapists through performing daily duties, providing clerical assistance, and treating patients regularly as part of a regiment outlined by their supervisor. Occupational therapy are  responsible for treating patients under duress through education, treatment, preventative care, and exercise therapy. Individuals work closely with their patients and must be familiar with the various machines and techniques used to assist them in recuperation and training. Individuals in this field are required to stand for excessive periods of time and must be able to maintain a pleasant and positive demeanor with clients and patients.

Difference Between Occupational Therapy Assistants and Occupational Therapy Aides

With similar and often confusing acronyms, we have received dozens of student communication regarding differences between occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapy aids.  There are significant differences and the two are contract below to help demystify the differences between the two jobs.

Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)

The job title and college degree description of an Occupational Therapy Assistant in known as an OTA and should not be used to describe an Occupational Therapy Aide.  For clarity, we will utilize OTA for the balance of this section in a bullet point format.

  • OTA’s will treat patients under the direct supervision of a licensed OT
  • An OTA requires students to earn an Associate Degree
  • During degree programs, OTA’s are required to complete supervised fieldwork
  • OTA academic programs are ACOTE accredited
  • An OTA are eligible to become certified and licensed in their state of residence by passing the NBCOT COTA certification examination.
  • Upon passing the NBCOT COTA exam, an OTA can earn a Certification in Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) designation

Occupational Therapy Aide

An occupational therapy aide is trained to provide support to OTA’s and OT’s.  In order to become an occupational therapy aide, students will need a high school diploma or higher plus on the job training.  Currently occupational therapy aides are not eligible for licensure nor certification and aide programs are not accredited by ACOTE.

Educational Requirements for an OTA

An individual pursuing a career as an occupational therapy assistant must first an associate degree or diploma which may be earned through a certified program offered at a community college or private career school. Such a program takes between one and two years to complete and provides the student with the education required to perform the duties of an assistant through courses such as physiology and anatomy which familiarize the student with the human body. Students will also be exposed to a cross section of sciences as well as a number of courses that educate the students on the use of equipment and implementation of therapies necessary in the field of occupational therapy.

Courses in occupational therapy assistance may include:

  • General Anatomy
  • Developmental Physiology
  • Occupational Theory and Practice
  • Speech
  • Assistive Technology and Adaptations

Schools Other Students Requested Information From:

Employment Opportunities for OTA's

Occupational therapy assistants will work under a professional occupation therapist, administering care and treatment to patients suffering from any of a variety of ailments that may be attended to through occupational therapy. Such assistants typically educate patients in the various exercises to be performed or how to operate and utilize equipment that may assist in therapeutic treatment. Additionally, assistant will record patient histories and note progress made through treatment over time, particularly for patients that require more routine care.

Most states require occupational therapy assistants to pursue licensure prior to employment. Individuals pursuing licensure typically must complete an accredited program of study and pass a state issued examination. Additionally, maintaining licensure may require annual or biannual continuing education courses be taken. The process of licensure will vary by state. Certification is also available through the passing of an exam offered The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy allowing for use of the term “Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant” (COTA).

Most Popular Job Titles for an OTA

Across the nation, you will find an array of job titles for an Occupational Therapy Assistant.  In most cases, the job responsibilities will be virtually identical which is why it is important to understand the variations of the OTA job and associated nomenclature.

  • Acute Care Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA)
  • Occupational Therapist Assistant
  • Staff Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant/Licensed (Staff COTA/L)
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)
  • Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant-Licensed (COTA-L)
  • Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • School Based Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant/Licensed (COTA/L)
  • Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)

Top Job Responsibilities of an Occupational Therapy Assistant

Upon the completion of a recent survey by the United States Department of Labor, OTA’s from around the country provided insight into their typical job duties.  We have assembled a list of the top 5 job responsibilities of an occupational therapy assistant below for your reference.

  1. Carefully manage performance in therapy activities and provide education, coaching, and counseling as appropriate
  2. Determine what therapy activities a patient can complete and establish short-term and long-term goals
  3. Instruct and assist patients with home-based therapy programs, essential living skills, and utilization of adaptive tools
  4. Encourage and motivate patient before, during, and after treatment plans
  5. Carefully log verbal, physical, and non-verbal patient information for future reference

States with the Highest Employment of Occupational Therapists

  • Texas                 3,750
  • Ohio                   3,480
  • Illinois               2,460
  • Pennsylvania    2,350
  • New York           2,300

Top Paying States for an Occupational Therapist

  1. Texas              $74,070
  2. Arkansas        $67,290
  3. New Jersey    $66,120
  4. Maryland       $65,350
  5. California      $64,870

Top Employers of Occupational Therapists

  • Health Practitioners Offices     16,200
  • Nursing Care Facilities               7,360
  • Medical & Surgical Hospitals    4,500
  • Home Health Care                       2,270
  • Primary & Secondary Schools   1,830

Job Growth, Salary and Related Therapy Fields

Job growth for occupational therapy assistants is expected to increase by an astounding 40% according to the BLS over the next decade due primarily to the need for professionals in the field due to the aging population in the United States.  This growth in OTA's equates to an additional 23,600 jobs being created in the coming decade.  Occupational therapy assistants earn approximately $56,070 per year. Individuals working in more populated areas are expected to earn more. Individuals interested in career advancement typically choose to at some point continue their education, pursuing a degree in occupational therapy.

Individuals interested in becoming an occupational therapy assistant may also be interested in becoming a pharmacy technician, medical assistant, or veterinary assistant.

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Career Summary: Occupational therapy assistant Major




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