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What Do Occupational Therapy Assistants Do?

Occupational therapy assistants work with occupational therapists to provide rehabilitative services to impaired or disabled individuals. They assist clients in completing various activities and exercises that can lead to better quality of life.

Duties and Responsibilities

Occupational therapy assistants work side-by-side with occupational therapists to supply rehabilitative services to individuals suffering from physical or mental impairments. Through their assistance, clients enjoy an improved quality of life and strive to function normally in day-to-day activities. Examples of patients who might seek occupational therapy services include students with learning disabilities or workers injured on the job.

Working in collaboration with and under supervision of occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants help patients complete prescribed activities and exercises designed for rehabilitative purposes. For example, an occupational therapy assistant may help a handicapped person move from a wheelchair to a bed. The assistant's purpose is to ensure that activities are done properly and to provide support and encouragement.

Occupational therapy assistants also keep record of clients' progress, notifying supervisors if improvement is delayed or halted. This allows occupational therapists to properly assess the needs of patients and ensure that they receive the best course of treatment. Occupational therapy assistants also are responsible for billing clients' insurance companies.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Flexibility and strength; empathy and interpersonal skills; attention to detail
Work Environment Therapists' offices, nursing homes, hospitals, educational services and patients' homes
Similar Occupations Occupational therapist, dental assistant, medical assistant, pharmacy technician, physical therapist assistant
Licensure Required by most states

Education and Training

Typically, an associate's degree is required in order to become an occupational therapy assistant. As of 2017, there were about 200 accredited occupational therapy assistant programs across the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Occupational therapy assistants are regulated in most states and have to pass a national certification exam. The National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy administers the test, and individuals who pass are referred to as certified occupational therapy assistants.

Salary Information and Occupational Outlook

The BLS predicts that the employment of occupational therapy assistants may increase by about 29% between 2016 and 2026, which is significantly faster than the average among all job sectors. In May 2018, the median salary earned by such assistants was published by the BLS as $60,220 a year. Assistants providing home health care services earned among the highest salaries in 2018, averaging $67,800 a year.