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What Is a Rehabilitation Assistant?

Working as a rehabilitation assistant, or occupational therapist assistant, puts you in direct communication with incapacitated patients who require therapy and rehabilitation to improve their motor skills. Read on to learn more about this career, including its educational requirements, job outlook and salary potential.

Job Duties

In the health care world, rehabilitation assistants work under occupational therapists with patients who require therapy and rehabilitation due to injury, disability or disease. As a rehabilitation assistant, you would assist in implementing the rehab plan outlined by a therapist or specialist for each patient. To effectively perform your duties, you'll need strong organization and communication skills, as well as the ability to engage people in a variety of physical activities.

Some common job duties include:

  • Overseeing patients' activities
  • Instructing patients in the use of equipment
  • Documenting patients' progress in reports
  • Managing patients' activities
  • Discussing the effectiveness of particular treatments with your supervisor

Important Facts About Rehabilitation Assistants

Key Skills Teamwork, calmness under pressure, physical strength, and observation skills
Work Environment Long and physical demanding hours, typically in a rehabilitation center, hospital, or physiotherapy clinic
Required Education Completion of a Rehabilitative Assistant Program, high school, and a CPR certificate
Similar Occupations Mental Health Counselor, Occupational Therapist, School/Career Counselor, Special Education Teacher

Education Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an associate degree is usually sufficient education to work as an occupational therapist assistant (www.bls.gov). The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) accredits occupational therapist assistant programs (www.aota.org). During an approved program, you can expect to take such courses as medical terminologies, biology, administration, anatomy, kinesiology and physiology. There's usually also a field experience requirement.

Licensure and Certification

You'll also need to meet your region's licensing requirements, which vary from state to state. Upon completion of your educational program, certification is another step you might consider. Through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), you can receive a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) designation (www.nbcot.org). You'll need to graduate from an accredited program, complete fieldwork and pass the NBCOT exam. Some states allow the certification exam to also count as the licensing exam, but you'll need to check the requirements of your region first. The NBCOT exam features three domains that cover the occupational therapy planning process, intervention implementation and professional standards. Renewal of COTA certification involves completing professional development units.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS reported that occupational therapy assistant employment was expected to increase by 35% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average. As the current population grows older and disabilities increase, the need for assistants in the therapy world is projected to increase as well. Turnover will also be a factor that creates open positions. The BLS stated that those with previous job experience might have better employment opportunities. Top employers of occupational therapy assistants in May 2019 included health practitioners' offices, nursing care facilities, general hospitals, schools and home healthcare services.

As of May 2019, the BLS reported that the mean yearly wage for occupational therapist assistants was $61,880. Most made between $41,730 and $82.210. Of the top five employers, home healthcare services offered the highest average wage of $67,630.