What Education Is Required for Occupational Assistants?

Working as an occupational therapy assistant puts you on the front line of working with clients and their families in a rehabilitation environment. Obtaining an associate's degree from an accredited college can prepare you for certification in the field. Keep reading to learn more about this career.

Career Overview

Occupational therapy assistants help occupational therapists serve the needs of their clients. In this role, you would help clients complete prescribed therapeutic exercises and rehabilitation activities. You would also help clients with such tasks as bathing and dressing, as well as giving them their medications.

Important Facts about this Occupation

TrainingAt least 16 weeks of fieldwork
Key SkillsCompassion, people skills, attention to detail, physical strength and stamina
Work EnvironmentOccupational therapy offices, nursing care facilities and hospitals; may include evening and weekend hours
Similar OccupationsDental Assistants, Medical Assistants, Pharmacy Technicians, Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides

Education

Within a two-year OTA associate's degree program, students take classes in medical terminology, therapeutic techniques and specialized occupational therapy equipment. Most programs require completion of a field practicum as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), as of March 2013, there were 162 schools accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

If you choose to pursue certification, which the BLS indicates is voluntary, you can look into gaining certification through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). However, depending on the state you will work in, there could be mandatory certification requirements for being an assistant, if not for licensing.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS noted in a May 2014 report that the mean annual wage for occupational therapy assistants was $57,260. Between 2012 and 2022, employment in this job field is expected to increase by 43%. The growth in job opportunities is expected to be high because of an increasing number of people with disabilities and limited function. The elderly population also requires the services of occupational therapy assistants.

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