How Can I Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

Explore the career requirements for occupational therapy assistants. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, job duties and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Occupational therapy assistants help people recover from injuries and regain their functionality by practicing everyday activities. Entry-level requirements for a job in this field are outlined in the following table:

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Occupational therapy assisting
Key Skills Physical strength, interpersonal skills, attention to detail
Licensure Required in most states
Job Growth (2012-2022) 43%*
Median Salary (2013) $55,270*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

As an occupational therapy assistant, you would work with an occupational therapist to help rehabilitate patients with mental, physical or developmental setbacks. Your main goal as an occupational therapy assistant is to help your patient regain the movement they need to return to work or complete daily activities. You need to have an encouraging demeanor to help frustrated patients work through their exercises, in addition to the physical strength to help them stand or otherwise assist movement. The occupational therapist will develop the treatment plans that you would enact with each patient.

What Education or Training Do I Need?

You need some formal training, such as an associate's degree, to begin work as an occupational therapy assistant. The American Occupational Therapy Association created the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education to accredit training programs for occupational therapists and therapy assistants. In a 2-year associate's degree program in occupational therapy assisting, you study anatomy, medical terminology, physiology and healthcare fundamentals. Many states require occupational therapy assistants to be licensed as well, so check with your state's board to see if you need to pass a licensing or certification exam.

How Could I Advance My Career?

In order to demonstrate your professional ability as an occupational therapy assistant, you may choose to seek voluntary certification from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. After you have completed a training program, you are eligible to sit for the certification exam for the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) credential.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for occupational therapy assistants is expected to increase 43% between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than average for all other occupations (www.bls.gov). As an occupational therapy assistant, your services and expertise are expected to be in increasing demand as occupational therapists employ more of these professionals to meet the needs of an aging population.

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