OTA helping patients walk upstairs

What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

Staff Writer
Apr 20, 2022

Simply put, occupational therapist assistants (OTAs) work with children, adults, and the elderly with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. These healthcare professionals are focused on physical well-being, but also on the psychological, social, and environmental factors that may affect a client’s daily functions.

What is Occupational Therapy?

First, it is important to define what occupational therapy (OT) is. OT takes a more holistic approach to rehabilitation, with the overall goal of helping clients perform daily activities with the highest degree of independence possible. OT practitioners treat clients who are recovering from injuries or have developmental or cognitive disabilities. Their approach may include physical exercise, wellness promotion, therapeutic adaptations, and modifications to the client’s home and work environments.

1. What Does an OTA Do?

Occupational therapists (OTs) customize a plan of care that may include creating adaptive tools that allow the client to be more independent as they get dressed, brush their teeth, use a writing utensil, and go through hundreds of other activities of daily living (ADLs).

An OTA carries out that plan of care, working with the client on gaining the independence to perform the ADLs that they are trying to either gain or regain proficiency with. Other OTA services include:

  • Collaborates with OTs to help clients develop and recover skills for completing activities of daily living.
  • Implements treatment programs created by OTs (including activities, exercises, and training on adaptive equipment).
  • Tracks client progress and reports to the OT.
  • Provides guidance to family members, caregivers, and other healthcare providers on how they can best support the client’s treatment program.
  • Maintains treatment areas and sets up therapy equipment.

2. What are the Education and Job Requirements?

To become an OTA, you’ll need to first earn an associate degree in science from a school that’s accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Next, students must successfully pass the NBCOT exam and obtain a license to practice as a Certified OTA in the state where you plan to work. Keep in mind that licensing requirements and procedures for this position vary slightly by state, so be sure to consult with your state’s OT regulatory agency for specific licensure requirements.

If a career as an OTA sounds like a good fit for you, consider taking Joyce University’s fully accredited OTA program. With clinical practice, classroom instruction, and rigorous coursework, you can graduate and start a career as a qualified OTA in less than 20 months.

Related Resource: When is the Right Time to Go Back to School?

3. What is an OTA Salary?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of OTAs is projected to grow by 34% from 2020-2030—significantly faster than other occupations. As of May 2020, the median annual wage for OTAs was $62,940. However, depending on what certifications they pursue or where they work, some OTAs can make much more than that.

4. What are OTA Specialties?

OTAs can be found anywhere people are struggling with the activities of daily living. The most common work environments for OTAs are:

  • Offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and audiologists.
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Client homes
  • School systems

Related Resource: How OTAs Work With Other Professionals

Joyce’s OTA program offers clinical practice, classroom instruction, and rigorous coursework in just five semesters.

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