Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Career and Certification Facts

Occupational therapy assistants help to improve quality of life for individuals living with impairments and disabilities. Get information on the training you'll need, typical job duties and requirements for optional certification. Schools offering Occupational Therapy Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Occupational therapy assistants become certified by completing the schooling and fieldwork required by an accredited program. Certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) work under the direction and supervision of occupational therapists, helping people who have mental, developmental and physical challenges.

Certification Completed through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy
Job Description Designing and implementing treatment plans for individuals with various physical impairments
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 29% growth for occupational therapy assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Gain Certification?

Though certification is voluntary, many occupational therapy assistants choose to pursue certification. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) is the organization that awards the COTA designation. According to the NBCOT, to gain certification as a COTA you must:

  • Graduate from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program that is recognized by the NBCOT
  • Complete the fieldwork requirements of your educational program
  • Submit an examination application to the NBCOT
  • Request that your school registrar submits your final official transcripts to the NBCOT

What Will My Career as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Be Like?

COTAs are employed in many different settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Government agencies

As a COTA, your work would be spent helping clients execute personal and work-related activities that have been hampered due to each individual's impairments. This could include teaching someone who has lost a limb to adapt to his or her physical limitations or helping a child with developmental delays perform everyday tasks. You would also collaborate with occupational therapists to develop a detailed treatment plan, complete with rehabilitative exercises and activities for each client.

What Is the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the demand for occupational therapy assistants will increase much faster than the average rate for all other occupations (www.bls.gov). Due in part to the aging U.S. population and advances in medical technology, the BLS expects that the employment of occupational therapy assistants will grow 29% from 2016 to 2026. Also, as federal funding for disabled students increases, job prospects should remain favorable for occupational therapy assistants.

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