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How to Choose an Occupational Therapy Assistant School

Gwen Davis-Barrios
Reviewed by Dr. Crystal Young
Apr 2, 2024

If you’re looking into Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) school, you’re starting down a meaningful and lucrative career pat. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 23% increase in OTA job opportunities over the next decade, meaning that an OTA career will be stable and offer a great salary right out of school.

Before you start your journey, it’s important to choose a school that will be a good fit for you and set you up for long-term success. Here’s how to choose the best OTA school for you.

What is OTA school?

OTA school is how you become an OTA. A good OTA program will include courses and lectures, hands-on learning, fieldwork, and exam prep. All these learning formats work together to prepare you to be a competent, successful OTA.

9 Considerations for Choosing an OTA School

1. Accredited OTA Programs

It’s important to attend an accredited OTA program. Accreditation means that a respected outside organization has thoroughly vetted a school or program and found that its curriculum, faculty, programs, and services are up to standards. The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) is an organization that reviews OT schools and programs to make sure that they’re preparing students for OT careers. There are also accredited online OTA programs, so you can be sure of a quality OT education both in person and remotely.

Joyce University’s OTA program is ACOTE accredited, and we have institutional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). At the time of this publication, Joyce University is one of only six schools approved to offer an OTA program through distance education, enabling students from select states to prepare for NBCOT licensure in just 20 months.

2. OTA Program Length

OTA school generally takes two years to complete but some programs are faster, and some let you go at your own pace. At Joyce, you can finish your OTA program and qualify as an OTA in just 20 months.

Compare OTA program lengths and choose a school that works with your lifestyle and plans. Some students want to stay in school for longer and take their time, and some prefer to move quickly through OT school and hit the ground running with a career. Either way, be clear on your own plans and learning style to choose an OTA program that you’ll thrive in. Students looking for a fast-track program thrive at Joyce.

3. OTA School Cost

When you’re considering OTA school cost, remember to factor in:

  • Tuition
  • Books and materials
  • Fees
  • Cost of living and/or relocation
  • Licensure and certification costs
  • Financial aid

According to College Tuition Compare, the average cost of OTA school (including tuition and fees) as of 2023 is $38,545, which means that the average cost of OTA school per semester is around $9,600. Investing in your future with OTA schooling can feel intimidating, but it comes with a great return. The BLS shows that in 2022, the median annual wage for OTAs is $64,250, with top earners making an average of $85,580 per year.

You can also defray the cost with financial aid. Most OTA schools will have a financial aid office and resources to help you pay for school.

As of 2023, Joyce University’s OTA program costs $44,175. Our financial aid office is here to help you find scholarships, grants, loans, work study opportunities, and (if applicable) veterans benefits to help you pay for your OTA training.

4. OTA School Requirements

Many OTA schools have prerequisites, which can include physiology labs, general education classes, and medical terminology courses. Make sure you check the OTA school requirements for every program you consider.

Joyce’s OTA program has no college-level prerequisites. To enroll, students must have proof of high school graduation or its equivalent, pass a college readiness exam, and meet our general admissions requirements.

5. OTA Program Format

In the digital age you have access to different types of OTA schools, including traditional in-person classes and online OTA programs. Keep in mind that this career requires hands-on learning, so OTA online programs generally include in-person aspects like labs, clinical experiences, and fieldwork.

At Joyce University, you can do accredited OTA classes online and you don’t even need to live near our Draper, Utah campus. Distance learners from several states take advantage of our flexible, convenient OTA program. Joyce’s didactic courses are held mostly online, and out of state students travel to our campus for short periods to participate in labs. You can read more about our residency requirements and resources for distance learners here.

6. NBCOT Test Preparation

Your OTA program should set you up for success when it comes time to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) test to earn your OTA certification. Look for schools and programs with a high NBCOT pass rate and courses dedicated to test prep.

We’re proud of Joyce’s 98% NBCOT pass rate. Your final semester in Joyce’s OTA program will include a dedicated NBCOT review course, which is a big way that we support students in successfully becoming certified OTAs.

7. OTA Program Curriculum

Accredited OTA programs will all cover the same OT basics, but the specific curricula will differ. Some will include general education courses, and some may have varying emphases, like pediatric or geriatric care. If you have a specialty in mind or know where you want to work, make sure to apply to OTA schools that cover your area of interest.

Joyce has a comprehensive OTA curriculum that covers the lifespan from pediatrics through adult and geriatric populations. You’ll learn both knowledge and hands-on skills from didactic courses, labs, simulations, and fieldwork. Take a closer look at Joyce’s OTA curriculum here.

OTA school is designed to be challenging. Look for schools with supportive faculty and student resources to help you succeed. Joyce’s student portal gives insight into how your OTA student experience would be here. It has links to student services like IT support, tutoring programs, and additional resources for student success.

8. Faculty Experience

Professors and faculty will shape much of your day-to-day experience at OTA school. Connecting with a faculty mentor can give you someone to turn to during school’s challenges and later, when you’re facing questions during your OTA career.

Look into each prospective school’s faculty. You’ll want to learn from highly-qualified professionals with lots of teaching experience. At Joyce, we hire experienced, doctorate-prepared faculty.

9. Job Placement Support

The result of any good OT school is job placement as an OTA. Your education and licensure will qualify you for work and are important parts of this process, but your OTA program should also support you in finding a good job.

When you’re researching OTA programs, look for schools with career services offices. These will support your long-term success with jobs that are a great fit for you.

All Joyce University students and graduates can access our career services for support. Career services tracks student job placement by program, showing that 76.9% of OTA graduates were employed.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re choosing the right OT school. Remember, you are entering this field as an OTA to make a difference in your clients’ everyday lives. Take the next step in your OTA education by exploring a variety of programs to find the one that best fits your schedule and cultivates career opportunities.

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