Start a Fantastic Career with an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Therapy!

occupational therapy degree

Less School, More Pay: Start a Fantastic Career with an Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy Assistant

An education as an occupational therapy assistant can open doors to an excellent career with fantastic pay. Occupational therapy assistant jobs span a variety of opportunities including private sector jobs, government employment, and even opportunities with non-profits and outreach programs.

To become an occupational therapy assistant, students start off in an approved associate or bachelor’s degree program.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates employment opportunities for occupational therapy assistant will grow 31 percent over the next decade! This is much faster than the average for all occupations. This career growth is due in part to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and occupational therapy becoming an integral part of treatment for various illnesses and disabilities.

A career as an occupational therapy assistant is especially great career path for military spouses, as they are certain to secure excellent job opportunities across their many moves. Don’t forget about the MyCAA Program for military spouses; for more info click here.

Education Expectations

Occupational therapy assistants work along-side occupational therapists (OTs). Occupational therapy assistants collaborate with occupational therapists to develop and carry out a treatment plan for each patient. An OT assistant’s primary objectives are helping patients develop, recover, improve, and/or maintain the skills needed for work, recreation, and activities of daily living. Occupational therapy assistant duties include:

  • Helping patients with therapeutic activities (exercises, stretching, etc.)
  • Teaching patients how to use special equipment to accomplish daily tasks (i.e. wheelchairs, walkers, special eating tools, personal care aids, etc.)
  • Encouraging patients to complete activities and tasks
  • Leading developmentally disabled children in play activities that promote coordination and socialization
  • Recording patients’ progress and report to occupational therapists
  • Miscellaneous tasks (that may also be delegated to an OT assistant’s aide if available)
    • Transport patients
    • Clean treatment areas and equipment
    • Help patients with billing and insurance forms
    • Clerical tasks such as scheduling appointments, answering telephones, filing insurance

Where Do Occupational Therapist Assistants Work?

The BLS lists the top 5 employers of occupational therapy assistants as:

Medical offices (i.e. physical, occupational and speech therapists; and audiologists)46%
Nursing care facilities17%
Hospitals: state, local, and private16%
Educational services: state, local, and private5%
Home healthcare services5%

 

Associate Degree for Occupational Therapy Assistant

 

Most states require a minimum education and training at the associate degree level, through a program that has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). All accredited occupational therapy assistant programs cover 3 key areas:

  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Health education

In addition to coursework, occupational therapy assistants must complete supervised clinical experience. This hands-on instruction is done in a healthcare setting such as a nursing care facility or an occupational therapist’s office. Keep in mind that an Associate Degree for Occupational Therapy Assistant cannot be completed entirely online. Some programs may offer online coursework but hands-on, supervised clinical experience is required of all accredited programs.

Career Growth and Education Advancement

All states regulate the practice of occupational therapy assistants, with most requiring licensure. Licensure typically requires the completion of an accredited occupational therapy assistant education program, completion of all fieldwork requirements, and passing the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. Occupational therapy assistants must pass the NBCOT exam to use the title “Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant” (COTA). COTAs must also take continuing education classes to maintain their certification.

There are a wide variety of specialty certifications for occupational therapy assistants who seek specialized knowledge and skills in areas of such as low vision, feeding, and pediatrics.

Many occupational therapy assistants choose to pursue additional education to become occupational therapists. Becoming an occupational therapist requires education at the master’s degree level. There are occupational therapist education “bridge” programs designed for practicing occupational therapy assistants to advance their education and become occupational therapists (OTs).

Expected Earnings

Median annual wage for:

  • Workers in high school-level occupations: $6,100
  • Occupations that require an associate’s degree: $52,830
  • Occupational therapy assistants: $62,000

The highest paid 10% of occupational therapy assistants earn more than $82,000

Median annual wages of occupational therapy assistants by industry, as determined by the BLS:

Nursing care facilities$66,750
Home healthcare services$65,560
Medical offices$61,860
Hospitals; state, local, and private$57,600
Educational services; state, local, and private$52,460

 

Occupational Therapy Assistant Associate Degree Programs

Ready to earn your degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant?  Check out these great programs available at our partner schools!

Lake Washington Institute of Technology

Offers an Associate of Applied Sciences, Occupational Therapy Assistant degree. This program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Lake Washington Institute of Technology does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Lone Star College

Offers an Occupational Therapy Assistant, Associate of Applied Sciences degree. This program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Lone Star College does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

*All stats, facts, and calculations from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information click here.

 

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About the author

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Born in SoCal yet raised Tampa, Florida - Leah earned her undergraduate BA in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida. Leah earned her MA in the MALAS at San Diego State University, while also completing a graduate teaching certificate in English for Secondary Education. An avid traveler, she has visited more than 60 countries. With the birth of her son Spencer in 2012, Leah embarked on her biggest adventure (yet) as parent and Coast Guard wife.