Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant

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What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

Occupational therapy assistants work closely with occupational therapists. Occupational therapists and therapy assistants work with people who are recuperating from brain trauma, surgery, disease, dementia, or who need rehabilitation to learn basic life skills.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapy assistants help patients do therapeutic activities such as stretches or other exercises, work with children who have developmental delays, or help patients learn how to use equipment or devices.

Occupational therapy assistants help record patients' progress and report it to occupational therapists.

Occupational therapy assistants help devise a treatment plan and carry it out. They may help regain lost motor skills, or help the learning disabled learn skills to be more independent.

Educational Requirements and Qualifications for Occupational Therapy Assistants

Occupational therapy assistants must graduate from an accredited training program, which is a two-year associate's degree.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapy assistants should be compassionate, detail-oriented, and have strong interpersonal skills.

Salary for Occupational Therapy Assistants

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for occupational therapy assistants is $51,010, while the top ten percent of earners made over $70,000 per year.

Licensing and Certification for Occupational Therapy Assistants

Most states require occupational therapy assistants to be licensed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In order to be licensed, one must graduate from a program that is accredited by ACOTE, the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.

A certification is available as well for occupational therapy assistants. By passing an exam offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, OT assistants can become a COTA - certified occupational therapy assistant.

Employers of Occupational Therapy Assistants

Most occupational therapy assistants (33 percent) work in medical offices or therapy offices. Only about 15 percent work in hospital settings. Nineteen percent work in nursing care facilities, seven percent in schools, and five percent in home health care settings.

Most OT assistants work full-time.

Job Outlook for Occupational Therapy Assistants

The job outlook for occupational therapy assistants is tremendous. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 43 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is "much faster than average" growth. This rate of growth equates to about 12,300 new jobs to be added in the ten year period ending in 2020.

Because occupational therapy has such a broad scope, and occupational therapy professionals work with patients of all ages, from childhood through geriatrics, the demand for occupational therapy services continues to grow as the population continues to grow and age.

Perks and Drawbacks of a Career as an Occupational Therapy Assistant

Job growth and income are two great "pluses" for occupational therapy assisting careers.

For a career that does not require a college degree, the compensation is fairly competitive. With such high job growth projected, jobs should be relatively abundant.

Challenges include the demanding nature of the job, which requires a lot of standing, moving, and physical exertion at times. Also, working with clients who are often very disabled or ill can be very rewarding when therapy results in great improvement. However, on the flip side, when the patient does not progress as expected, it can be very disappointing and disheartening at times. Therefore, occupational therapy assistants must be able to maintain an even keel and balanced perspective of successes and failures.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides, on the Internet, visited on June 30, 2012.

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