What Education Is Needed to Be a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant?

Occupational therapy assistants and aides assist patients in developing skills to help them live their daily lives. Read on to learn more about the steps you must take to become an occupational therapist assistant. Schools offering Occupational Therapy Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.


A certificate or associate's degree is the standard education required for becoming a certified occupational therapist assistant. In addition, most states require graduates to pass a certification exam to become licensed.

Important Facts about this Field

Median SalaryThe median yearly salary for occupational therapy assistants in 2018 was $60,220. The highest paying industry for these assistants is other ambulatory health care services, with an average salary of $68,290.
Job OutlookEmployment of occupational therapy assistants is expected to grow by 29% between 2016-2026, which is much faster than average.
Key SkillsOccupational therapy assistants must be compassionate and flexible, they must pay attention to detail, have good interpersonal communication skills, and possess a certain amount of physical strength.
Similar OccupationsDental Assistants, Medical Assistants, Pharmacy Technicians, Physical Therapist Assistants

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Occupational therapist assistants, also commonly known as occupational therapy assistants, must generally have graduated from either a certificate or associate's degree program, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). In 2017, there were more than 200 accredited occupational therapy assistant programs in the U.S. These programs typically take one to two years to complete and include a 16-week fieldwork requirement, during which students will intern in a community or clinic setting under direct supervision.

During the first year of an occupational therapy assistant program, students learn introductory medical terminology and healthcare fundamentals. They may also study anatomy and physiology. In the second year of the program, students will undergo more rigorous occupational therapy training in areas like the following:

  • Mental health
  • Pediatrics
  • Gerontology

Individuals wishing to enter an occupational therapy assistant training program can improve their chances of admission by completing high school courses in biology and other health-related subjects. Applicants with work experience in nursing homes, occupational or physical therapists' offices, or other healthcare environments are also desirable candidates for admission.


Most states regulate occupational therapy assistants and require national certification. This entails passing a certification exam, which tests graduates through a live practice analysis that assesses skills, abilities, and critical knowledge. The exam is issued by the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). The certification process also requires graduates to prove their understanding of and adherence to the organization's Code of Conduct.

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